FERRARI’S NEW CALIFORNIA T HS BLENDS COMFORT WITH SPEED AND GREAT LOOKS
The California T is one of the Ferrari’s latest turbo-charged cars, but has it dulled the experience? James Baggott finds out
Meet the California T HS — the tweaked version of the manufacturer’s folding hard-top family Ferrari. With two seats in the back for small children and a V8 turbo-charged lump up front, this is the convertible Italian supercar for those that need to carry more than one significant other.
New for the Handling Speciale model are some stiffer springs, louder exhaust and some ever-so-subtle design tweaks — which you’ll be charged £5,568 to add to an ever-expanding list of options.
LOOKS AND IMAGE
The California is aimed at a certain type of buyer and, as such, it has the ability to disappoint behind the wheel, unless you drive it in context. This is a GT car designed for comfort, looks and kerb appeal much before driving entertainment, unlike its thoroughbred 488 stable mate. That means it’s more comfortable than exciting to drive.
Even with the louder exhaust system on this HS model, on the road we found it just a little too quiet.
In fact, we found the California lacked a lot of the excitement you’d expect to find in a Ferrari — despite its impressive performance credentials, it just didn’t feel as involving as we’d hoped.
That said, it was certainly a comfortable companion over distance and never failed to draw a crowd whenever we parked it up. The quality of its build is without question too — perfectly demonstrated with a wonderfully dramatic roof mechanism.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
OK, so a Ferrari isn’t going to win any accessibility awards like a Citroen Berlingo might, however this is a sports car and comes with sports car compromises. Put the front seats back to anything less than a knee crushing position and you lose all rear legroom — which means even carrying a fiveyear-old requires the front seat passengers to perform some gymnastics for the journey.
The boot is pretty cramped too. If you don’t want to use the roof, you get a little more space, but if you do, then you’ll be restricted to two small bags at best. Weekly shopper, this isn’t.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
For long-distance motorway journeys, the California T HS is a comfy drive. The 552bhp turbo-charged V8 has impressive breadth to its power delivery and although the feeling of acceleration is somewhat numbed in the cabin, it can hit 60mph in just 3.6 seconds.
Sadly, the turbo engine loses some of the charms of a normally aspirated unit — it may offer improved performance, but lacks some of the aural pleasure you expect from a Ferrari.
Those stiffer springs and louder exhaust come into play when you select the ‘Sport’ setting on the manettino switch on the steering wheel.
Hit the bumpy road button on the steering wheel too and you’ll be rewarded with a compliant ride that’s just about perfect for our rutted roads. A parking camera makes backing the Ferrari into spaces a pretty simple affair and despite its sports car credentials, the visibility isn’t too bad either.
VALUE FOR MONEY
The California T Handling Speciale costs £155,244 — pitching it against the Audi R8 Spyder and Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet, but that base price soon increases once you start ticking some options boxes. Two-tone exterior (£4,320), carbon fibre dash inserts (£3,744), Scuderia Ferrari side shields (£1,056) and front and rear parking cameras (£4,032) are just a few of the options that can soon add up.
In fact, our test car had no less than 29 options added — including titanium wheel bolts at £1,810 — which pushed the purchase price up to a staggering £215,011. That’s a whopping £59,767 on extras.
One well worth adding, though, is Apple Carplay (£2,400) which makes the infotainment system far more usable. Ferrari’s standard system isn’t a match for the likes of Audi or Porsche, so the addition of Apple’s integrated software is well worth selecting.
WHO WOULD BUY ONE?
California buyers are family men or women who need the occasional flexibility of carrying more than one passenger. OK, so that might mean compromising on space for everyone, but at least there’s the option there should they need it.
The Ferrari Calafornia T Handling Speciale not only looks fantastic on the outside and has a huge amount of optional extras to make the inside just as impressive too
The interior is sleek and stylish, but not particularly spacious if there is more than one passenger