“A new era of forced in­duc­tion has dawned at Maranello and the Cal­i­for­nia T was the ear­li­est glimpse of it.”

The Cal­i­for­nia T her­alded the start of turbo charg­ing that is sweep­ing across the Pranc­ing Horse’s range


AA CAL­I­FOR­NIA IN KOTHRUD. We were scout­ing for suit­able lo­ca­tions for our con­vert­ible spe­cial and ho­tel porches and golf re­sorts came to mind, not the streets of a lit­tle sub­urb in Pune char­ac­terised by fiercely ter­ri­to­rial res­i­dents. They say a Kothrud guy (our very own snap­per Gau­rav is the per­fect ex­am­ple of the ex­cel­lence in fine arts from the area) will never leave Kothrud; the peo­ple of Kothrud be­ing the con­ser­va­tive and sen­si­ble type, highly un­likely to pot­ter around in some­thing as os­ten­ta­tious as a Ferrari, that too with its roof down. The ques­tion we are ask­ing is not if the Cal­i­for­nia will have corners for break­fast, but whether it can sur­vive the nar­row, leafy, laid-back streets and back al­leys of one of Pune’s most quin­tes­sen­tial lo­cal­i­ties.

That’s be­cause the Cal­i­for­nia is a dis­rup­tive car. Ferrari never made any­thing like the Cal­i­for­nia in the past – an ev­ery­day Ferrari! – and Kothrud is the most ev­ery­day lo­cal­ity we can think of. The pre­vi­ous Ferrari Cal­i­for­nia was, it could be ar­gued, the most im­por­tant new Ferrari of the last decade. If we con­sider the 458 Italia and Spi­der as dis­tinct mod­els, as the fac­tory does, the Cal­i­for­nia stands as Ferrari’s best-sell­ing sin­gle model ever, with more than 10,000 units shifted dur­ing its five-year life span. It not only sold in big num­bers, it also opened Ferrari up to a whole new mar­ket sec­tor and at­tracted a great many new buy­ers to the brand: 70 per cent of Cal­i­for­nia own­ers had never be­fore owned a car with a Pranc­ing Horse on its nose, so the car buy­ing pat­terns of Kothrud can yet see some changes.


De­spite its sig­nif­i­cance for the mar­que, the Cal­i­for­nia never re­ally reg­is­tered on the radars of an evo In­dia de­mo­graphic, for it was nei­ther pretty to be­hold nor ex­cep­tional to drive. Par­al­lels could be drawn with Porsche’s Cayenne: the Cal­i­for­nia was, in rel­a­tive terms, the mass-mar­ket model that de­vi­ated from the decades-old core brand at­tributes, meet­ing with an in­dif­fer­ent re­cep­tion among the die-hards as a re­sult, but ap­peal­ing to the lu­cra­tive wider mar­ket at the same time.

Its re­place­ment there­fore, is an in­ter­est­ing car to ap­proach. The Cal­i­for­nia T is as ex­ten­sive an up­date as it could have got for Ferrari. This new model also has a deep tech­no­log­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance: it was the first new tur­bocharged Ferrari since the F40 of 1987, and has been fol­lowed by the 488 GTB and Spi­der. A new era of forced in­duc­tion has dawned at Maranello and the Cal­i­for­nia T was the ear­li­est glimpse of it.

The 3855cc twin-turbo V8 took four years to de­velop and Ferrari makes bold claims about its class-lead­ing re­sponse times. Peak power is 552bhp at 7500rpm; that’s 63bhp up on the old nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 4.3-litre V8, ar­riv­ing 250rpm ear­lier. Ferrari lim­its the torque through the gears us­ing its new Vari­able Boost Man­age­ment sys­tem so that peak twist, 755Nm, is only de­liv­ered in sev­enth gear. It’s an in­trigu­ing sys­tem and we’ll con­sider it in more de­tail later on.

Ferrari engi­neers are in­sis­tent that the fa­mil­iar Ferrari DNA val­ues of im­me­di­ate en­gine re­sponse, a thrilling sound­track, pro­gres­sive ac­cel­er­a­tion and high max­i­mum revs have not been lost with tur­bocharg­ing and af­ter get­ting a talk­ing to by a Kothrud un­cle for mak­ing too much noise on our early morn­ing drive, we can say that we agree. The power and torque curves have been mapped so that the en­gine builds to a crescendo at the top end, rather than dump­ing all its worth in the lower reaches like a turbo diesel.

Only the fold­ing hard top roof is car­ried over from the pre­vi­ous Cal­i­for­nia’s body, but the ba­sic ar­chi­tec­ture is still a transaxle lay­out within an alu­minium bodyshell, sus­pended by dou­ble wish­bones at the front and a multi-link set-up at

the rear. The gear­box is a twin-clutch item, and its torque is sent to the rear wheels through a lock­ing dif­fer­en­tial.

This is a Ferrari that trades on its us­abil­ity as much as out­right per­for­mance, which is prob­a­bly why the Cal­i­for­nia is very pop­u­lar. It is easy to use, there is some­thing called ground clear­ance be­tween the floor of the car and the road, and the nose is not that long that you will be wor­ried about the Cali’s lip over the nu­mer­ous speed break­ers of Kothrud. It is a grand tourer in the true sense. Al­though you will not be driv­ing this car to places beyond ma­jor ci­ties, it’s still a very us­able Ferrari.

The Cal­i­for­nia T rides su­perbly too. Road sur­face im­per­fec­tions are rounded off so that there isn’t a jar­ring sharp­ness to the way it trav­els down a road at low speeds. The cabin, both fault­less in its qual­ity and at­trac­tive in its de­sign, is plenty spa­cious for two, al­though the laugh­able rear seats are much bet­ter folded down to cre­ate a stowage shelf and a use­ful load space through into the boot.

The Cal­i­for­nia T’s per­vad­ing sense of us­abil­ity is a re­minder that it needs to be ap­proached as a GT car rather than a full-on sports car. Ex­pect 458 lev­els of im­me­di­acy and agility and you’ll think the Cal­i­for­nia T lazy and im­pre­cise, but keep in mind that it in­stead tar­gets the likes of Bent­ley’s Con­ti­nen­tal GT Con­vert­ible and you’ll find very much to com­mend about its dy­namic per­for­mance.

As is the way with new Fer­raris, the steer­ing ini­tially feels un­nat­u­rally quick. It’s ac­tu­ally not quite as hy­per­ac­tive as a 458’s helm, for in­stance, but for the first few miles as an un­fa­mil­iar driver you will find your­self dialling in a lit­tle too much lock for a given cor­ner, feel­ing as though you’re un­set­tling the car at each turn-in point. The fa­mil­iari­sa­tion pe­riod is no greater than that of any other car and very soon you re­cal­i­brate to the steer­ing’s rate of re­sponse and it be­comes nat­u­ral and in­tu­itive. The ra­tio of the rack also means you needn’t re­move your hands from a com­fort­able quar­ter-to-three po­si­tion to ne­go­ti­ate tighter turns, nor to cor­rect a lit­tle exit over­steer. The steer­ing al­ways feels a lit­tle re­mote, how­ever, with only a vague sense of con­nec­tiv­ity once the chas­sis is re­ally loaded up.

With 53 per cent of its weight over the rear axle, the Cal­i­for­nia T doesn’t feel any­thing like as frontheavy as the lay­out and di­men­sions might sug­gest.


That gives it both a sense of agility on turn-in and a neu­tral bal­ance mid-cor­ner. He who com­plains of too much nat­u­ral un­der­steer on the road is driv­ing badly.

Rather than push­ing on at turn-in, the car in­stead col­lapses a lit­tle onto its rear axle. The rear anti-roll bar is soft, which gives the Cal­i­for­nia T huge trac­tion at cor­ner exit, but it also means the driver must dial back a lit­tle to ac­com­mo­date that ini­tial roll. The firmer chas­sis mode of the op­tional mag­ne­torhe­o­log­i­cal dampers cor­rects this slightly, though not en­tirely. This is, as we know, a GT rather than a true sports car.

The dampers can also be switched to an in­ter­me­di­ary ‘bumpy road’ mode when the Manet­tino is set to Sport, which is what ev­ery In­dian Cal­i­for­nia T owner needs to do. This gives the chas­sis a truly im­pres­sive se­condary ride over smaller lumps and bumps, iso­lat­ing the oc­cu­pants from the road sur­face while still re­tain­ing enough body con­trol when the corners come thick and fast. That mode works su­perbly here.

As men­tioned, torque through the gears is lim­ited to give the T an im­pres­sion of non-lin­ear, build­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion, it claims, but there are also ben­e­fits for trac­tion and driv­abil­ity. Un­leash­ing the full amount of torque in sec­ond gear at cor­ner exit would sim­ply bon­fire the rear tyres and make the Cal­i­for­nia T an un­con­tain­able an­i­mal. In­stead, it’ll only be pro­voked into mod­est slides away from the apex un­der full throt­tle in sec­ond, giv­ing the car that de­light­ful waxing and wan­ing in­ter­play be­tween grip and gen­tle slip that we ex­pect of sports cars, but per­haps not of GTs. The torque lim­it­ing in lower gears does rob the Cal­i­for­nia T of the bru­tal, straight-line ac­cel­er­a­tive hit of a Porsche 911 Turbo, for in­stance, but it never feels any­thing less than ef­fort­lessly rapid.

This new V8 is as im­pres­sive as forced in­duced en­gines come and the gear­box is re­mark­able; each new gear seems to bang in be­fore you’ve even fully pulled the pad­dle. There is no dis­cern­able turbo lag and the top end is just as us­able as the mid-range, but there aren’t, as you’d ex­pect, the top-end fire­works we so love Ferrari’s nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gines for. There isn’t the same au­ral ex­cite­ment ei­ther, de­spite the flat-plane crank and the equal-length ex­haust header pipes, al­though at very low en­gine speeds the T does emit a crisp, hol­low ex­haust note that calls to mind a 458.

In the con­text of the Cal­i­for­nia T, the twin turbo V8 is a tri­umph; it’s both a class-lead­ing turbo en­gine and it suits the car’s GT na­ture. The Cal­i­for­nia T is a more com­plete pack­age than the car it re­places, not least for be­ing pret­tier (as af­firmed by the more ar­tis­ti­cally in­clinced of Gau­rav’s neigh­bours) but is also as en­gag­ing around the limit as any car in the class. It even drew an en­thu­si­as­ti­cally ap­prov­ing crowd on our lap of Kothrud.

Left: Driver fo­cus is so im­por­tant at Ferrari, ev­ery­thing from the Manet­tino dial to the starter but­ton went up here first. Ev­ery other man­u­factuer is fol­low­ing Ferrari now. Right: The T makes 63bhp more than the NA mo­tor; shift lights on the steer­ing...

Above: Ar­guably the sim­plest de­sign for a mod­ern Ferrari but look at that mus­cu­lar rear end! Fac­ing page: Courtesy the tur­bocharger, 0-100kmph comes in just 3.6 sec­onds

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