Ferrari California T first drive review

Ferrari California T first drive review

Improved version of Ferrari’s drop-top GT gets a 552bhp twin-turbocharged V8 but light steering curtails its outright driver appeal

Why, it’s the new and improved version of the Ferrari’s folding hard-top grand tourer: the California T.The new model is a sizeable facelift of the six-year old California, with an additional T on the badge referencing the most significant change to the car: the adoption of a twin-turbocharged engine.The new engine is a 3.9-litre (well, 3.85-litre, or 3855cc if you want to be really picky) unit instead of the old 4.3, but the fitment of two, twin-scroll turbos mean power is up by 70bhp to 552bhp.Extra poke isn’t the primary reason for the forced induction, though. Instead it’s to improve efficiency, because even Ferrari isn’t immune from such trends. In place of the 299g/km CO2 output of the old model, the California T emits 250g/km and returns 26.9mpg. That’s marginally better than a Vauxhall Insignia VXR. While making 552bhp and, at times, 557lb ft.At times? Yes. Only when seventh gear is engaged on the twin-clutch transmission (which has longer overall ratios than before), does the engine make its full complement of torque. And it’s not because the driveline (which owes more to 12-cylinder Ferraris than the early California) can’t hack the torque.No. It’s because the company’s engineers are as concerned about the character of a turbocharged Ferrari as you or I might be. Ferraris are meant to rev stratospherically. They’re meant to get faster as they move up the rev-range. They’re meant to sing. They’re meant to feel naturally aspirated.So in short gears the California T’s torque is capped – to around 440lb ft in first, second and third – and the torque increases with revs. In higher gears it peaks earlier and the slope is flatter, until you reach the full-whack, table-top curve of seventh.The idea is that the T feels more like a naturally aspirated car in low gears – Ferrari makes some bold claims about the response times of the twin-scroll turbos – but is as lazily responsive as a GT car should be in higher gears. Does it work? We’ll come back to it.Elsewhere, the exterior panels, save those for the unchanged roof, are all different. The interior has been looked over; the dashboard refined; leather upgraded; a boost monitor (all but unreadable in sunlight) added; and the communications screen refreshed (for one that still lags behind the best).And, finally, underneath there are 12 per cent stiffer springs, a 10 per cent quicker steering rack (not that I remember thinking it needed one) and the latest-generation magnetorheological dampers – they can stiffen or soften very quickly, is what you need to know about those.

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