The cars we loved.
In some ways Ferrari has become a victim of it’s own success. While there’s no crisis in the company now, they have recognized that their efforts to soften some aspect of Ferrari ownership are starting to pay dividends in increased sales. While that sounds good, the company had concerns that it may be too popular, possible reducing the investment value of modern Ferrari in general. Broadening the appeal of future Ferrari cars would have to be balanced with new levels of exclusivity.
While this movement towards a softer more user friendly Ferrari may have started in earnest in the ’90s with the 348, it has been an ongoing evolution in small steps. More recently, a new crop of Ferrari cars starting with the a classic name designed for the American market has accelerated the movement towards a less intimidating Ferrari.
The California picks up in spirit where the old 250 GT from the late 1950s left off. That is, it was designed with export markets in mind like North America. As Ferrari cars became more sought after, the company responded by introducing new models that were more practical in the sense that a sports car could be. Engineers went to great lengths to make the California easy to drive. In the process of reaching significant milestones in comfort and convenience, a number of firsts were achieved.
The California was Ferrari’s first front engine V8 and first with a 7 – speed dual-clutch transmission (made by Getrag). Most importantly it was the first with a folding metal roof. This single bit alone influenced its complex series of curves and ducts. With the top down, the otherwise flowing curves and lines of the design is marred by a fat rear end that visibly humps upward to accommodate the roof. That big rear end allows for more room for stuff than most Ferrari (save for the FF).
Fortunately, when the top is up the eye can follow a pleasing line that suggests a proper GT. In GT fashion the California is a 2+2 with a back seat that is more theoretical for anyone larger than a toddler. Who other than kids going to daycare in Dubai ride in the back seat of a Ferrari anyhow?
No one’s really complained about the California’s performance. Despite being easier to drive than most super-cars, an unskilled pilot can still get 0 to 60 times in the sub 4 second range and can reach 190 something all out. The California has been criticized for it’s rear end design. The complicated series of ducts showcasing twin dual exhausts looks truly impressive, but the black plastic bar that frames license tags looks less than becoming of the Ferrari mystique.
As other Ferrari have gone the exotic mid engine route, the simple front engine rear wheel drive configuration is as basic a performance car setup in any modern Ferrari. Despite the less than exotic setup, quite a bit of technology insures the expected road hugging performance and a comfortable ride. Yet another Ferrari first, a multi-link rear suspension works in conjunction with a drive mode setting that allows for comfort, sport or F1- CST (a traction control setting).
Great lengths were taken to insure comfort and convenience. The top for instance retracts in just 14 seconds revealing an interior that comes with all the standard entertainment options expected in a new car. The clean simple dash design accommodates fewer gadgets than what you might find in a new Chevy Cruze, but the materials and are top notch, even if the ergonomics are not so much. No Cruze of course comes with an all aluminum 4.3-liter V8 that makes north of 450 hp. In yet another first for Ferrari the engine uses direct injection to improve efficiency.
Since the California’s arrival in 2008, it has had a series of small upgrades and performance packages. Most notable of these was a slight re-skin in 2012 that resulted in a lighter turbo powered car. Also that year, manual transmission was dropped from the options list following a trend in the exotic market that mirrored the market in general. The lack of a manual transmission was offset by a Handling Special package that shaved off some time to 60. In 2014 a new evolution of the California called the F149M or California T resolved the original’s styling issues while bumping up power to over 550 hp. The F149M’s F12-like front end made it even more appealing and no doubt more expensive.
Speaking of expensive, the California F149 was in some respects the entry level Ferrari, at over $200k, that cost of entry comes with the knowledge that folks in Maranello are trying to limit the number of cars they build in order to recapture some of the exclusivity lost in recent years. Still, the easy to use California is why so many well heeled car buyers seek out Ferrari as opposed to the more temperamental products from rivals like Lamborghini. It’s a good problem to have.