i New Cars
New Car Reviews & Videos
Welcome to i New Cars
Just Search for any Brand
Don’t let anyone tell you the Ferrari California isn’t a real Ferrari. I haven’t actually heard anyone saying that, at least not since it revamped the California into the California T, but it looks like art and sounds like music, as any creation from that boot-shaped peninsula should. I also saved a life while the car was under my command. Maybe should I have led with that?
OK, so I might have saved a young woman’s life. I never saw her again. Here’s what happened.
I was heading home in the Ferrari after my pathetic, southeastern Michigan excuse for a drive loop when I saw Jeep taillights about a quarter-mile ahead. The lights drifted right, then hard left, then hard right before they flew down an embankment off the side of the road. I was the only one out there, so I had to stop.
With the top down, I whipped the California into an apartment complex and ran over to find the Jeep flipped on its side, and crashed into a tree. The 40-mph speed-limit sign was bent in a way that looked like the Jeep drove up it as it careened off the road. Another woman arrived on the scene and we found a young blonde girl, dazed but not bloody, trapped in the non-running Jeep. We started yelling at her to open the door, but she must have unbuckled her seatbelt and fallen to the passenger side, which was on the ground, and couldn’t reach the lock button. Plus, the 911 operator told us not to move her if she seemed conscious and stable.
The 2017 Ferrari California T has all the major functions on the steering wheel.
The police finally arrived and got her out of the car, woozy but in one piece, and then came over to me looking for answers. I was stunned at how appreciative they were for staying around. They said most people don’t do that, which was surprising. I noted that I didn’t see any other cars on the road and that it looked like she drifted, tried to recover and failed before going off the road. Then they asked me what I was doing.
“I was about a quarter-mile behind her when it happened, and I pulled off in that apartment complex,” I said as I pointed.
“You’re in the … what is that?” asked the cop.
“It’s a Ferrari.”
“Good for you,” said the cop with a little bit of snark.
“It’s not mine, I work for Autoweek magazine.”
“Sweet gig,” he said.
And that’s where I was going with this. As mortal, middle-class human, driving a Ferrari makes me feel…anxious. Everyone is definitely going to look, so you need to be OK with that. A lot of people will ask you how much it costs. Some just say “nice car.”
And it is a damn nice car. The first California was beautiful, but a little low on power (453 hp) for a Ferrari; with this new turbo version, that wrong has been righted. The California T is thrilling to drive. It’s surprisingly quiet at idle but wails like a banshee at speed. It has big, metal paddles attached to the column for cracking off six shifts in record speed. And as the modes ramp up from normal to sport to race, they get faster and louder. I didn’t feel any turbo lag, except for maybe on initial takeoff, and this thing revs to at least 7,000 before it loses any steam. The exhaust noise comes on hard at about 3,000 rpm, though I’d rather it ramp up more uniformly, like on the 488 GTB.
You can fit a jacket, maybe a bag of groceries behind the seats of the 2017 Ferrari California T.
Steering is extremely light, with a quick ratio. There is a little less steering feel than I’d like, but it’s perfect on-center and as direct as anything I’ve driven. There’s no real body roll to speak of, even when you purposely overdo it.
The brake pedal barely moves before the pads bite aggressively, which makes this car feel smaller than it is. It’s perfect for slicing and dicing through traffic. I’d love to get it on a track, though it’s completely drivable on the street — even in Detroit, where the roads aren’t spectacular. The wheels and tires aren’t ridiculously big and thin, and it handles small potholes well. I still dodged the big ones, though, just being prudent.
You’ll have to get used to the naked steering column with no stalks for turn signals or wipers (the controls are all on the wheel), but once you do, it’s convenient and safer — it makes you keep your hands on the wheel.
As a weekend track-ay guy, I like the 488 GTB way more. It’s the best car in the world right now. But this Cali T is hella fun, and I’ll say what I always say about convertibles: They’re the best way to enjoy nature without actually getting your boots wet.
–Jake Lingeman, road test editor
If you have a model lineup consisting of more than one model, and a pricing differential exists between said models, the cheapest — excuse me, the most attainable — one is always going to be viewed as the entry-level car. That’s just the way it is.
So you can certainly frame the California T as the baby Ferrari, the entry-level one, but that’s a pretty facile distinction to draw and you’d have to be a real blockhead to dwell on it. The California T is a Ferrari, which means that it’s a special car. Easy enough to say, and maybe a cliché, but it’s true. The steering, for example, is much lighter than you’d expect, but still razor-sharp and accurate; I’m glad Ferrari didn’t feel the need to pile on artificial heft. The car feels lively and animated somehow — actually, it feels a little bit like the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, and that’s meant as a compliment in this case.
In some areas, it’s not the most advanced vehicle on the road. The digital interfaces look like they came out of 2014 — because they did. But the California T has it where it counts. It’s a front-mid-engine, rear-drive setup, more archaic than the rear-mid-engine layout true supercars have adopted, but classically Ferrari. Less classically Ferrari is that turbocharged engine. It’s very good at delivering power, and it does its best to feel like a naturally aspirated engine; if anything, it’s got too much grunt across the entire rev range to trick you into thinking it’s anything other than forced induction. I suppose I can l live with it, so long as Ferrari doesn’t stuff it into a crossover or something. But Ferrari would never do that, right?
The drop-top is a focal point, but don’t think of it as a convertible; think of it as a grand tourer with a roof that should be removed whenever nature blesses you with the opportunity to flip that toggle switch. I’m not sure if I even made it a hundred yards before putting the top down and leaving it there.
I blasted off into a perfect warm Friday night. There was no traffic; there were no cops north of the Ohio border. The roads weren’t quite inspired, but the car, the sun and the sheer, pure speeds I could have attained (were I not at all times a law-abiding citizen) made up for it. It was great.
Suitably fired up from the drive, I was ready to make a triumphant, snarling appearance at my destination — a friend’s weekend-long neighborhood block party-type event — rolling in a gear or two lower than necessary just to keep the V8 vocal. Then the tire pressure warning light went on.
It was not a drill. Far as I can tell, I hit a pothole or uneven lane on the perpetually under-construction I-75 Toledo, Ohio, exit ramp and blew out the left-front sidewall. With God as my witness, I swear I was going below the speed limit (Ohio does have cops).
The last mile or two of the journey was made gingerly, the arrival decidedly un-triumphant. The night wasn’t ruined, but the much-anticipated bloody mary-soaked morning was: I limped into a Discount Tire bright and early — before anybody broke out the tomato juice, even — deploying the car’s portable air compressor a few times along the way in a bid to keep the car off its rim.
Incredibly, the tire store had an exact-fit replacement in stock, but from a Chinese tire brand that no one had ever heard of. Me, I probably would have rolled the dice and went for it, but it wasn’t my car and the Ferrari folks understandably nixed the swap. Five or so hours after I’d nursed it there, the car was flat-bedded back to the dealership.
Thus ended my Ferrari California T experience.
What is it?It’s fast, loud and sexy, a replacement for the best-selling Ferrari. It’s also the first turbocharged road car from Maranello in 25 years. The 2015 Ferrari California T is big on a couple …
This isn’t really the place to rant about the Midwest’s interminable expressway reconstruction efforts, and Ferrari is hardly the only high-performance automaker to wrap black rubber bands around oversize rims and call them tires (seriously, though, infrastructure is disintegrating everywhere; a little more sidewall couldn’t hurt).
My point is that, when you buy a car like this, you have to understand you’re opening yourself up to a certain amount of inconvenience. I’m not even talking about the mechanical gremlins Italian cars are infamous for; a more mundane downside of driving an extraordinary car means that, when something goes wrong, it’s harder to get parts. If I’d been driving a Mustang, I still would have had a great time, and if I had lost a tire, there’s a good chance the store would have had an acceptable replacement in stock. Hell, the Ford would even have had a horse badge on it.
But it wouldn’t have been a Ferrari. What happened to me could have just as easily have happened to any California T owner, so in that sense, from the highs to the lows, I got a very real taste of the ownership experience. It’s not always about the top-down sprints, after all. We’re able to laugh off the quirks and foibles and downright inconveniences these cars cause us because they are so damned rewarding to drive.
Would I do it again — trade a few hours of time in a tire store for a memorable 100-mile blast on a perfect evening? Sure. But I think next time, I’d try to steer clear of that pothole.
–Graham Kozak, associate editor
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $206,473
Drivetrain: 3.9-liter turbocharged V8, 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission
Output: 552 hp at 7,500 rpm; 556 lb-ft at 4,750 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,582 lb
0-60 MPH: 3.6 seconds
Pros: Tighter handling and faster than the model it replaced
Cons: Get used to being looked at
i New Cars
New Car Reviews & Videos
Welcome to i New Cars
Just Search for any Brand