Our man Bassam explains why the second generation Ferrari was a surprise revelation.
In today’s slick marketing-led automotive sphere it’s not unusual for a car to be a let down and ultimately not live up to the hype. Far rarer though is the occasion that something flies in under my radar and totally exceeds expectations. And that’s exactly what happened when I recently got behind the wheel of the new Ferrari California T.
It may sound strange that I’ve been caught off-guard by a car from Maranello that’s really good, seeing as how Ferrari has a habit of churning out spectacular cars. It’s just that the previous California was a bit of a dog. It was ugly, soft and not exactly riveting to drive. If it didn’t have a Prancing Horse on its nose, I doubt many people would have bought one. I recall a friend of mine at dinner proudly announcing he was about to buy one then getting ridiculed out of the room for his choice.
So as you can imagine I was pretty surprised when the new California T turned out to be fantastic. I’d go as far as saying that it was a revelation, and is possibly the best GT I’ve driven. While it won’t go down as a classic Ferrari design, rarely has a facelift been so effective in making a car look prettier. In terms of dynamics everything is perfectly judged, the ride is just the right amount of cosseting and the handling is highly entertaining without being intimidating. Even the usually over-sharp Ferrari steering has been eased back just enough to remain alert, without being too pointy and the double-clutch transmission is nothing short of spectacular
Most significant of all though, is the letter ‘T’ that sits at the end of the California’s name, as this refers to the first use of a turbocharged engine in a Ferrari since the iconic and unhinged F40 nearly three decades ago. Thankfully we can all breathe a sigh of relief as it is a pretty fantastic motor and is actually a big improvement on the naturally aspirated unit in its predecessor. This is a really important achievement as the turbocharger continues its relentless march into our most cherished performance engines. BMW’s M cars are all forced-induction, AMG is firmly heading in that direction, and even Porsche has announced that the next generation of 911s will all be blown. The California isn’t the only Ferrari to become turbocharged either, as the recently revealed 488 GTB signals the end of the naturally aspirated mid-engine Ferrari. Is it possible that the 458’s replacement can be as scintillating as its awesome predecessor? Hopefully the boys from Maranello will be able to surprise us once again.
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*Our thanks to Christopher List
Technical specifications available on page 2