Ferrari California T (2015 - present): Review, Problems, Specs

The Ferrari California T is billed as the turbocharged and dramatically improved replacement to the original California launched in 2008. It came with improved styling, an all-new 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 that made it both faster and more frugal and new connectivity tech – it was actually the first Ferrari to feature in-built Apple CarPlay functionality.

The driving dynamics were also a point of focus with the T over its predecessor. The car is lighter, sharper and more focused, while still retaining the soft, supple GT-like ride it had before.

It’s a cruiser designed for people who like driving, but like their machine to be sharp and agile without too much harshness. It’s also a car for those who love open-air motoring and thanks to its folding hardtop it also offers superb sound and temperature insulation too.


Pros & Cons
Strong Points

Pros


Strong Points
  • Strong engine
  • Comfortable, effortless long distance cruiser
  • Very sharp to drive for something billed as more of a grand tourer
  • Restyled sheetmetal seriously improves the look

Recommended Versions
Strong Points

Cons


Weak Points
  • Noticeably duller exhaust note compared to non-turbo predecessor
  • Rear seats are a joke
  • You can sometimes feel its mass shifting in the corners

Stay Away From
  • Crazy color combos as they may affect resale value
Strong Points

Attention


Known Problems & Recalls
  • Recall for certain 2015 MY cars with improperly assembled (Takata) airbags
Car Details
Powertrain

The California T’s power plant is a 3.9-liter V8 with twin turbochargers, but if you didn’t know this for a fact, you’d have a hard time telling from behind the wheel. Ferrari has limited the unit’s peak torque in all but the seventh (and final) gear in order not to have noticeable lag and bestow it with a linear naturally-aspirated-like character.

It is somewhat strange when you think about it, but while on the move (especially under hard acceleration) it really doesn’t feel turbocharged.

Where you do notice the presence of the turbos is the exhaust note. Yes, it’s extremely good for a turbo, but nowhere near as good as the raspy, almost savage non-turbo California.

The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is hugely impressive, as we’ve come to expect from recent Ferraris; it’s more than satisfactory in terms of shift smoothness yet it may give you mild whiplash if you select the most aggressive shift mode and really get on it…


Handling

Driving the California T you will undoubtedly notice its planted, surefooted feel. This is present under all driving conditions, from a very wet and windy highway blast to snaking up serpentines on a sunny day with the traction control turned off.

The back does slide out with relative ease, but you can vary the amount of effort you have to put in to correct it by a simple flick of the manetino switch. There’s a bumpy road button too (located like pretty much all other controls, on the steering wheel) and it softens up the ride.

The electronics may be good, but it’s still the chassis balance that defines the driving experience. Even with everything turned off, you can still stay on top of it if you prepare for a bit of oversteer out of the corners.


Safety

While it may only have front and side airbags (a total of four), the California T’s mix of a very stiff chassis, advanced (traction- and stability-enhancing) electronics, massive brakes (that can optionally be made out of carbon ceramic material) and high performance tires makes it a safe car.

Rollover hoops behind the seats are also standard and provide head protection in the event of a crash with the roof stowed away.

Comfort

Thanks to its supple-feeling suspension, the California T feels comfortable whichever suspension mode you choose. This does translate into hints of body roll in some instances, but it’s generally very apt at keeping its occupants cosseted.

Some Ferrari aficionados may call it a bit soft and squidgy, but then again this is not a car aimed at the hardcore track fanatic; it’s a car to swiftly cruise in and occasionally unleash its full 560 hp output.


Quality

Costing as much as it does and rivaling with the likes of Mercedes’ SL, BMWs you’d expect the California T to be beautifully built and finished, which it is. The choice of materials is excellent, panel gaps are perfect and even the buttons feel pleasant to the touch.

Its Fiat-sourced infotainment system is not on par with the best ones out there, but it does work and it’s only a small niggle in an otherwise very attractive package.


Practicality

The California T will easily accommodate the two passengers it’s designed for up front. They get a surprising number of stowage cubbies and even cupholders, and the two rear seats are actually just a heavily padded place to put your shopping bags (especially if the trunk is taken up by the folded hardtop).

It can fit about as much of your stuff in the trunk as a VW Golf hatch, but once you lower its top that takes up what appears to be half of the entire space.


Infotainment

As of late, all new Ferraris come Apple Car Play-enabled which can completely replace the factory setup it comes with; you can use Ferrari's own system, which isn't the worst, but you're better off just connecting your phone.

Efficiency

Running the California T daily won’t break the bank as it’s surprisingly frugal, especially when driving on the freeway, where it’s officially quoted as being able to return 23 mpg US (10.2 l/100km). It also emits just 270 g/km CO2 on average, which is far less than any Ferrari before it.


Equipment

Every California T comes with four airbags, full leather interior, climate control and sat-nav, but being a Ferrari you can pretty much specify anything you want.

There are some specific options, like the $5,500 Touring Suspension, or the over-$3,000 auto-dimming side mirrors feature. Bumping the number of speakers from seven to twelve will also demand a $6,242 premium.


Acquisition

The decision whether to buy the California T or not revolves around several factors. You could get a better level of quality, cheaper acquisition price and a wider array of (smaller, more frugal) engines from the likes of BMW and Mercedes.

Then it has another problem from within its own stable: the 488 GTB with which it shares its engine. The $242,000 488 is only some $45,000 more than the California, yet it offers a more involving driving experience, as well as more outright power, performance and tactile feedback.

Click on a model to learn more about it.
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