Arabian Knight takes a look at the California T, an expression of Ferrari's sublime heritage and exhilarating versatility
The word Ferrari is synonymous with iconic sports cars and ground-breaking engineering. It is a brand that has motorsports coursing through its veins, yet has that designer chic that feels just as comfortable in a casual drive along the Amalfi Coast as it does on a Formula One racetrack.
The Italian manufacturer, symbolised by the Prancing Horse motif, has been at the forefront of both automotive design and engineering, be it in the world of sports cars, luxurious grand tourers, supercars or motor sport.
One of the iconic names associated with the brand is the California, a model that oozes heritage from every curve and vent, with a heritage that dates back nearly 50 years.
The first Ferrari to bear the name California was the original V12-engined 250 California, an exquisitely designed two-seater spider produced in 1957. Scaglietti built around 100 of these, some with aluminium bodies, and examples now fetch millions at auction. Long-wheelbase versions were built between 1958 and 1960 before being replaced by the short-wheelbase version.
Following in its footsteps was the equally impressive 365 California, less than 20 were ever built between 1966 and 1967. The exclusive nature of these Ferraris ensured that California became a hallowed name.
Ferrari unveiled a modern day reiteration of the California at the 2008 Paris Motor Show which evolved into the present generation California T, launched in 2014. The latest incarnation of the hard-top convertible has a new turbocharged V8, joining models such as the 1984 GTO and 1987 F40, hence the ‘T’ in the moniker.
The California T’s modern design gives it a powerful personality in which sportiness and elegance meld in the classically seamless way of every Prancing Horse ever built. The design, an elegantly balanced interplay of convex and concave surfaces gives the new California T the sophisticated allure of an authentic Ferrari Grand Tourer, says a Ferrari spokesman.
With its softer curves, room for a small amount of luggage and easier-going nature of the chassis for long inter-continental journeys, the California family are some of the most sought-after Ferraris ever built, he adds.
“Today, the California T epitomises the sublime elegance, sportiness, versatility and exclusivity that have distinguished every California model since the 1950s,” he says. “It is a car brimming with innovation that will more than meet the expectations of discerning clients for whom fun behind the wheel is a priority, but who also demand a sumptuously comfortable Grand Tourer they can use every day.”
He continues: The California T is a brilliant expression of Ferrari’s sporty DNA, while its retractable hard top (RHT) and 2+ configuration, amongst other features, make it supremely versatile. Like all Ferraris, the California T boasts cutting-edge technological solutions that make it unique, most notably the new turbocharged V8 engine.”
“Turbo technology has an honourable place in Prancing Horse’s engineering tradition, thanks to iconic models of the likes of the GTO of 1984 and the F40 of 1987. It is now also, of course, back at the heart of our latest F1 single-seater. Maranello’s engineers have managed to design a power unit that combines classic Ferrari engine qualities, such as razor-sharp responsiveness, blistering performance, powerful acceleration and an exhilarating soundtrack, with the advantages turbo technology, such as drastically reduced emissions and fuel consumption, a high specific power output and compact dimensions.”
The California T sprints from 0 to 100 kmph in 3.6 seconds flat and from 0 to 200 kmph in 11.2 seconds. It is also approximately 15 per cent more fuel efficient than the previous California.
All these results were achieved thanks to solutions adopted on the F1 single-seaters, including a low-inertia, flat-plane crankshaft combined with innovative twin-scroll turbines to minimise throttle response times. Certain of the manufacturing phases, mostly regarding castings, also make use of the same plant and production processes employed by the Scuderia.
The model also boasts true sports car dynamics, thanks to lower steering wheel activity and quicker steering courtesy of a new steering box and new suspension set-up. New springs and latest-generation Magnaride dampers (now more than 50 per cent faster), combined with body motion accelerometers, reduce roll and pitch to deliver more precise handling whilst still guaranteeing an incredibly comfortable ride.
Meticulous and in-depth design work has retained the dimensions of the previous model yet endowed the California T with a whole new personality, as the spokesman explains. “The car’s proportions were penned by the Ferrari Styling Centre in collaboration with Pininfarina, and are very much in line with Ferrari’s front-engined ethos. Its cabin exudes a sense of warmth and craftsmanship, and was designed to be as ergonomic as possible, with luxurious semi-aniline leather trim. The space on-board is flexible too, and owners can make the most efficient use of its generous boot capacity even with the top down, thanks to the communication between the luggage compartment and rear seats.”
The Human-Machine Interface encompasses the steering wheel with integrated controls while the Turbo Performance Engineer (TPE) takes pride of place between the two air vents at the centre of dash. This is a sophisticated instrument with a touch-sensitive scroll surround and a digital display that provides indications on making the most efficient use of the new engine’s performance. The car also has a new infotainment system with a 6.5-inch display and a choice of both button and touch-screen controls.
There is also a brand-new Handling Speciale (HS) option for the California T, designed for owners looking for an even sportier driving experience, particularly on challenging, twisty routes.
“The California T of today is underscored by excellence, heritage, prestige and track DNA. Ferrari’s approach to bespoke automotive design, razor-sharp responsiveness, blistering performance, superbly powerful acceleration at all speeds and an exhilarating soundtrack known to all Ferraris, is at the heart of the California T,” he concludes.
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