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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ferrari California

The Ferrari California is a sporty, dramatically styled convertible with two-plus-two seating. As Ferrari's most affordable and accessible model, the California nonetheless manages to retain the passion and spirit of the rest of the Ferrari range. Combining daily driver comfort and reasonable utility with a potent 490-horsepower V-8, the California competes with other luxury sports roadsters, including the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, Porsche 911 Cabriolet, and Maserati GranTurismo Convertible.

For those familiar with Ferraris, the combination of comfort and speed might not be a surprise, but for those new to the brand, the California strikes a remarkable compromise between the company's race-bred heritage and the demands of modern daily driving. At 490 horsepower, the California is still very, very quick--it gets to 60 mph in under four seconds, and carries on to a top speed of 194 mph.

The California made its retail debut in 2008, at the time available with a 460-horsepower 4.3-liter V-8 engine and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The California represented the first use of a number of technologies for Ferrari, including the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, direct injection, a multi-link rear suspension, and, of course, the folding metal hardtop roof.

The California carried forward from its 2008 arrival to 2012 largely unchanged. In the spring of 2012, Ferrari added the designation "30" to the California's name, indicating the 30 extra horsepower and 30 kilograms (66 pounds) lighter weight included in the updated California 30. The weight savings comes by way of more aluminum in the car's construction, while the extra power is enabled by revised exhaust manifolds and computer tuning. The result is a California that's a touch more precise and powerful, while retaining its overall relaxed demeanor.

Inside the Ferrari California, you'll find two comfortable and relatively spacious front seats, plus two compact rear seats best reserved for extra luggage with only occasional use by smaller passengers. Materials throughout rise to typical Ferrari standards, and through Ferrari's highly personalized customization programs, can be made as opulent, sporty, or unique as you'd like. Exterior colors--and nearly any other feature of the car--can also be specially chosen through these programs.

While the California, like all Ferraris, handles very well even in its standard form, for those who like a little more edge to their sports cars, a new Handling Speciale package offers magneto-rheological dampers that adjust to the road surface, stiffer springs for better body control, and a faster steering ratio.

On the reliability front, Ferrari issued a recall on 2012 California models for a potential crankshaft vibration issue that could lead to engine failure. Like other Ferraris, the California has also been known to go up in flames.

Gas mileage saw no help for 2012, and at 13 mpg city and 19 mpg highway, for a combined rating of just 15 mpg, the Ferrari California is many things, but my no means green, even among high-performance sports cars.

Looking forward, the California is due to be replaced for the 2015 model year, with the new car featuring a similar shape but a more powerful, and possibly turbocharged, engine.

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