Conquests. That’s what the 2008 California was all about. Opening up the Ferrari experience to a whole new audience. And, boy, did it work: In the five and a bit years from launch, Maranello built 10,000 examples, making the California the single most popular Ferrari of all time (at least if you count the original car and the 2012-on California 30 as a single model). Seven out of every ten of those cars went to first-time Ferrari customers, guys—and thousands of gals—who might otherwise have bought a top-of-the-line Mercedes, an Aston Martin or maybe a Bentley. With that remit in mind, it was understandable that the California perhaps didn’t quite excite some of the people who already owned a Ferrari. That’s where the new California T comes in.
Before you even hear a single word about the new technology on this car, you know it’s a more serious machine. The revised styling is a joint project between Pininfarina, which designed the 2008 car, and Ferrari’s in-house team, led by design director Flavio Manzoni. Working together, they did a fine job of turning the friendly looking GT into something much more aggressive.
In front, the California’s grille has been expanded, its headlights pulled back and two broad hood vents added. Moving to the flanks, the coving is now far more pronounced and the waist more pinched, lending a harder, leaner look. But the most successful changes come at the rear. Hiding a folded hardtop without decimating trunk space was always going to make for a rather matronly rump, but by lowering the trunk lip fractionally and employing visual tricks like orienting the tailpipes horizontally instead of vertically and enlarging the diffuser, Manzoni has created the impression of a much lower, wider car. The overall result is a stronger, more modern design, one that stands on its own merit rather than relying on retro cues (particularly the now-departed old-school hood scoop) for its personality.
So it’s a better-looking Ferrari, one that’s visually more in step with the company’s other current cars. And in its own way, the latest California is every bit as significant as the LaFerrari I drove in the last issue. The clue is in the T. It’s not the letter as used in the 1989 Mondial t, with its longitudinal engine mated to an east-west transmission. This time, the T stands for turbo, because the California T is the first of a new generation of turbocharged Ferrari road cars.