At the 2008 Paris Auto Show, Ferrari introduced an all-new hardtop convertible: the California. The company had developed the V8-powered GT to attract a broader audience, one that might otherwise buy a luxury drop-top from Aston Martin or Mercedes. In trying to widen its reach, however, Ferrari infuriated a very vocal segment of its fan base.
Put simply, the California was panned almost from the moment it was announced. Complaints surrounded its name (an homage to the legendary Cal Spyder), aesthetics (particularly that plump rear end), its intended “non-enthusiast” buyer, even a rumor the model was originally developed as a Maserati.
As so often happens, once people had a chance to drive the California they discovered it wasn’t bad. On the contrary: As a fast, luxurious convertible, the California was great. The automotive press almost universally praised the newest Prancing Horse’s speed, refinement, comfort, and practicality. The vestigial rear seats—so small that Ferrari described the car’s layout as “2+” instead of “2+2”—weren’t sized for real people, but proved excellent for additional storage (as did an optional rear bench).
Like its stablemates, the California featured all-aluminum construction, a flat-plane crankshaft, and carbon-ceramic brakes. Despite being the least-powerful pony in the lineup, it was the most sophisticated: The California was the first model to receive the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, multi-link rear suspension, and direct fuel injection used on all current Ferraris. Other California firsts included a front-mid-mounted V8 engine, die-cast aluminum chassis components, front and rear subframes to carry all of the car’s mechanical components, and, of course, that folding roof.
At the 2012 Geneva Auto Show, Ferrari unveiled the mechanically updated California 30. (Though unofficial, the “30” moniker is used by the factory and dealers alike.) Compared to the original car, the Cal 30 produced 30 additional horsepower and weighed 30 kilograms less. Also new, and popular, was the optional Handling Speciale package, which improved the car’s reflexes with little penalty in ride quality. Production of
the Cal 30 ended in 2014.
In the years since its debut, the California has become Ferrari’s best-selling model, which means used examples are plentiful. Add in the car’s impressive reliability, performance, and all-around usability, and this is one Ferrari that’s easy to recommend.