Ferrari California T Review

‘Ferrari. More than you could afford’, is what I said to myself, chuckling as I steered the brand new California T out of the Waterloo dealership. ‘Smoke him’, trailed off the imaginary Dominic Terretto sitting next to me. I thought of Paul Walker watching down smiling, another punk kid driving fast cars, doing what he loves.

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I pinched myself for the third time in as many months. Three years of consistent content and hard work, finally being noticed by the brands that pushed me to create the very publication they would ultimately feature in. Last week was my first interaction with Ferrari, for myself and TVG – I figured the California T was a good place to start, especially with the Ferrari 488 GTB on the horizon.

We begun my 36 hour loan with a thorough check of the vehicle, and then a briefing session about the key, remote start and retractable hard top roof. Sitting in the drivers seat of the Ferrari is a life changing event for any car enthusiast, holding the key in one hand, getting ready to start it, is another experience altogether. I’ve got to be honest though, it was the first time I’d held a Ferrari key and it was a bit of let down. Obviously I’d seen them on Instagram and so on, assuming it was made out of some amazing red Italian ceramic but no, unfortunately not. Perhaps it’s the care free Italian attitude coming through, or a hubristic gesture to say ‘we’ll let the car do the talking’. It just fascinates me that such a phenomenal product can be adversely affected by such a meagre thing, it really does leave that sort of impression. But that’s the extent of my qualms. Done. Out of the way.

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California T (1 of 1) Edit

Firstly it’s absolutely gorgeous. The cabin is also immense. The leather, the carbon, the steering wheel, it’s an unbeatable package. It’s refined and sophisticated, but also avant-garde, adding some Italian Sprezzatura with accents of navy blue and carbon fibre, adorned with the California T name above the glove box (a feature in Ferrari I adore). Despite my issues with the key itself, I love that Ferrari require it to be inserted and turned to activate the vehicle, before initiating the engine start button. Listening to the car roar to life inside the dealership was the moment I’d been waiting for, pulling on the right paddle to shift the California T into drive and carefully rolling out of the garage, for a day and a half of pure bliss.

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I was instantly intrigued by the stark contrast between the accelerator in the Lamborghini and the Ferrari. Now I know they’re cars in different categories, but at this price point ($498k as tested) you can’t help but compare the two manufacturers. There’s more procedure in the Ferrari, it’s more refined. More accelerator application is required to move the car, it’s a hard thing to explain without experiencing it yourself but it certainly makes pushing your foot to the floor a more invigorating encounter. The gearbox is a true daily driver, around town it is baffling how good it is, you could very easily drive the California T every day. The engine note remains largely the same across all drive modes, meaning despite being in comfort, you’ll still get the arousing orchestra from the engine when you plant the accelerator (even if it’s a little subdued for your liking). Turn the Manettino dial clockwise and the gearbox, steering and suspension evolve dramatically, but it’s not until you take the reigns yourself, does the California T become infectiously rewarding.

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With the top down, we steered the car towards the National Park, headed to the Scarborough hotel for a spot of lunch. We couldn’t have asked for a better day to experience all that the California T had to offer. Taking advantage of the first piece of open road gifted to us, I flicked the left paddle in and punched past a convoy of Sunday drivers with mesmerising ease. The new 3.9L twin-turbo engine delivers excellent throttle response, especially in the lower gears pushing the rev range. Up higher it’s a titchy bit delayed but it’s clear Ferrari have done their homework, delivering a car that mimics a naturally aspirated engine with devastating acceleration. Holding the gears and watching the row of red LEDs light up the steering wheel with the progression of revs, never gets tiresome. When the revs hit the 7500RPM redline it sings a glorious tune, enjoyed two fold with the roof open.

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One area where the previous California copped a lot of criticism was the movement of the chassis, the car’s lack of agility, ‘it didn’t feel like a Ferrari’ quoted Chris Harris. The new, smaller capacity engine in the California T sits 40mm lower, improving the car’s centre of gravity, and my god can it handle a corner. The steering is much lighter than I expected, but it works with the car’s confidently balanced chassis, even at blistering speeds through corners. The California T continuously aches to be driven, it wants to test itself and show you the insane amount of grip it has to offer. As a drivers car it leaves you with no doubt of its ability.

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Civilised, sophisticated, gentlemanly, refined. These are words that describe the Ferrari California T. Of course it’s phenomenal at speed, but it’s just as composed as an everyday GT car, sitting in the traffic minding its own business. Unlike its brash counterpart from Bolognese, the Ferrari is a sports car for the connoisseur, and after spending two days with it I can see why so many enthusiasts have an unhealthy obsession for the brand. Not only is the engine fantastic, the updated styling is stunning. I can’t decide whether it looks better with the roof up or roof down and that’s an achievement in itself.

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James is the Founder and Editor of The Versatile Gent.

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