The Ferrari California convertible is named in honor of the open-top California 250 GT of the 1950s and 1960s and continues the Prancing Horse tradition of open-topped roadsters. This California made its debut in Paris in October 2008 and stepped into the American limelight at the L.A. Auto Show in November that year. The car was aimed squarely at the American market, where convertibles sell like hotcakes -- especially in sunny California.
Ferrari achieved several in-house firsts with the California. It's the first mid-front engine V8 for Ferrari, the first direct injection engine, first seven-speed double-clutch semi-automatic transmission, and the first with a retractable hard top. The company claims the top can fold itself away in 15 seconds. The price tag, which hovers around $200,000, includes a free seven-year maintenance program.
The California began its run in 2009 with a 4.3-liter V8 engine (borrowed from the F430) under the hood with 455 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. In 2012, Ferrari upgraded the engine to 490 hp, which knocked its 0-62 mph time below 4 seconds. Ferrari engineers managed this little trick not by boring out any cylinders but by remapping the engine's computers and upgrading the exhaust manifolds. They also reduced the car's weight, which helps with speed and emissions. The California has an available 7-speed dual-clutch set-up, which is said to be friendly to the new Ferrari driver (read: newly minted Hollywood starlet). There's also a more traditional 6-speed manual for those who like to actually drive. Mileage isn't cringe-inducing, for all that: EPA estimates are 12 city, 18 highway.
The design, which was carried out by legendary Italian firm and longtime Ferrari collaborator Pininfarina, met with some distaste on its debut. No one debated the hotness of the front end, with its raked headlights and open-work grille. The trouble started just behind the doors, where the crease flared to a weighty-looking rear. Though it needed to be big enough to accommodate the stowed hard top and trunk space, it did look bulky. The DuPont Registry called it "portly," while the UK's Car magazine said it "has a fat arse." To be fair, Road and Track put its "beautiful lines" in the "What's Hot" column. Maybe the California's bulbous butt was intended to take the temperature of the design world for the Ferrari FF quasi-staion wagon that followed the California.
In any case, when Ferrari updated its convertible in 2012, it put the chassis on a bit of a diet. The car lost about 65 pounds in a redesign, which included new aluminum fabrication and construction techniques at Ferrari HQ. Engineers also developed a Handling Speciale package to take advantage of the lighter weight and more powerful engine.
- Engine: V8
- Horsepower: 490 hp
- Torque: 372 lb-ft
- Top speed:
- 0-62 mph: 3.8 seconds
- Price: $192,000