The Ferrari California brought with it a number of firsts for Ferrari when it was launched some three years ago. A direct-injection V8, twin-clutch gearbox and a folding hard-top were all first seen on the California and were introduced to bring a new type of customer to the Ferrari brand.
Things move quickly at Ferrari, and now just three years old the convertible is already benefitting from a revision. Picking up more power, less weight and an optional handling package, the revitalised California is now more explosive than ever before.
The California approach seems to have worked, with around 70 percent of California buyers being new to the Ferrari brand. Enthusiasts on the other hand haven’t quite taken to the California’s laid-back character, so can more power and a more aggressive chassis setup entice enthusiasts?
A 23kW power gain comes courtesy of a new exhaust, reshaped pistons and an ECU tweak. The 4.3-litre V8 now produces 360kW and drops the 0-100km/h time by .2-seconds to a staggering 3.8-seconds.
Despite still being the slowest Ferrari available, the California is still extremely fast and the power upgrades now make it even more desirable and adds extra urgency at the top end of the rev range.
Lower the roof and the vertically stacked exhausts reach their maximum boisterous potential in no time. The howl from the exhaust reaches a crescendo near the red-line before a shotgun like echo erupts as you change up a gear. It sounds incredible.
Ferrari has managed to cut around 30kg from the California’s weight by using modified alloys in sections of the aluminium chassis and changing the way they are bonded together. Unfortunately the weight loss doesn’t bring any fuel efficiency gains.
An optional $2,750 HELE Package includes stop-start technology and an intelligent fuel pump and engine fan. The new optional Handling Speciale Package, priced from $14,400 includes a nine percent quicker steering rack, uprated suspension with 15 percent stiffer springs at the front and 10 percent stiffer at the rear and revised damper settings.
Our test car was fitted with the Handling Speciale Package and the first thing you notice at low speeds is the quicker steering rack. When you increase pace and enter a few corners, the sharper steering rack becomes even more evident. Extra precision and feel through the wheel is worth every penny of the optional package.
Weighing in at 1,735kg, there is still a degree of body roll and pitch and dive under braking even with the optional handling package. Although, the Handling Speciale Package does improve the California’s abilities when cruising in selectable Comfort mode – not dissimilar to the Mercedes-Benz SL.
Turn the Manettino dial to Sport and the California instantly begins breathing fire. Take control of gear shifts with the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters and the Ferrari California instantly becomes a very entertaining sports car.
If you’re after the full open-top driving experience, the Ferrari 458 Spider is a sharper drive, but the California is a more versatile car that can be used day-to-day without a fuss. And, the power upgrade now means it’s more powerful and exciting than the outgoing California.
Competitors to the Ferrari California in this segment include the Bentley Continental GTC V8, Jaguar XKR-S Convertible, Mercedes-Benz SLS Roadster and Lamborghini Gallardo.
Even if the California is the most laid-back car in the Ferrari range, the updates ensure the California has the flexibility of a sports car, but the usability of a daily cruiser. Ferrari is currently at the height of its powers (pardon the pun) and the updated California proves it is catering toward a variety of customers.