With a new hard-edged Handling Speciale pack fitted to the Ferrari California T we recently had at our disposal in beautiful Italy, we wanted to find out if the most affordable model from the iconic Italian brand - now with even better road manners - was actually any good.
The pre-facelift Ferrari California was a car that, for Ferrari, represented a bold move away from what buyers had known.
It was the first front-engined Ferrari with a V8, the first with a seven-speed dual-clutch, the first with a metal folding roof.
And when the Italian maker updated the car late in 2015, it became the California T, as it was now known, became the first car from the brand with a turbocharged engine since the F40 from the 1980s and ‘90s.
Under the bonnet lies a 3.9-litre bi-turbo V8 that produces 412kW of power and 755Nm of torque. As you’d expect by adding turbos, there’s more power in the new engine than there was in the existing V8 non-turbo model. The California T Handling Speciale includes a revised exhaust that’s designed to make it sound better at higher revs.
From the driver’s seat the exhaust note is alive and well, even with windows up when the lid is lowered. But it gets even better when you’re banging through the gears, because the seven-speed F1 (as Ferrari calls it) dual-clutch transmission is without doubt one of the fastest shifting transmissions in the business.
But if you're not in Italy driving some of the best roads in the world, just leave it in auto and it will do it for you. And I reckon it’s one of the most intuitive transmissions, too, despite the fact in auto mode – and with Comfort mode selected on the mannetino dial, it can have a tendency to aim for the highest gear to help save fuel.
It may be seen as more of a GT car, but let’s be honest – any hard-top convertible that can seat four people – yet still be capable of hitting 100km/h in just 3.6 seconds, and that has a top speed of 316km/h, is well and truly pushing into supercar territory.