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For a company like Ferrari with an unparalleled history of competition and production sports cars, a legacy of innovation is expected as part of its evolving state of affairs. What's unusual is for so many new elements to come together all at once in a single Ferrari model. The first retractable hardtop roof? The first V8 in a front-engine application? The first seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox? The first multilink rear suspension? Meet the Ferrari California convertible.
Technically a Grand Touring (or GT) rather than a dedicated sports car, the Ferrari California was designed as much for comfortable cruising as for performance. Hard-core Ferrari purists may scoff, though for them Ferrari offers a more dedicated open-air sports car in the form of the 458 Spider. Otherwise, exotic sports car buyers looking for top-down excitement plus a little more in the way of amenities and comfort will find a lot to like about the Ferrari California.
Current Ferrari California
The Ferrari California is a retractable-hardtop convertible offered with a two-passenger rear seat or a rear parcel shelf. It's equipped with expected premium conveniences like standard bi-xenon headlights, full leather interior, fold-down rear seatback, Bluetooth, a premium sound system and a touchscreen navigation system (admittedly similar to those in many Chrysler products).
Options are numerous, including 19- and 20-inch "diamond-finish" wheels, adaptive Magnaride suspension, adaptive headlights and a fitted leather luggage set. There are also extensive customization possibilities including carbon-fiber trim, special seat upholstery and paint, and exterior styling details.
The California is powered by a 4.3-liter V8 generating 460 horsepower and 357 pound-feet of torque, driving the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. The engine is rev-happy and acceleration is swift and sonorous, with quick and polished gear shifting in either mode. A sprint to 60 mph takes less than 4 seconds. In this world of fuel economy concerns, however, the California is reasonably efficient for an exotic. It can also get a bit greener with the optional HELE system. Standing for High Emotion Low Emissions, it consists of an automatic stop/start system, a variable fuel pump, intelligent engine fan control and adaptive transmission shift programming.
Then there's the Ferrari California's centerpiece: its power-retractable aluminum hardtop enclosing a finely crafted interior. In just 14 seconds, it transforms the California from a secure and insulated closed-top coupe to a fully open 2+2 convertible. Revealed are supple Italian leathers and high-quality construction, though the tiny rear seats are pretty much useless. For two people, however, the California's comfortable and composed ride will cosset like no Ferrari drop top before it.
Now, if all this talk of fuel economy, fancy roofs and comfortable rides makes it sound as if Ferrari has lost the plot, have no fear. It still delivers the pulse-pounding performance, impeccable handling and general sense of driving enjoyment one expects from a car wearing the prancing horse badge.
Used Ferrari California Models
The Ferrari California retractable-hardtop convertible debuted for the 2010 model year. The optional HELE system was unavailable prior to 2011.