Ferrari California comfortable but lacking excitement

The Ferrari California T Handling Speciale. Picture: PA

We take a look at the new Ferrari California T HS

WHAT’S NEW?

Meet the California T HS — the tweaked version of the manufacturer’s folding hard-top family Ferrari.

With two seats in the back for small children and a V8 turbo-charged lump up front, this is the convertible Italian supercar for those that need to carry more than one significant other. New for the Handling Speciale model are some stiffer springs, louder exhaust and some ever-so-subtle design tweaks — which you’ll be charged handsomely to add to an ever-expanding list of options.

LOOKS AND IMAGE

The California is aimed at a certain type of buyer and, as such, it has the ability to disappoint behind the wheel, unless you drive it in context. This is a GT car designed for comfort, looks and kerb appeal much before driving entertainment, unlike its thoroughbred 488 stable mate.

That means it’s more comfortable than exciting to drive. Even with the louder exhaust system on this HS model, on the road we found it just a little too quiet.

In fact, we found the California lacked a lot of the excitement you’d expect to find in a Ferrari — despite its impressive performance credentials, it just didn’t feel as involving as we’d hoped.

That said, it was certainly a comfortable companion over distance and never failed to draw a crowd when we parked it up. The quality of its build is without question too — perfectly demonstrated with a wonderfully dramatic roof mechanism.

SPACE AND PRACTICALITY

OK, so a Ferrari isn’t going to win any accessibility awards like a Citroen Berlingo might, however this is a sports car and comes with sports car compromises.

Put the front seats back to anything less than a knee crushing position and you lose all rear legroom — which means even carrying a five-year-old requires the front seat passengers to perform some gymnastics for the journey.

The boot is pretty cramped too. If you want to use the roof, you get a little more space, but if you don’t, then you’ll be refined to two small bags at best. Weekly shopper, this isn’t.

BEHIND THE WHEEL

For long-distance motorway journeys, the California T HS is a comfy drive. The 552bhp turbo-charged V8 has impressive breadth to its power delivery and although the feeling of acceleration is somewhat numbed in the cabin, it can hit 60mph in just 3.6 seconds.

Sadly, the turbo engine loses some of the charms of a normally aspirated unit — it may offer improved performance, but sadly lacks some of the aural pleasure you expect from a Ferrari.

Those stiffer springs and louder exhaust come into play when you select the ‘Sport’ setting on the steering wheel. Hit the bumpy road button on the steering wheel too and you’ll be rewarded with a compliant ride that’s just about perfect for our rutted roads.

A parking camera makes backing the Ferrari into spaces a pretty simple affair and, despite its sports car credentials, the visibility isn’t too bad either.

VALUE FOR MONEY

The California T Handling Speciale costs £155,244 (no prices available for Ireland) — pitching it against the Audi R8 Spyder and Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet.

But that base price soon increases once you start ticking some options boxes.

Two-tone exterior ( £4,320), carbon fibre dash inserts (£3,744), Scuderia Ferrari side shields (£1,056) and front and rear parking cameras (£4,032) are just a few of the options that can soon add up.

In fact, our test car had no less than 29 options added — including titanium wheel bolts at £1,810 — pushing the purchase price up to a staggering £215,011. That’s a whopping £59,767 on extras.

Ferrari California comfortable but lacking excitement

One well worth adding, though, is Apple CarPlay (£2,400) which makes the infotainment system far more usable. Ferrari’s standard system isn’t a match for the likes of Audi or Porsche, so Apple’s integrated software is well worth selecting.

WHO WOULD BUY ONE?

California buyers are family men or women who need the occasional flexibility of carrying more than one passenger.

That might mean compromising on space for everyone, but at least there’s the option there should they need it.

AT A GLANCE

Model: Ferrari California T Handling Speciale.

Engine: 3.8-litre. turbocharged V8 producing 552bhp.

Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

Performance: Max speed 196mph, 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds.

Economy: 27mpg.

Emissions: 250g/km.


Lifestyle

This week, my wife and I need to get a room, writes Pat FitzpatrickLearner Dad: We have this irrational fear of games consoles, as if buying one automatically makes you a bad parent

More From The Irish Examiner