|All rights reserved.
|Ferrari's first V8 front-engined car
wants to steal sales from AMG, Bentley and Aston...
For the last twenty
Ferrari's product range has been consisting of 4 lines - an entry-level
mid-engined sports car, a 12-cylinder flagship sports car, a luxury
grand tourer and a limited edition supercar. However, as its sales grew
steadily in the past 10 years, from 3600 units to near 8000 units this
year, Ferrari needs to introduce its fifth model line. Car journalists
speculated that it might be a cheaper "baby Ferrari" in the mold of
Dino. Some suggested it could be a sport utility like Porsche Cayenne.
How wrong they were !
Now everybody knows it is actually an open-top V8 front-engined GT. Its
name is California, internally codenamed F149. It is priced at about
the same level as F430. Some 2,500-3,000 units will be built annually
at a brand new factory located beside the existing facility at
Maranello, stretching Ferrari's sales volume to well over 10,000 units.
This is Ferrari's first ever V8-powered front-engined car. It also
features Ferrari's first retractable hardtop, direct fuel injection and
twin-clutch gearbox. In short, it is the most unferrari Ferrari.
||Retractable roof opens and closes in a
record 14 seconds...
A softer Ferrari
This is not the first time a Ferrari is named after California state of
USA. In the late 1950s, Ferrari produced 250GT California Spyder to
please the wealthy Californian who appreciated sunshine and a relaxing
lifestyle. It worked against the philosophy of Enzo Ferrari, but
Ferrari still built it because of money. The new California is similar.
By Ferrari’s standard it is easily too civilized, too luxury oriented.
Ferrari aims it at the same crowd of Mercedes SL AMG, Bentley
Continental GTC and Aston Martin DB9 Volante. These customers regard
the F430 Spider as too hardcore and prefer more luxury, comfort and
user friendliness. They also prefer open air motoring without
sacrificing refinement. Therefore Ferrari chose a retractable hard roof
from the outset. The complex mechanism is built by CTS (Car Top System)
which also supplies the roof of F430 Spider and Opel Astra TwinTop. It
opens and closes in a record 14 seconds, but it also increases the kerb
weight to some 1735 kg, which makes the California even heavier than
|The cockpit combines Ferrari’s
traditional style with luxury and technology...
compromise is the addition of a pair of small rear seats. They
are not necessarily suitable to human being (even children), but they
must be the most convenient way to place your golf clubs. If not
enough, there is another 340 liters of luggage space at the boot, some
100 liters more than 612 Scaglietti. No other Ferraris could be so user
Not many motoring writers are satisfied with the looks of California.
They criticized its big bum, which is necessary to store the
retractable roof yet providing good luggage space. Personally, I have
few problems with it. In my eyes this Ferrari still looks sportier and
sharper than all its target rivals, let them be Mercedes, Bentley,
Aston or even its distant sister Maserati. Its wedge bonnet, pronounced
flanks and laughing grille are unmistakably Ferrari. Open the bonnet,
you still see a mechanical engine with red-painted aluminum intake
manifolds and cam covers instead of black plastic. Enter the cockpit,
it combines Ferrari’s traditional style with luxury and technology
(e.g. Manettino switch, LCD screen in instrument binnacle and touch
screen sat nav on center console). The only surprise is how roomy it is.
|The only surprise is how
roomy it is.
Like all current Ferraris, the California employs aluminum spaceframe
chassis and body panels. Its drag coefficient 0.32 is the lowest ever
for Ferrari, yet it still provides remarkable downforce at speed,
thanks to flat undertray and venturi tunnels. The V8 engine sits
completely behind the front axle while the gearbox sits near the rear
axle to achieve a slightly rear-biased balance at 47:53. This also
guarantees low polar moment of inertia, hence an agile handling. The
front suspensions follow Ferrari’s tradition to employ double-wishbones
design, but the rear now features a multi-link setup for the first time
in order to achieve a smoother ride that California needs. Other good
ingredients include: Delphi magnetorheological adaptive dampers, Brembo
ceramic brakes, Ferrari’s well proven launch control system and the
user-friendly Manettino switch on the steering wheel (with 3 modes -
Sport, Comfort and CST off). No matter mechanically or electronically,
the new Ferrari is way superior than its civilized rivals.
||Its drag coefficient 0.32 is the
lowest ever for Ferrari...
Of course, a Ferrari should excel in engine. The California’s 4297cc V8
shares its block with the 4308cc unit of F430, also the dual continuous
variable cam phasing system and the lightweight flat crank
construction, but it has several significant changes. Firstly, it
introduces Ferrari’s first direct fuel injection system in order to cut
consumption and emission. Secondly, its compression ratio climbs from
11.3:1 to 12.2:1, thanks to the cooling effect brought by the direct
injection. Thirdly, it employs a larger bore (94mm vs 92mm) and shorter
stroke (77.4mm vs 81mm) than the F430 engine. This seems biasing
towards top end power, but its intake and exhaust manifolds are tuned
otherwise to favour torque delivery. As a result, it produces 358 lb-ft
of torque at 5000 rpm, some 15 lb-ft stronger and 250 rpm earlier than
that of F430. On the downside, top end power reduces by 30hp to 460 hp,
while redline is lowered by 500 rpm to 8000 rpm.
|You still see a mechanical engine with
red-painted aluminum intake manifolds and cam covers instead of black
Nevertheless, the California V8 is still highly efficient, with a
specific output at 107 hp per liter and a specific torque at 83 lb-ft
per liter. The latter is the highest among existing cars and barely
toppled by the last generation BMW E46 M3 CSL (at 84 lb-ft per liter).
Moreover, the lower redline and direct injection helps lowering fuel
consumption to 21.5 mpg and CO2 emission
to 306 g/km. This is a considerable improvement from F430 Spider's 15.4
mpg and 420 g/km.
Unquestionably, Ferrari's Superfast 2 gearbox in 430 Scuderia is
mind-blowing fast, but the California asks for higher level of
refinement. Therefore it asked Getrag to develop a 7-speed twin-clutch
gearbox. You might remember Getrag has just introduced another 7-speed
twin-clutch box to BMW M3, but this one is a transaxle, thus
theoretically closer to the one it built for Nissan GT-R, albeit with
one more forward gear and closer ratios to suit the high-revving V8.
The twin-clutch design allows preselection of the next gear thus
results in quick and seamless gearshift.
||LCD screen supplements the traditional
The spec sheet says California could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3.9
seconds and would not flat out until 193 mph. As this car is so heavy,
we had reservation about that.
However, any doubts wash away once you start its V8. What a masterpiece
! Its rev rises and falls so responsively according to throttle. Its
exhaust noise remains loud and addictive, deeper but not any more
civilized than that of F430. The V8 produces incredible torque at low
speed yet retains the high-revving character of Ferrari engines. The
way it shifts at 8000 rpm is so thrilling.
Even better is the seamless gearshift of the twin-clutch gearbox. This
is probably the best of its kind until now. Although built by the same
supplier, its shift pattern is specified by Ferrari using its rich
experience in robotised gearbox. You can feel the engine and gearbox
become a unity - power transmits from engine to rear wheels with nearly
no interruption and delay. The seven closely stacked ratios are fully
utilized to aid acceleration because each gearshift lose so little time.
|Not many motoring writers are
satisfied with the looks of California. They criticized its big bum...
launch control, the California feels every bit capable to pass 60 mph
in 3.9 seconds. It feels much faster than its power-to-weight ratio
equally impressive. It feels agile and rock solid in the twisty, and
stable at high speed. Undeniably, grip level is not as high as the
mid-engined F430, but its handling is remarkably neutral. If you
provoke it in corners, it will power slide according to your wish -
progressively and fully under control of your right foot. For
comparison, F430 is trickier at the limit. The California is the best
balanced, best manner Ferrari ever.
With magnetorheological adaptive dampers and Manettino set at Comfort
mode, the California also rides better than any other Ferraris ever
achieved. Neither big bumps nor small irregularities could trouble its
smooth ride. Refinement is further supported by the rock solid chassis
(no creaks and rattles on rough surface) and good airflow management.
Yes, keen drivers might dislike some of its minor flaws - the power
steering is light and slightly numb, the brake pedal is too long and
lacks initial bite... well, that's it. However, as a driver's car the
Ferrari California is obviously unapproachable by its AMG, Bentley and
Aston rivals. It is the best day-to-day Ferrari ever built, but most
important, it is still a true Ferrari.
|All rights reserved.
| California revision (2012)
Having been on sale
and a half years and delivered more than 8,000 units, Ferrari
is subjected to a mid-life revision this year. The outgoing California
is still a
remarkable GT as of today, but facing newer rivals
like Audi R8 Spyder V10, Mercedes SLS
Roadster and SL63 AMG biturbo, its flaws are
becoming more obvious. In my opinion, it needs a more tasteful exterior
and interior design, a larger V8, less weight and sharper handling to
maintain a superior position that the prancing-horse badge deserved.
However, Ferrari did not answer all our questions. This mid-life
revision is more subtle than what we have expected. Cosmetically, you
won't find any
differences between the old and new California because Maranello did
not alter its sheet metal at all, so the big bottom remains, while the
classical nose fails to live up to our post-458 expectation.
You want more power? Ferrari modified the flat-crank V8 with new ECU,
revised pistons, new exhaust manifolds with lower backpressure and a
one-way reed valve in the crankcase that lets blow-by gas and oil to
evacuate thus reduce pumping loss. However, engine displacement remains
unchanged at 4297 cc, so its output gets a modest boost of 30
horsepower and 14 pound-foot of torque, taking the total to 490 hp and
372 lbft. We won't describe it as weak, but when compare with the 664
lbft offered by Mercedes SL63 AMG its sense of raw power is rather
tamed. The Ferrari V8 wants you to rev it as hard as possible to
deliver headline performance. Ultimately, its faster gearbox (7-speed
dual-clutch) and better traction (thanks to 47:53 weight distribution)
will put you ahead of the Mercedes roadster with a 0-60 mph time of 3.7
seconds. It just doesn't feel as punchy.
In the chassis, modifications are similarly subtle. The aluminum
spaceframe chassis has its weight cut by 30 kilograms thanks to using
varying grades of aluminum, a new casting process and by replacing the
steel engine cradle with aluminum one, though Ferrari did not explain
why the kerb weight figure remains unchanged. The suspension is
benefited from Gen III magnetorheological adaptive damping which
involves reduced internal friction, quicker response and a new control
software. On the road, the chassis mods do improve its handling a
little, resulting in less roll in corners and less dive under braking.
Meanwhile, the California's superb ride comfort remains.
Mind you, the California is no match to the mid-engined 458 as a sports
car. Even if you take the new "Handling Speciale" pack, it won't
display the same cornering prowess and razor-sharp control of its
pricier sister. The handling pack brings stiffer springs (up 15 percent
front and 11 percent rear) and a 10 percent quicker steering rack. It
enhances body control and grip level, but it also brings some edginess
to the chassis. Not only ride comfort has taken a noticeable degrade,
the car runs out of grip more abruptly at the limit, and the steering
is fast to the extent of nervous for day-to-day driving. These
drawbacks hurt the California's role as an easy-going grand tourer.
Therefore the standard setup is preferred. No wonder Ferrari predicts
only 15 percent buyers will opt for the handling pack.
Don't get me wrong, the Ferrari California is still a remarkable blend
of GT usability and sports car thrill. It still serves the dual-role
better than the aforementioned German rivals. However, sitting beside
the mightily impressive 458 Spider, it becomes rather ordinary. You
know, people don't buy Ferrari for understated appeal.
| Published on 23
||All rights reserved.
| California T
is relatively understated in Maranello's lineup. It is the least
powerful yet pretty heavy at 1735 kg, blame to that retractable metal
roof. The latter also hampers its aesthetic a little, resulting in a
big butt. Time goes by quickly. Now the California is nearly 6 years
old and it is time to give it a major revision. Here is the California
T, whose suffix stands for Turbocharging (unlike Mondial T, which
denoted the T configuration of its longitudinal engine and transverse
gearbox). If you go through our classic car archives, you will find
this is the first turbocharged Ferrari since F40. Before that, Ferrari
adopted turbos only on 288 GTO and a couple of Italian-market 308/328
models, so this is a rather unusual Ferrari.
What drove Ferrari to switch to turbocharging? The call for reduced
emission is one reason (in this case 15 percent), but for the case of
California I suppose turbocharging is also preferable because it
enables thicker torque to counter the weight of the car. Moreover,
Ferrari has already developed a twin-turbo V8 for Maserati
Quattroporte. Based on that motor it can be relatively cheap to derive
a Ferrari version.
So here comes the 3.8-liter twin-turbo direct-injection V8. It produces
560 horsepower at 7500 rpm, 30 hp more and 700 rpm higher than the
Maserati version. Maximum torque is 557 lbft at 4750 rpm, versus
Maser's 524 lbft (on overboost). I think it could have been tuned even
more powerful if not to keep it below the 570 hp 458 Italia. Compare
with the normally aspirated 4.3-liter engine on the outgoing
California, it has an advantage of 70 horsepower and a massive 185 lbft
The Ferrari V8 employs the same block as Maserati’s, but many other
things are different, such as cylinder heads, camshafts, pistons,
intake and exhaust as well as capacity - it displaces 3855 c.c. instead
of 3799 c.c.. Moreover, following the tradition of V8 Ferraris, it
employs a flat-plane crankshaft to reduce mass and inertia. This
improves its throttle response and revvability while produces a very
different sound. Most important, the flat-crank design enables the use
of 2 twin-scroll turbochargers which is not possible on a regular
cross-crank V8 (except the inverse-breathing V8s of BMW and Audi). This
is because a flat-crank V8 is configured like a pair of inline-4, thus
its firing order enables each cylinder bank to feed evenly distributed
exhaust pulses to a twin-scroll turbocharger. It goes without saying
that twin-scroll turbo quickens spool up thus reduces turbo lag. No
wonder Ferrari claims "this is the first time virtually zero turbo lag
has achieved on an engine of this type".
To maintain the sporty character expected for a Ferrari V8, Ferrari
introduces a so-called Variable Boost Management, which regulates the
torque output such that it increases linearly according to rev until
the 4750 rpm peak. This mean you won't see a flat torque curve like
most other turbo engines. Another trick is to limit the maximum torque
to no more than 600 Nm (442 lbft) in the first 3 gears. In this way,
you have a wider scope of revving the engine to redline on challenging
roads without worrying spinning the rear wheels, and then you can enjoy
effortless passing on highway when the full 557 lbft is released beyond
3rd gear. In short, it combines the character of both sports car and GT
On the road, the twin-turbo 3.8 does the job admirably. Unlike other
turbocharged motors, it loves to rev towards the 7500 rpm redline.
There is little turbo lag low down, while throttle response is
respectable for a turbo engine – though no comparison with Ferrari’s
naturally aspirated V8, admittedly. There is good punch available in
the mid-range, but it increases linearly and persuades you to rev it
higher and higher, and finally releasing its best in the last 1000 rpm.
It goes without saying the extra torque gives the California a new
lease of life on the road. Although the official 0-60 mph time merely
improves by a couple of tenths to 3.5 seconds, it feels a lot faster in
the real world. When cruising on highway the difference is even bigger,
as the thick torque allows instant overtaking without downshifting.
On the downside, aural quality is probably too tamed for a Ferrari,
especially if you are accustomed to the crazy barks and screams of the
naturally aspirated 458 or F12, because its exhaust note is a lot
quieter and bassier. The GT role of California might explain, but
considering how great an Aston Martin V12 sounds you can’t help
thinking the California T could have been more aggressive.
Enough words for the engine. The rest of the car is also considerably
improved. Outside, the ungainly looks of the old California has been
smartened with crisper lines, 458-style headlights and a wider front
grille. The bonnet has ditched the central intake and added a pair of
vents. Turn to the side, the small ventilation louvers of the old car
have been replaced with a larger ventilation outlet and a conical
channel that looks like an inverse version of the classic 308 GTB's. At
the back, style is massively improved by a larger diffuser, which
pushes the bumper level up and reduces the visual bulk of the boot. The
round taillights and the surfaces surrounding the retractable roof are
untouched in the facelift to avoid costly re-engineering. Inside, the
cockpit gets some subtle improvements, although the much-criticized
sat-nav is still below par.
In the chassis, the suspension gets 12 percent stiffer springs and a
new generation magnetorheological adaptive dampers that reacts 50
percent faster. Carbon-ceramic brakes and F1 Trac traction control have
been updated. The already quick steering rack is quickened by another
10 percent (to 2.3 turns lock-to-lock) to resemble that of the 458.
Many people said it is simply too fast and too light to be reassuring.
It might be okay to the 458, but not entirely suitable to a grand
tourer. Better is the ride and handling. It now controls body
movement tightly yet rides comfortably, unlike the old car which failed
to achieve both simultaneously. Compared with other open-top luxury GTs
like Aston DB9 Volante, Bentley Continental GTC or Mercedes SL63 AMG,
the Ferrari’s sportscar balance (47:53 front to rear and low center of
gravity) has a clear advantage. Undoubtedly it is the best driver’s car
of the bunch.
By the high standards of Ferrari, however, the California T is not that
impressive. Its turbo V8 could sound and feel more emotional still. Its
steering could be better calibrated. Owing to its weight its
roadholding and chassis
response are not supercar league. While its performance is great, it
doesn’t topple Bentley and AMG, something the Prancing Horse ought to
achieve. Well, perhaps we should remember that the California is the
entry-level Ferrari. It is sold at “just” £150,000 – a bargain
for Ferrari and just marginally more than its mass-production rivals –
and targets at more casual drivers. Commercially, this strategy has
been working pretty well, attracting 10,000 buyers so far and 70
percent of them are new to Ferrari. To more demanding drivers, they can
either opt for 458 Spider or persuade Maranello to build an F12 Spider.
||All rights reserved.
California is given a mid-life overhaul and a new name at its 10th
Portofino is a fishing
village at the Northwest shore of Italy, with a population of only 400.
There seems to be little in common between an Italian village and the
most powerful state of the USA. However, Portofino is known for resorts
sunshine. Perhaps this is why Ferrari chose this name as the
Whenever talk about California, everybody says
the most un-Ferrari – a front-mounted V8, folding metal roof, a lot of
weight and a driving experience less exotic than a Ferrari should
be. Rumors said the car was originally conceived as a Maserati
but eventually ended up as an entry-level Ferrari due to business
consideration. Maranello used it to attract new kind of customers who
would have never considered buying Ferrari. It might be a good way to
buyers from Mercedes SL, Bentley Continental GT or Aston Martin, but it
turned out to be less than successful. Sales has always been slipping
below the pricier mid-engined V8 models, which is not something an
entry-level car supposed to do. To recoup the investment, Ferrari wants
to keep the car in production for as long as possible. Therefore, it
mild update in 2012 and then a heavy modification in 2014, the latter
gave it a new turbocharged motor and added “T” to its name. However,
that is not the end of the story. While the mid-engined V8 line has a
lifespan of 10 years, the California passes through its 10th birthday
and evolves into Portofino. Despite the new name, it is just like the
change from 458 to 488 or from F12 to 812 Superfast. In other words, it
is a mid-life
than a complete renewal. If it lives for 7 more years, it will surpass
series as the longest running Ferrari in history!
lighter, sleeker, more downforce and more powerful, the Portofino
improves in every way.
The Portofino is heavily restyled from California T. Its new sheet
metal looks bolder and more aggressive, and it bears stronger family
resemblance to 812 Superfast. You are still aware that its bonnet and
boot lid are set too high for the taste of Ferrari, blame to the needs
to accommodate the front-mounted V8 and the folding roof mechanism.
Nevertheless, its aerodynamics is improved. Drag coefficient is lowered
from 0.33 to 0.31, or more precisely, a 6-percent improvement, while
downforce is increased by 10 percent.
The aluminum spaceframe structure is basically unchanged, but new
welding technique and some detailed modifications yield a 35-percent
increase of rigidity yet reducing weight. In addition to using lighter
aluminum underbody aero panels, lighter magnesium-frame front seats,
lighter roof mechanism and a slightly lighter engine, the whole car
carries 66kg less than its predecessor (although Ferrari claims 80).
Mind you, it is still heavier than the 12-cylinder 812 Superfast, but
not bad considering its two child seats and that complex roof.
Speaking of seats and roof, both are improved as well. The new front
seats are not only lighter but their backrests are significantly
thinner, liberating 50mm legroom for the rear occupants – though adults
are still prohibited. Thankfully, these thin buckets remain
comfortable and supportive. The modified roof is lighter yet stronger,
thus it can operate at speeds up to 25 mph instead of stationary.
Moreover, it occupies less space, so the boot has grown by 52 liters.
terms of day-to-day usability, the Portofino is certainly a sizable
The cabin design has been given a mild update from the California T.
Its chief improvement is the new infotainment system with a 10.25-inch
touchscreen taken from GTC4 Lusso – well, its software interface is
still not quite as intuitive as the German’s, but at least the screen
is bigger and it responds promptly to input. The air con has been
upgraded to keep you cool in hot summer, while a new wind deflector
cuts buffeting and wind noise substantially when it is raised. In terms
of day-to-day usability, the Portofino is certainly a sizable
The rest of the chassis is lightly updated. Front and rear suspension
springs are 15.5 and 19 percent stiffer, respectively, but these
settings are similar to the California’s handling pack. The
magnetorheological dampers and countless of electronic systems have
been recalibrated, of course. However, the biggest change must be the
switch to electric power steering, following the 812 Superfast. It is
geared 7 percent quicker yet lighter, lighter than any other Ferraris
in order to suit its duty as a relaxing GT, at least that is how
The 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 gains new pistons and con-rods to take on
higher pressure. The intake manifolds and intercoolers are modified,
while the new equal-length exhaust manifolds are integrated with the
turbine housing to quicken response and reduce emission. It is mated to
a lower back-pressure exhaust which features electronic bypass valve
for enhanced noise. Consequently, the V8 has its maximum output lifted
from 560 to a full 600 horsepower. Peak torque inches up to 560 lbft at
3000-5250 rpm, which is again regulated by the variable boost control
depending on rev and gear. The Portofino is now good for 199 mph and
0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds – the latter is perhaps a bit conservative.
Meanwhile, CO2 emission has been reduced
by 10 percent, thanks to using an on-demand lubrication pump and
electric power steering, among others.
a true sports car nor a true GT, it is still the most confusing Ferrari.
On the road, the V8 shows even sharper throttle response and even less
turbo lag than before. It also chases its 8000 rpm redline more
eagerly, more like the version of 488GTB, thanks in part to its
hungrier howl at the top end. The exhaust bypass valve really liberates
the soul buried deep inside the prancing horse. If you want it to shut
up, you can switch to Comfort mode and then you can enjoy a rather
quiet cruise with the roof up. Nevertheless, there are always more
shunts from the gearshifts of its twin-clutch gearbox than a good
torque converter automatic, while the tires generate more road noise
and the open-top chassis delivers more jiggle and cowl shake than the
drivers of Mercedes SL, Bentley Continental GT or Aston Martin DB11
expected, so the Portofino is not as relaxing as a GT car supposed to
The Portofino rides surprisingly good on rough roads, especially when
you select the new “bumpy road” suspension mode, which is independent
of the Manettino selector. But in Sport mode it is not quite as smooth
as a DB11, whose ride and handling balance is better judged and more
consistent across different modes. Comparatively, the Ferrari feels
more digitalized. Take the new electric power steering for example, it
is quick to the extent of nervous for a GT, but at the same time it is
too light to feel engaged or secured. Ferrari should have studied how
Porsche manages both with EPS.
The chassis of Portofino offers plenty of traction and grip yet its
E-Diff setup leaves some playfulness to the driver. However, it is
certainly not a 488. Its limits are much lower, thus it runs into
understeer more easily. Why Ferrari didn’t equip it with Side Slip
Control remains a mystery. Perhaps it has too much weight to overhaul,
too high center of gravity to deal with or too little chassis rigidity
to withstand track abuse. After all, laws of physics mean it has no
hope to be a real Ferrari. While it is a sizeable improvement from
California T, unquestionably, it is still the most confusing Ferrari on
sale, at least until the Ferrari SUV arrives.