Convertible of the Year: Ferrari California T

Things are looking good for the first turbocharged Ferrari since the F40, too
By Dejan Jovanovic, Features Writer
|
November 07, 2016
Source: Malek Fayoumi
Source: Malek Fayoumi(1/5)
Source: Malek Fayoumi
Source: Malek Fayoumi(2/5)
Source: Malek Fayoumi
Source: Malek Fayoumi(3/5)
Source: Malek Fayoumi
Source: Malek Fayoumi(4/5)
Source: Malek Fayoumi
Source: Malek Fayoumi(5/5)

Things are looking good for the first turbocharged Ferrari since the F40, too. Fadi’s behind the wheel of our Convertible of the Year, obviously, but I had a quick spin the day before in the new California T and immediately smiled at that exhaust note. We’ll be all right. Even when turbocharged, a Ferrari still hits all the right notes.

But today I drive the car properly and fall right out of love with the steering. The old California did nothing for me here too, as it was far too light and made the whole (understeering) car feel like a boulevard cruiser. It’s like an Alfa 4C, with power assistance, suggestive of chronic tramlining and twitchy, but fast off-centre, so I was almost caught out with the first wagged tail.

This Road to Nowhere and these twisty wadis are rutted and cambered though, and the road falls away to the sides quite dramatically so that plays a part, too.

Otherwise the California T is a joy with the manettino dial right in the middle, the seven-speed transmission in manual mode and flappy paddles well flapped. It doesn’t take long to learn that Maranello well and truly got rid of the understeer. With that new 3.8-litre force-fed V8 you cannot hold back from accelerating, just so you can snap a couple of downshifts. I snatch at the left paddle dangerously close to redline, seemingly, but the California obliges every time and spits out a blip of the throttle. I remember when I first tested it, I described the old California as an expensive Mercedes SL. With stiffer springs, less weight, more power, and way better looks, this is so much better. This is now a Ferrari.

Yet it’s also quite sensible. When you don’t want it to be, below around 4,000rpm (the redline is a delectable 7,500rpm) it’s not shouty, and no one during the day’s shared 500km in the California returned home with a sore back or dead legs. You can genuinely use it every day. I’m not so sure we can say that about a 458 Spider. Or a Huracán…

The Lambo’s seats are torture, although not a single person complains. The Road to Nowhere is some distance away from Dubai, and what awaits is worth it. Any one who gets a go in the Verde Mantis Supercar of the Year ticks something off their bucket list.

If you’re on it, really on it, the drive to the top of this mountain takes more than half an hour. The only traffic you’ll see is in the form of matte-green SUVs driven by uninterested border patrolmen pottering about. All afternoon, we count them on one hand. It’s open driving season, and the LP 610-4, denoting horsepower and driven wheels, has no equal on the way up or down. It would, if we didn’t leave that 458 Speciale back at base. But there can only be one Supercar of the Year, and it’s the Lambo…

“I prefer the Speciale,” sulks Sony, and I can relate to his longing for the missing Ferrari, but the simple fact is that more wheels 2015 CotY judges voted for the inclusion of the Huracán. Perhaps because it’s not as frightening? Not that the Speciale is — on the contrary, it’s amazing how much of the performance that car’s electronics allow you to exploit, but on a real road it’s all moving a bit too fast and a bit too violently.

The Huracán is absurdly fast, but safe and confidence-boosting at the same time. It’s got all-wheel drive, for one thing, and secondly it’s ever so slightly tuned to marginally understeer, letting you know what you should do next, rather than just spinning you off this cliff. God, it looks good, too.

The Lamborghini is surprisingly compact and gets lost on the highway behind other cars. If it wasn’t so luminously green you’d totally miss it. A few of us can’t fit inside at all. Sony doesn’t even bother trying. In fact it’s shorter than the Speciale, narrower, and lower, and as such has awful rear visibility.

Who cares? It’s still far less intimidating, whether around town or up a mountain pass, than an Aventador. And with a fantastic new seven-speed transmission it’s also much better than the Gallardo it replaces, with the added bonus of overrun gurgles when you lift off. It’s a worthy winner, but it’s not the conclusion…

 

Another take

In contrast to the BMW i8, which represents the future of sportscars, the Ferrari California T is a car that shows us that conventional methods can still be valid in the years to come. Instead of challenging tradition and going after complex new technologies, the Italian carmaker has chosen a less radical path by turbocharging its internal combustion engine, thus striking a balance between performance and efficiency.”

- Fadi on the California T

Another take

"I’ve always wanted to recreate the opening sequence of The Cannonball Run. Driving a Lamborghini in the middle of nowhere with the pedal to the metal — it’s every petrolhead’s dream. I realised that dream recently when I hammered a bright orange Huracán up this very road. It put goosebumps on my goosebumps and I’ve just had a blast again in our Verde Mantis LP 610-4. There’s nothing as explosive or as wild as this. It’s a raging loony and it’s easily the most fun I’ve had behind the wheel of any car this year. We’ve left the astonishing 458 Speciale back at wheels HQ yet only a few seem to care. That says it all about the Lambo."

- Imran on the Lambo Huracán