Ferrari's smallest car, the California, gets its name from the original 250 California Spyder, of Ferris Bueller fame. It's the carmaker's first retractable hardtop, and like the 612 Scaglietti, Ferrari bills it as a grand tourer — with driver-friendly features like Bluetooth, iPod compatibility, a backup camera and a navigation system. Still, a 4.3-liter V-8 and Formula One-derived stability system suggest that, should they wish, California drivers could still fling their cars around racetracks.
Those interested in the California might also consider convertible versions of the Aston Martin DB9, Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG or Lamborghini Gallardo; all start around the California's near-$200,000 base sticker.
With a face that looks closer to the rest of Ferrari's lineup than the 458 Italia, the low-slung California is slightly longer but narrower than its immediate sibling. The grille hangs low on the bumper, with a small hood scoop above it. In back, single LED taillights sit above four exhaust pipes — two stacked vertically on each side. Naturally, Ferrari shoppers can personalize their California with a multitude of colors, materials and accessories.
Ferrari says the aluminum hardtop deploys in just 14 seconds — quicker than most folding hardtops — and it takes up just 3.5 cubic feet of the trunk's 12.0-cubic-foot capacity. Nineteen-inch alloy wheels are standard, with 20s optional. Behind them, Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes measure a massive 15.4 inches up front and 14.2 inches in back.
The California's interior is leather and comes standard with a rear storage shelf, but rear seats are optional. Like in other Ferrari models, the California's steering wheel includes push-button start and a toggle switch that sets transmission response, stability control intervention and settings for the optional adaptive suspension to one of three settings: Comfort, Sport and Stability/Traction Off.
Dual-zone climate control, a navigation system, aluminum accents and power-adjustable seats are standard; among the options are adaptive headlights and heated front seats.
Typical of Ferrari engines — naturally aspirated, with sky-high horsepower per liter — the California's 4.3-liter V-8 makes 453 hp at a howling 7,750 rpm and 357 pounds-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm. The engine sits just behind the front axle and drives the rear wheels through a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic that can be shifted with steering-wheel paddles. At least for now, no manual transmission is offered — but with the dual-clutch automatic, Ferrari says the California will hit 60 mph in less than 4 seconds, and sail through the quarter-mile in 12.2 seconds.
Dual front and side-impact airbags are standard. So are antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system.