Ferrari California

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Published: 25th June 2015
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What is it?
Ferrari’s modern entry-level car, if there is such a thing, is the California. This was an entirely new concept for the Italian manufacturer, and upon its launch in 2008 became the first front-engined V8 in the entire history of the company. A 2+2 with a metal retractable hard top, allegedly it was originally intended to wear a Maserati badge.

The introduction of this fourth model line is a change in approach for the company that is proving to be very successful, too: more than half the customers are buyers totally new to the brand.

Who buys it?
Ferrari is winning over new fans with this car – the kind of people who previously wouldn’t have considered the Italian brand. That means those who would have gone for a Mercedes-Benz SL 63 AMG or an Aston Martin DB9 Volante now suddenly find this is on their list of potential cars too – it’s a tantalising proposition that’s opening up the prancing horse stable to many new customers.

Now, at last, Ferrari has dropped the F1 transmission in favour of the superb seven-speed dual clutch DSG box. This is much more in keeping with the experience those attracted to the California will expect.

What is the model range like?
There’s just one version of the California – and it’s the first Ferrari to get a folding hard top roof. Don’t think it has gone soft, though. The wailing 460bhp engine can still hit 60mph in under 4 seconds, and it goes on to a maximum of 192mph… it’s every inch the genuine high performance Ferrari, with sublime handling that ensure it’s a true thoroughbred to drive. The brand knows from the past how not quite doing a complete job can dent reputations – and has made no such mistakes here.

Behind the front seats, buyers can choose either a bench with luggage straps, or a ‘2+’ seat configuration, with ISOFIX and seatbelts. Behind this is a roomy boot, offering up to 340 litres of storage space. All this, combined with the car’s superb road manners, marks a new era for Ferrari, broadening its appeal to new buyers.

New, the Ferrari California costs from £145,000 – why buy a £170,000 DBS Volante when you can get one of these for £25,000 less? Demand for this model may provide a little in-house competition for used 599 GTBs, particularly given the California’s additional four-seat capacity and clever folding hard-top roof.

How did the model range develop in its lifetime?
It’s been on sale for a few years now, so Ferrari have refreshed the California for 2012, with some mild styling tweaks and a useful power hike to 490bhp. It’s always driven like a real Ferrari, but the addition of the optional ‘Handling Speciale’ package, which brings magnetorheological dampers and a quicker steering rack, should make the latest version even more compelling through the corners.
Long-time Ferrari partner Scaglietti has also offered input into the construction of the California’s body. Thanks to greater use of aluminium, the 2012 model is 30kg lighter overall.

Which model do you recommend?
The California only comes in one version – with the folding hard top body, 4.3-litre V8 and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. There’s no need to bemoan a lack of choice though – of its genre, it’s an excellent all-rounder.

What colours and trims do you recommend?
The Ferrari California suits a broad range of hues, arguably being less sensitive to colour than other models in the prancing horse stable. Azzuro California (light metallic blue) is a popular choice, as is Nero Daytona (black) and Grigio Silverstone (metallic grey). And you won’t go far wrong with the staple Ferrari choice of red.

What options do I need?
There are an enormous number of options available for the California, a smattering of which can bump the original purchase cost towards £200k. And whilst Ferrari would allow you to sprinkle carbon fibre trim all over your California, at vast expense – the fancy black stuff doesn’t always hold its money at resale time. However, 20 inch wheels, iPod docking and Scuderia wing shields are all desirable options to find on a California.

One option I do like is the contrast roof scheme, which can pair, say, an Argento Silver car with a dark matt grey roof and mirrors. It looks elegant and classical, in a high-end 1970s style, and is proving to be very popular.

Since January 2012 the California has been upgraded with more power. The direct-injection 4.3-litre V8 is upgraded with an extra 30 horsepower, taking the total to 483bhp. Torque is also increased up to 373lb - Other upgrades include larger hard drive for Audio and better connectivity for iphone and android phones. Also this year sees the availability of a 'Handling Speciale' pack. Ferrari do know how to make these upgraded suspension/handling kits, almost mandatory and at a high cost. As an example a used 612 with handling pack is worth at least as much as the the kit more than one without!

What should I avoid?
Unless you really must, avoid a yellow California at ALL costs. The Ferrari Atelier scheme is encouraging people to order cars in colours other than red or black, with more yellow, blue, orange and grey cars coming to market. Some of these hues are more successful than others… my advice is to be careful here, and think longer-term, not just about the latest fashion.

Spring 2012 Market Report value update
The California is still a relatively new Ferrari that retained its super-premium market status for only five minutes before being eclipsed by the announcement of the 458 Italia. Used market supply is relatively plentiful, reflecting its entry-level status in the Ferrari hierarchy, but early cars have dropped down to sub £120k levels – which is reasonable value against well-optioned new cars that pushed into the £160-170k bracket just two years ago. Expect demand to climb a touch as the days get longer and the sun comes out.

It is very much a succession car for Aston Martin DBS Volante and Bentley Continental GTC Speed owners looking to trade up. Whilst the Bentley is the more practical, offering real four seat capacity, most would agree that the DBS Volante is the best looking. Yet the California adds the intangible element - the forbidden fruit appeal of the Ferrari brand.

Things to look out for
• It’s accessibility and comfort means these were first-time Ferraris for some buyers – watch out for accident damage
• Similarly, multiple owners are common and can hurt values
• Few problems have been reported mechanically, but be sure to check the roof operation and only buy with a complete, stamped up main agent or recognized specialist history
• Speed hump grazes and kerbed wheels can afflict the California – many having been city-dwelling toys

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