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Ferrari and California: fast cars and fat wallets. The link between the Italian luxury sports car maker and the film-star state goes back a long way - to the 1950s, in fact.
Taking inspiration from the 250 Testa Rossa, particularly in profile, the latest in a long line of Ferraris, the California T, made its Down Under debut this week in Melbourne. Introducing the GT destined to become a classic, Herbert Appleroth, President and CEO of Ferrari Australasia, said: "With its retractable hard top and 2+2 seating set-up, the Grand Tourer is supremely versatile – an everyday GT."
Heart and, some would say soul of the California T, is its 3855 cc turbocharged V8 engine which calls on technology fine tuned by Ferrari in iconic models such as the 1984 GTO and the F40 of 1987, and now the latest F1 flyer.
Four years of development have resulted in maximum power output of 412 kW at 7500 rpm and top torque of 755 Nm at 4750 revs. Hitting 100 km/h from rest in 3.6 seconds, the surge from zero to 200 km/h takes just 11.2 seconds. Top speed is 316 km/h.
At the same time, engineers have pared the car's fuel consumption to 10.5 litres per 100 kilometres and carbon dioxide emissions to 255 grams per kilometre in the combined urban / highway cycle thanks in part to extensive use of lightweight aluminium alloy in the bodyshell and chassis.
The mid-front-mounted engine and all main components are confined within the car's wheelbase, making for an ideal weight distribution of 47 per cent front and 53 per cent rear. The engine is 40 mm lower in the chassis than in the previous California to further bring down the centre of gravity.
Within 14 seconds the restrained yet sporty coupe converts to an extroverted convertible, secreting its metal hardtop in the boot, which is far from cramped even with the top stored.
Luggage space can be further increased by folding the rear seat backs down giving storage access for bulky items such as golf bags or skis. Seating is strictly 2+2 with rear seat comfort restricted to children or smaller than average adults for short trips.
The cabin is a combination of handcrafted surroundings such as semi-aniline leather trim housing the latest automotive technology accessed by ergonomic controls and well positioned instruments.
Typical of this is the Human-Machine Interface which has been made more driver friendly than before.
There are now steering wheel-mounted controls and paddles set closer, giving faster access.
Also on hand is the Turbo Performance Engineer, a sophisticated instrument on the central dashboard that consists of a digital display with touch surround scrolling providing pointers, such as response and torque on tap, to the most effective way of using engine performance.
Infotainment, including satellite navigation with 3D mapping, is via a 6.5-inch touch screen, or alternatively by using buttons. USB ports in a compartment under the armrest ensure occupants' devices are at hand.
Penned by the Ferrari Styling Centre in conjunction with Pininfarina, the California T has retained the dimensions of the previous model with additions to the styling bringing it in line with the latest design aspects of the GT format.
The car rides on 19-inch Starburst design alloy wheels, while 20-inch optional wheels are available with the addition of further weight savings. Improved aerodynamics means the drag co-efficient is down to Cd 0.33.
Under the skin the car is replete with kit to ensure ride and handling match the potential of the V8 turbo power plant. Particular detail was paid to there being less steering wheel activity for swifter steering; reduced body roll; improved handling and better control on the limit; and heightened chassis dynamics without reduction in ride comfort.
Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes feature new pad material producing constant performance in all conditions and less prone to wear. This, plus the latest ABS anti-skid system, has the car stopping from 100 km/h in just 34 metres.
An upgrade to the traction control system enables the car to accelerate out of corners more than 8 per cent faster
Customers who are happy to shell out $409,888, plus on-road costs, can be flown to Italy to watch their California T being put together at the factory and make sure some of the million or so custom design features they have chosen are being attended to.
The first year's offerings are already spoken for but once delivered their California T can be covered by a seven-year maintenance programme which involves an exclusive service every 20,000 km or once a year without distance restrictions.
The California T is a prime example of Ferrari's sporting DNA, calling on all the Italian car maker has to offer in leading-edge automotive technology, while at the same time penning a Grand Tourer with the best design attributes of a luxury sports car. Now for a drive.