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Ferrari California 2009 Review

A new age of Ferrari convertibles has arrived, as the Italian marque's newest addition to its range has landed in Australia.

Wearing a price sticker of $472,000, it's not going to be a segment volume leader but it does debut a dual-clutch automatic, a front mid-mount direct-injection alloy V8 and aluminium construction.

Last sold in the mid 1960s, the California nameplate recently hit the headlines again as a car once owned by James Coburn sold at auction for a then-record rpice.

The new version of the Ferrari convertible sports a folding metal hard-top that drops into the boot in 14 seconds. It takes less time than that to achieve a sprint to 100km/h and return to a standstill, with more than a few seconds to spare. The 100km/h is reached in a blistering four seconds.

The California is more of an assault on the senses than its GT pigeonhole suggests. Ferrari are putting it in the same sales column as the 612 Scaglietti, with the 430 and 599 models boasting more hard-core sports credentials.

With the direct-injection variable-valve 338kW/485Nm V8 emitting a soundtrack worthy of a racecar, the California looks striking without being pretty like its predecessors. Gearchanges are lightning quick, smooth and accompanied by a whipcrack bark from the engine, which also crackles delightfully on over-run.

The bite correlates directly to the bark, with full throttle acceleration dispatching straights in short order, bringing corners on that show off the car's 53 per cent rear/47 per cent front weight distribution.

The California might weigh 1735kg before occupants are added, but it drives like a much lighter machine, providing ample entertainment in and out of bends, if not supplying masses of feedback.

The black over tan cabin is a little snug for headroom but the leather-clad seats are comfortable and firm in support; most of the switchgear feels solid, although one window switch became dislodged but never repeated the offence once properly put back in place.

There's a little less headroom than would be ideal, but there's room enough for two tallish adults in the front and their bags in the little back seats. Four smaller occupants could make do for a short trip, but the back pews aren't treated to acres of space.

Ferrari has around 200 orders for the car and that will probably translate to an 18-month turnaround if you're planning to win the Oz Lotto jackpot - if your numbers come up it would be well worth the wait.

Ferrari California
Price: from $472,000.
Engine: 4.3-litre 32-valve V8.
Transmission: seven-speed double-clutch automated manual, rear-wheel drive.
Power: 338kW @ 7750rpm.
Torque: 485Nm @ 5000rpm.
Performance: 0-100km/h under 4 seconds, 0-400 m 12.2 seconds, 0-1000 m 22.1 seconds, Top speed 310km/h (governed).
Fuel consumption: 13.1litres/100km, tank 78litres.
Emissions: 305g/km.
Suspension: double wishbones (front); independent multi-link (rear); optional magnetorheological damping suspension system.
Brakes: four-wheel ventilated and cross-drilled carbon-ceramic discs, with anti-lock and stability control systems.
Dimensions: length 4563mm, width 1902mm, height 1308mm, wheelbase 2670mm, track fr/rr 1630/1605mm, cargo volume 340/240litres, weight 1735kg.
Wheels: 19in alloys (optional 20in).

In its class:
Mercedes-Benz SL600, from $404,413.
Aston Martin DBS Volante, $527,100.
Lamborghini Gallardo, from $515,000.
Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet, from $386,800.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

(base) 4.3L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $115,500 – 132,770 2009 Ferrari California 2009 (base) Pricing and Specs
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist