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Ferrari California 2013 Review

If you could get to 60 years of marriage, it would be a diamond anniversary - and you'd deserve a medal.

If life begins at 40 then maybe by 60 you're looking to slow down a bit, maybe stepping out of the 599 or 458 and into something a bit more practical. Stopping to indulge in the odd roadside petal instead of using wind vortexes to rip them off as you scream by.

The brand is celebrating six decades of Australian residency and the product arriving with the black horse on the nose is far more user friendly - six decades of progress, that's what the California is.

It's not the fastest, flashest or filthiest Ferrari of recent times, but it is the most user-friendly. This is not the typical Ferrari tome - far from it, as this is time behind the wheel in wind and rain, through traffic and stopped in it.

Granted, it has a V8 (front mid-mounted behind the line of the  front wheels) and it sings when prompted. Yes, it has a paddleshift gearbox (the first Ferrari to have one) so the shifts are smooth and sharp.

It's a droptop GT with - for the first time for Ferrari - a folding metal roof. Not that the weather let up enough for us to time it for a 14 second drop, but the company says it takes that long.

But we're not headed for winding, sweeping ribbons of tarmac away from the prying eyes of NIMBYs with the Police Attendance line on thir speed-dial. Part of the problem is it is persisting down with rain - record-breaking rains make Sydney roads something of a battleground.

Somewhat perversely, an interesting scenario has been produced - we know it goes, stops and handles, looks decent to most eyes and has done ample to fatten up Ferrari's sales columns, but how does it go where most of us dwell?

Idling gently from the garage beneath the Ferrari showroom in inner-Sydney, the broken roads of the NSW capital are felt but only distantly as the 2+2 (although the rear seats are mainly for show) is punted through the inner-city rabbit warren.

Recent amusements in 458 models suggest a similar route in the two-seater would be more disturbed and more concerning when it came to preserving the snout's splitter, but the folding hard-topped California has few of those issues.

It has real indicators stalks too, which are a bonus when trying to change routes as the satnav (which has roles to play in Chrysler group product as well) but slotting it into traffic is not difficult if a gap arises, thanks to the V8.

What would be cause for concern is the width, as Sydney traffic lanes feel skinnier in a normal car, let along something 1902mm wide.

Scope for a sandwich between a bus and a Kenworth is considerable - had this been ye olde Ferrari I may well have been so busy trying to drive it sensibly that such a travesty might have been a lot closer.

But precious little in the way of tantrums, tramlining or trivial issues maligned the metropolitan drive. The USB cable would charge my iPhone but failed to have the music player recognised on the car's infotainment system - but that could have been more about not allowing AC/DC on the sound system.

Rear vision isn't great with the high rump and narrow window, neither is the twin-clutch automated manual at parking speeds on a slope. Get it a little way out of town and while it's not as nimble as the new Spider, the California is no slouch.

Even in the wet it can hustle along, within reason, but it never feels like it's going to bite if you (or your ego) overdo it. But the idea of a Ferrari that you could drive every day and not require weekly shrink and physio appointments?

Some will say the cache may diminish if you drive one every day, I just think the commute is more likely to end with a smile, regardless of which way you were headed.

Assuming, of course, you have half a million to blow on a car.


  • The last California was on the brand's pricelist in the mid 1960s, although a couple went for far more than most - the California nameplate recently hit the headlines again as a car once owned by James Coburn sold at auction for a then-record price.
  • The original California models were part of the iconic Ferrari 250 range built between 1953 to 1964.
  • The 1957 250 GT California Spider was designed for export to the US and less than 50 made the trip - one sold for US$4.9 million at a recent auction.
  • The Coburn car was a 1961 250 GT Spider California SWB (one of 55 built) - and sold at auction for US$11 million - almost twice its expected price - to British broadcaster Chris Evans after a 20 minute bidding war.
  • The model was also driven by Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz in Charlie's Angels, and a replica was wrecked in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
  • The modern-day California has been on the Ferrari sales books since 2009 and will be updated with the HS option pack the company unveiled at the recent Geneva motor show.
  • The HS will be 30kg lighter, 22kW and sit on more aggressive suspension and be available for order by the middle of this year for an arrival in early 2013.

Warranty: 3 years, unlimited km
Service Interval: 20,000km or 12-months
Economy: 13.1l/100km, tank 78 litres; 306g/km CO2
Safety Equipment: four airbags, ABS, EBD, stability and traction control.
Crash rating: n/a star
Engine:  338kw/485Nm 4.3-litre V8
Transmission: seven-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Body: 2-door folding hard-topped convertible, 4 seats
Dimensions: length 4563mm, width 1902mm, height 1308mm, wheelbase 2670mm
Weight: 1735kg
Tyre size: 245/40 R19

Pricing guides

Based on third party pricing data
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Range and Specs

(base) 4.3L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $149,300 – 188,760 2013 Ferrari California 2013 (base) Pricing and Specs
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist