2011 Ferrari California
Date Posted: September 15, 2011
By Zack Spencer
An entry-level Ferrari starting at $239,000 - getting in the mood for this weekend's Luxury + Supercar extravaganza.
With a starting price of $239,000, this is still a very expensive car, but one that Ferrari has positioned as its volume seller.
There is a lot to love about this car, including an easy-to-drive attitude that is missing from many exotics and a usefulness that makes the argument for buying this car to be driven regularly.
Daily driving might be pushing it, as I suspect Ferrari owners have other vehicles in their stable and they wouldn't want to play favourites.
The California's engine is under the hood and not stuffed behind the back seat - as is the case with many Ferraris - allowing designers to take advantage of the long hood, sweeping windshield and short rear deck.
This shape has been used before, but with all the Ferrari bits added on, this car demands attention. And it does so standing still.
The test unit seen here has optional 20-inch wheels, yellow brake calipers and Ferrari shields on the front fenders, all of which add to its curb appeal. I only drove the car for a few hours but it makes friends and receives envious glances everywhere it goes.
The roof retracts very quickly into the trunk; in fact the mechanism looks remarkably like the Mercedes SL roof. The speed of the roof allowed me to put it up at a traffic light as light rain started to fall. You guessed it, more envious glances.
The interiors of Ferrari cars have baffled me for many years. With such stunning exterior design and the best materials available, I'm always surprised at how basic and sometimes cheap their interiors can look. Case in point is the radio/navigation unit used in the California. If it looks familiar, it is. It's exactly the same unit sold in every Dodge Grand Caravan rolling off the line in Windsor, Ont. Is this the best Ferrari can provide? The seats are supportive and feature an optional diamond pattern, while contrasting stitching on the doors and dashes give the cockpit a traditional, yet inviting, look. Driving is easy as the optional $6,545 power seats can be adjusted for shorter drivers, and the side and rear windows offer good outward visibility. Add in the optional iPod connector, premium stereo and a few other options and the price jumps to $290,998.
My previous Ferrari experiences have been few, but never have I enjoyed myself as much as I did in the California.
It has an easygoing nature that makes it a joy to use in stop-and-go traffic and bliss on the open road. The steering is light yet very precise; in fact, all the driver need do is point the car and it goes where it is instructed, with no fuss. Many V8-powered muscle cars can make a lot of noise but not much else. Press the throttle of this 4.3-litre V8, and the moment the accelerator is depressed, the 460 horsepower instantly delivers. The brakes are precise but not grabby, and the ride is flat through the corners but never jarring.
The seven-speed duel clutch automatic transmission is very, very quick and never misses a beat. The ride, steering, engine and light feel of the California do make this California Love.
THE GOOD, THE BAD
Zero to 100km/h in four seconds and the sound of the exhaust should be bottled and sold.
The radio/navigation unit from a Grand Caravan ... are you kidding?
The California is the kind of car that many high-end convertible owners would thoroughly enjoy.
If the owner of a Mercedes SL 63 AMG were to try this car they would notice how light and un-German the California performs. Owners of the BMW 6 Series would notice how much faster and compact the California feels and how liberating the retractable hardtop is. The jump in price from those cars is substantial but the cache that comes from owning one of the most famous marques is something that can't be overlooked. Made in bigger batches than many of Ferrari's more exclusive and expensive models, California buyers might very well be new to the brand. If so, they have chosen a fantastic first Ferrari.
Power: 4.3-litre V8 with 460hp
Sticker price: $239,000