Surfing canyons of LA in a Ferrari California T
Surfing canyons of LA in a Ferrari California T
By Jason Grunsell
Photos by Taylor King
For three glorious, sun filled Los Angeles days this past week I had the privilege and good fortune to test drive the new Ferrari California T. T is short for turbo which is the key new ingredient that separates this new car from the previous generations. A few weeks ago I sampled a 2nd generation 2013 California with its naturally aspirated V8 engine. When Ferrari USA, very generously, offered me the opportunity to test drive the new Turbo and compare the two generations of California’s I said “yes” in a heartbeat; after which I realized I still had to discuss funding this little adventure with my wife.
Thanks to my wife and to Ferrari USA I found myself in Los Angeles last Wednesday picking up a Ferrari California that was delightfully cloaked in California Blue with a tan interior. The California T on the surface was quite familiar to me, however, a closer inspection revealed the many changes that have gone into creating this new California. The most noticeable visual change is the re-profiling of the engine hood, the singular air intake in the center of hood has been replaced with two vents to help with the cooling of the engine. The flanks of the California T are noticeably more muscular giving the California T a more aggressive profile over the previous 2 generations. The quad engine exhausts are now paired horizontally instead of stacked vertically. Inside the main cabin things remain familiar except for the addition of the Turbo Performance Engineer located between the two central air vents on the dash. The steering wheel has undergone the biggest change with the elimination of the indicator stalks and now all the main switches are located on the steering wheel spokes. The gear change paddles have been made longer and brought closer to the steering wheel. The change to the twin-scroll turbochargers on the V8 herald a new direction for Ferrari harking back to the days of the 288GTO twin turbo charged V8 and the mighty V8 IHI turbo chargers on the F40 supercar. While this change has historic precedence the main reason for the switch to turbo charging is the new emissions regulations. In the first 15 minutes of driving the California T I discovered two things, one the new seats were infinitely more comfortable than the old 2nd generation California seats, and two the addition of the turbos had quietened down the engine growl of the previous generations of the Ferrari California.
Driving the California T on the streets and highways of Los Angeles demonstrated to me once again that the each generation of the Ferrari California is a Ferrari that can and should be used every day. Why you ask? Well this car handled all that Los Angeles roads could throw at it, while remaining a fast, well handling, comfortable grand touring sports car. For three days this car rallied my spirits as Los Angeles traffic attempted to suck away my energy. No one will be surprised by the news that Los Angeles highways are not an efficient means of transport, but they sorely tested my patience on a daily basis: endless stop starts, barely crawling along then bafflingly, the congestion would abate only to, once again slow down to a snail’s pace. The California T took all this in stride, never complaining, and always remaining ready to spring back into action when my right foot commanded it. Sadly it was only the human element that began to wear out on the third day; while driving back from Malibu on the magnificent Pacific Coastal Highway. I once again came to a grinding halt for 40 minutes and my right foot began to complain from holding down the brake pedal.
When the Ferrari California appeared in 2008 it was the first Ferrari to offer a retractable hard top roof. The only thing that has changed over the 3 generations of California’s is the time it takes to open or close the roof. The California T took 14 seconds to transition from a coupe to a convertible and back again when the L.A. sun got a bit much for me. The retractable hardtop roof mechanism truly allows for this Ferrari to have two personalities, an open top cruiser and a long distance grand tourer all at the push of a button. I appreciate the improved visibility a retractable hard top gives me over canvas convertibles. As I drove down Wiltshire Boulevard with the top down I had a huge smile on my face.
So, city driving, snarled traffic and cruising had all been ticked off my list to determine how good this new California T was, and there remained only the performance test. So where to go to test the handling and performance without gridlock, the answer was Tujunga Canyon Road that led onto Angeles Crest Highway. Here in these fairly isolated roads I got to do some canyon surfing. The seven speed dual clutch system has continued to evolve over the past 2 generations of the California and consequently is a joy to use, instant response to whatever gear was called for, and as I like to drive in manual mode multiple gear shifts were called for thanks to the winding go cart nature of these roads. Ferrari’s Magnetorheological damping system provided an incredibly smooth ride despite the uneven and pitted road surface. Ferrari have improved the handling of the California T with the addition of F1-Trac traction control. This system which was absent from the last 2 generations of the California made it possible to accelerate faster out of corners. All these elements gave me the confidence to explore the handling capabilities of the California T. My favourite moment was finding a short tunnel, where I gleefully dropped the hardtop roof in order to fully soak up the orchestral delight of a glorious Ferrari V8 engine. Okay, I may have driven through the tunnel 4 or 5 times to get my full fix of the Ferrari V8 thunder bouncing of the tunnel walls.
My favourite time of day is an hour before sunset when the light on a sunny day is a soft golden glow. I parked the California T a small lookout point and bathed in this golden light. Then it was time to head back to Santa Monica. Cruising home through the canyons all alone, with the wind in my hair I reflected on another memorable road and an even more memorable Ferrari.
The Ferrari California T improves on an already impressive car. I was comfortable, it was easy to manoeuver, and useable- you can go get food at your local supermarket which I did. You can take it through the Starbucks drive through, and you can inch along for what seems like hours on the freeway and then when the road permits you can unleash the inner racing Ferrari on isolated mountains roads. This is a Ferrari I would use every day. With the retractable hard top the Ferrari becomes a near perfect car. I missed the growl of the 2nd generation California, only in the tunnels of Angeles Crest did that growl return. My biggest surprise about driving the California in Los Angeles was all the attention the car got, multiple thumbs ups and even a lady who came up to me at the gas station to tell me she loved the car. If you are looking to get your first Ferrari then I would unhesitatingly recommend you get a Ferrari California T (preferably in California Blue). You will drive this magnificent piece of rolling art every day and you will love it.
So how do all these changes affect the California as a driving machine on the road? The simply answer is all these alterations only further enhance the capabilities of an already well tailored Grand Touring sportscar.