The 2010 Ferrari California could be considered bait. The Italian automaker expects 70% or more of the model’s sales will be to first-time Ferrari buyers and the company is aiming to have the California compete with the Bentley Continential GTC and Aston Martin DB9 Volante. Both of these cars are expensive (around the $200k mark), and both of them are not made for the speed and racing enthusiasts that are normally drawn to Ferrari. So will the California continue the company’s tradition, to try to mimic the planned competition?
From the looks of the car, it is going to mimic the competition. The car is long, the fenders are wide, the sweep of the trunk is high, allowing for more space (enough for two sets of golf clubs). Not good initial signs. What will change that first impression? Turning on the engine, that’s what.
The V8 packed beneath the hood is a 4.3-liter variant of the engine from the F430 that is tuned to produce 454 horsepower (30 less than the F430). That puts the California at the back of the Ferrari pack, power-wise. Of course, that doesn’t mean the California is slow. In fact, “slow Ferrari” is an oxymoron. The California will still scream from 0-to-60 mph in 4 seconds flat and has a top speed of 193 mph. The engine is front-mounted, but there is a point to that long, sweeping hood. The extra length allowed Ferrari designers to mount the engine entirely behind the front axle. It doesn’t have the perfect 50/50 weight distribution of a super car, but at 47/53, nobody is going to complain.
Okay, so the power is there, but will the un-Ferrari-like design of the Ferrari California’s body affect the handling and the high-speed integrity? The answer is both yes and no. Can the California whip around corners at the same speeds as the F430? No. But the on-the-edge suspension tuning that is required for that turning prowess makes the car a bit less predictable and requires more concentration and ability to drive. The California tunes things back a bit to provide solid, predictable handling. You can still take corners pretty quic, just not as quick as a Ferrari supercar.
When it comes down to it, the biggest thing holding the Ferrari California back is the fact that it is a Ferrari. If Bentley put out a new Continental GTC that handled like this, it would be considered a triumph. However, Ferrari has built a reputation as a hig-performance sports car manufacturer, and the intentionally scaling back of a car may seem like heresy to some. Bottom line, the 2010 California is a wolf in sheeps clothing. It looks like a luxury coupe, but has enough of its Ferrari pedigree to satiate most drivers. As mentioned above, Ferrari expects 70% of sales to be to first-time Ferrari buyers. The California serves as a great introduction to the brand, and the speed-junkies of that group will definitely be coming back to the Italian automaker for a second round.