By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor - Updated Date: 7/5/2012
In the stable of classic Ferrari cars both past and present, the California occupies a unique position. With its low-slung stance, wide body and voluptuous sheet metal, the 2012 California is easily identifiable as a Ferrari. Purists, however, may argue it is not one of the more classic designs, with too much flourish in the side sculpting, a big rear end and a grille and headlamp treatment that looks more Maserati than Ferrari. On the flip side, the California's retractable hardtop, a first for Ferrari, is a plus. The California further breaks with Ferrari tradition by replacing the traditional 12-cylinder engine with a smaller and lighter V8 engine, a move that helps reduce cost and counteracts the weight added by the retractable hardtop.You'll Like This Car If...
If you're seeking an exotic roadster that is easy to live with in any season, the 2012 Ferrari California convertible may fit you like an Italian leather glove. There is no manual transmission offered, so anyone can enjoy the car, and the retractable hardtop makes this a year-around driver.You May Not Like This Car If...
Hardcore Ferrari enthusiasts will prefer their front-engine cars with a V12 and as little extra weight as possible. A closed-top FF or F12berlineta is probably going to be a more satisfactory ride. Those who prefer a proper manual may find something from Porsche more desirable.What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Ferrari California remains largely unchanged.Driving It Driving Impressions
A 453-horsepower V8 engine and F1-style dual-clutch 7-speed automatic transmission are nothing to thumb one's nose at, but we're sure some supercar enthusiasts will do so anyway. It's not that Ferrari's 2012 California is slow, but that its retractable hardtop design adds considerable weight to the car, although its handling and cornering abilities don't seem to be overly affected by it. The new dual-clutch automatic is a vast improvement over previous Ferrari auto-manuals, and the sound from the V8 when in full gallop is mesmerizing. Ferrari boasts a sub 4-second zero-to-60-mph sprint time and a top speed just a tick over 190 mph. The former figure should be easy to verify; the latter we don't recommend unless you're on a closed track and possess a big dose of the necessary skill.Favorite Features
RETRACTABLE HARD TOP
The Ferrari California's retractable hardtop permits comfortable open-air cruising at normal speeds, and the comfortable quiet of a hardtop when the need for performance driving takes hold.
7-SPEED DUAL-CLUTCH AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION
The new F1- style dual-clutch 7-speed automatic transmission allows the driver to get off seamless gearshifts with little more than a tapping of the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. When left on its own, the California's automatic can be set to minimize fuel consumption in around-town driving.
Like its namesake, the 2012 Ferrari California convertible is all about style. Buyers can pick from a huge assortment of leathers, colors and interior options. There are four separate seat styles, including a carbon fiber racing seat, and nine different seat-belt color choices. Leather trim covers just about every surface and the available sport seats can be adjusted to suit just about any size driver. The California convertible includes a folding rear seat, a first for Ferrari, and a choice between a divided bucket-style rear seat and a bench seat, better suited to storing items rather than people.Exterior
There is a healthy dose of Ferrari DNA in the 2012 California convertible's curvaceous body, but there are some oddities as well. The rear end seems a bit too bulbous and high-perched for a Ferrari, a result no doubt of the added space needed for the retractable hardtop. The California is one of those rare convertibles that looks equally stunning with its top up as it does down. Owners can customize the California with a myriad of exterior paint options, wheel choices and various carbon fiber parts covering the engine, front wing, rear diffuser and rear molding.Notable Standard Equipment
At nearly $200,000, you'd expect a lot from the 2012 Ferrari California and the Italian automaker doesn't disappoint. Standard equipment includes xenon headlamps, 19-inch wheels, AM/FM/CD/MP3/DVD stereo with 30 GB hard-drive music storage, touchscreen navigation, Bluetooth, 6-way power driver and 4-way power passenger seat, full leather interior and the Manettino steering wheel with drive-mode selector buttons for comfort, sport or track modes. Standard safety equipment includes front side-impact airbags, integrated pop-up roll bar, Brembo brakes with carbon ceramic discs and F1-style electronic traction and stability control.Notable Optional Equipment
The 2012 Ferrari California's options sheet is so top heavy it could fill an entire brochure. Beyond the dozens of exterior paint and interior leather colors, owners can opt for adaptive front headlamps, Magnaride dual-mode suspension, front parking sensors, 20-inch diamond-finish alloy wheels, rear back-up camera, 440-watt JBL premium audio system, cruise control, run-flat tires and upgraded power sport seats with multiple adjustments for lumbar, seat and side bolsters. While you're at it, don't forget the $6,500 matching leather luggage option.Under the Hood
Despite the 4.3-liter V8's somewhat diminutive displacement, Ferrari manages to squeeze out an impressive 453 horsepower for the 2012 California convertible. A number of refinements make up the new HELE (High Emotion Low Emission) system, all designed to reduce emissions while improving performance. The engine CPU adapts cooling fan speed, fuel pump performance and even the a/c compressor to perform only at the levels needed, thus conserving energy and improving overall performance. An available start/stop function cuts the engine when stopped, further helping to improve fuel economy and lowering emissions. Once the throttle is touched, the engine restarts in just milliseconds with no detectable reduction in off-the-line performance.
453 horsepower @ 7,750 rpm
358 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/19 mpg
The 2012 Ferrari California convertible carries a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just over $200,000 (with destination and gas-guzzler taxes added on). Tack on most of the really good options, and the California can easily push into the $300,000 range. That's pretty steep considering you can get a nicely-equipped Audi R8 Spyder for around $175,000 or a Mercedes Benz SLS convertible loaded up for about $230,000.