By Andrew Bornhop -- Contributing Editor
The 2016 California T is the sensible Ferrari, an everyday Italian exotic if there is such a thing. With its retractable hardtop, it’s a coupe and a convertible, and easy driving manners make this Ferrari pleasant to live with on a daily basis. Further underscoring this point are adaptive suspension that switches from soft to sporty more quickly than you’d think is possible, plus a tiny back seat that’s perfect for a briefcase, purse or laptop. Wrap it all in Pininfarina style, and you have a gorgeous GT that makes a Mercedes-Benz SL look tame. Competitors include the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Bentley Continental GT Convertible, and even the Maserati GranTurismo.
If you’re looking for an open-air Italian with speed, style and excellent everyday comfort, the 2016 Ferrari California T should be on your dance card. The structure is superb, and the T is significantly less expensive than a 2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG SL65.
If you want a decent back seat, look elsewhere. Also, if you long for the wail of an uncorked Ferrari V8, the turbo engine in the California T may leave you underwhelmed. For an aural thrill, take the V12-powered Ferrari F12berlinetta up to redline.
The Ferrari California T was significantly upgraded for 2015, so it continues into 2016 unchanged with its turbocharged V8, faster-acting MagneRide shocks and freshened appearance both inside and out.
If you’re looking for razor-sharp response and lap-record handling, the 488GTB is the Ferrari for you. The California T, on the other hand, is a comfortable grand touring machine that...
... works well when pushed hard on mountain roads. The steering is quick, and there’s no cowl shake, even when the top is down. What’s more, the MagneRide suspension makes the T comfortable in everyday driving yet firm enough for excellent chassis composure in the twisty bits. The twin-turbo 3.9-liter V8 is a gem, producing 553 horsepower, which is enough to propel the rear-wheel-drive California T to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 196 mph. At times we long for a true manual with three pedals, but the 7-speed dual-clutch transaxle in the California T never makes a mistake, either loafing around town in automatic mode or when being aggressively paddle-shifted. Top-down wind protection is excellent.
TURBO PERFORMANCE ENGINEER
This touch-screen display, mounted between two round vents on the California T’s dash, indicates turbocharger boost levels, turbo response and overall efficiency. A 3-second tap on the screen activates the TPE.
With one push of a button, all it takes is 14 seconds for the California T to morph from hardtop coupe into al fresco convertible. The folding aluminum top stacks compactly behind the 2+2 cabin, but it does reduce luggage capacity of the trunk from 12 cubic feet to 8.5.
As you’d expect of a Ferrari, top-quality leather abounds inside the 2016 California T, and it’s available in a variety of hues. Although the T is technically a 2+2, the rear seats are cruel to anybody but the smallest kids. It’s best to use the rear as added storage. On a positive note, the rear seatback does fold forward to help the T carry skis or golf clubs in its trunk, and the deeply bolstered front seats are comfortable on long trips. A 6.5-inch touch screen controls the stereo/navigation, and all conventional stalk-type controls are found on the steering wheel.
Ferrari says the California T’s flanks have been inspired by the pontoon fenders of the classic 250 Testa Rossa. While that may be a bit of a stretch, we like how the compact new California looks lower and longer than the previous model. More important, the back area in which the top stows does not look as large and ungainly as before. On a performance note, the California T’s triple-fence aerodynamic rear diffuser adds downforce without increasing drag, a legitimate concern in a car with a 196-mph top speed.
As a Ferrari, the 2016 California T oozes style and performance. In addition to its retractable hardtop, twin-turbo V8, dual-clutch transaxle and capable chassis with powerful carbon-ceramic brakes, the California T is equipped like a proper grand touring car. Dual-zone air conditioning, naturally, is standard, as are power seats and a touch-screen display for the navigation and stereo, which also benefits from USB ports under the armrest. Perhaps handiest of all is a 7-year complimentary maintenance plan that’s transferable to new owners.
Ferrari adds options as readily as any other manufacturer, so the Maranello company is more than happy to build you a California T like no other. There are 28 exterior color choices, matching painted calipers, six wheel designs, 15 interior colors and carbon-fiber accents, plus custom leather or Alcantara coverings for the seats, doors, dash and headliner. If that’s not enough, you can order front and rear parking cameras, faster-acting MagneRide suspension, adaptive front lighting, a 12-speaker JBL Professional audio system, a fire extinguisher and even Apple’s CarPlay.
What’s under the California T’s long and curvaceous hood? It’s a 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 mounted aft of the front wheels for improved weight distribution. This 4-cam powerplant made its debut in the California T last year, the first turbo engine used in a production Ferrari since the hallowed F40 of 1987. Thanks to a pair of twin-scroll turbos (that mute the sound of the exhaust a bit), boost builds quickly and progressively in the California T, which packs significantly more horsepower and torque than the naturally aspirated 4.3-liter V-8 in the previous California. Even more impressive, significant improvements in fuel efficiency mean the 2016 Ferrari California T does not have a gas-guzzler tax.
3.9-liter twin-turbocharged V8
553 horsepower @ 7,500 rpm
557 lb-ft of torque @ 2,750-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23 mpg
With a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $198,973 and a delivery charge of $3,750, the 2016 Ferrari California T costs $202,723. Good luck, however, finding one at that price. In actuality, most California T models leave the showroom highly personalized and priced much closer to $300,000. And at that price, competitors such as the Aston Martin DB9 Volante, Audi R8 Spyder, Maserati GranTurismo and Mercedes-Benz SL begin looking more attractive. But there’s one point to remember: The 2016 California T has an impressive plan that covers all regular maintenance for the first seven years of the car’s life. This will help keep the Ferrari in top mechanical condition, and do wonders for its resale value. As always, check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price.