Ferrari California T goes turbo with 560hp V8

Ferrari California TWe’ve never entirely understood motoring journalism’s general assertion that the Ferrari California is a bit of a disappointment.

The last one we drove was an absolute riot (albeit a riot loaded with £55k in options).

Today, though, Ferrari has revealed Project 149M, a heavily revised model officially called the California T. And we strongly suspect it’s looking for blood.

T here stands for Turbo, and even without the sculpturally toned new looks – the result of Ferrari’s continuing collaboration with Pinninfarina, reminiscent in places of the original 250 Testa Rossa – the 2014 California would be demanding serious attention. Ferrari has built itself a brand new 3,855cc twin-turbocharged V8, and it gives the entry-level Prancing Horse a massive kick in the pants.

Power is up 70hp from 490hp to 560hp at 7,500rpm. But much more significantly, torque rises by a ridiculous 49% to 557lb ft. Ferrari has also eschewed the current ‘torque plateau’ trend and says the twist builds constantly instead – in the manner of a non-turbo unit. It also claims to have virtually eliminated lag, and says the engine’s construction shares several principles with the 2014 Ferrari Formula One engine.

The result is a RHT (that’s ‘retractable hard top’) Ferrari convertible that will accelerate 0-62mph in just 3.6 seconds, and claims a top speed of 196mph. Fuel economy and CO2 emissions also see a useful but largely irrelevant improvement in the region of 15%; no-one who buys one of these cars is really likely to care.

Ferrari California T

We, however, can’t help noting that the 3.8-litre engine capacity almost exactly matches that of McLaren’s highly regarded turbo V8. This hasn’t stopped Ferrari taking a pop at the Macca, by explaining the work it’s done on the California T to “guarantee it a typically intense, exhilarating Ferrari engine sound” – an area where the McLaren 12C has faced continuous criticism. This, says Ferrari, has required detailed design work and special manufacturing techniques. So, nur.

Elsewhere, the California has been treated to yet another steering box upgrade, changes to the suspension, 50% faster magnetic ride adaptive dampers, fettled carbon-ceramic brakes and the very latest F1-Trac traction control system. So it should not only be faster but comfier and more fun as well.

On the inside there’s a new touch-sensitive Turbo Performance Engineer display, where you can scroll through information about the new engine’s performance, and a new 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system. As ever with Ferrari, there are some unusual buttons on the steering wheel – but this just helps you feel that bit closer to Kimi Raikkonen.

The roof stows in a rapid but not rushed 14 seconds, and the previous ‘2+’ seating arrangement remains. That’s two people plus shopping or luggage, realistically speaking – but very determined and/or limber friends may tolerate the rear perches for short but highly visible periods.

There are two new colours, Rosso California (“inspired by classic Ferraris”) and Blu California (“underscores the versatility and elegance of this new model”), while the official public debut is set for the 2014 Geneva Motor Show on 7 March.

We’ll bring you pricing information as soon as it’s available, but the Ferrari California T is sure to have gone up by well in excess of a pack of biscuits.

T, biscuits – geddit? Oh, never mind then…

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