By on October 22, 2008

The California is a bit like my first girlfriend: pretty from the front, but a little frumpy at the rear, especially in the wrong clothes (sorry Sarah). This is Ferrari’s softer side. Huh? How can you mess with the classic GT recipe? Sorry Ferrari but the California is the best definition of Ugly Betty with four wheels. If you were hoping for a Dino successor, then you’ll be disappointed. This is a fresh GT with a new clientele in mind.

Hoping for a warm welcome party, my blue press car just didn’t look right under the brilliant Sicilian sunshine– even though I skipped the offer of a blood-red California, which I thought would dispel the miss-matched lines and kindergarten crayon-like sketches. Like the 612 Scaglietti, the latest front-engined Ferrari has no Maranello designer-DNA-flair whatsoever. Sure, the front is OK, but the rear looks like a F430 that’s been backed into a brick wall. And then we have the Lexus cosmetic card trick: fake exhaust tail pipes. The horrendous back door abomination was designed to incorporate the folding metal roof. With every supercar manufacturer fitting an origami roof to just about anything that moves, the boys in Italy wanted to target more conservative customers (namely female, but you didn’t hear me say that).

The buggy seats behind the front chairs are useless for any human larger than Verne Troyer. And? They are perfectly suitable for those owners who wish to fold them to accommodate your tailored Ferrari luggage or McLaren golf bags. While it’s all very Ferrari inside, there are two small issues that need addressing. First, the heater control pane is ridiculously small. I know owners live in salubrious climates, but really. Second, the aluminium covered centre console looks like a particularly uncomfortable sex toy. The sexy, red Start button and Manettino switch (Ferrari’s traction and stability control), return us to the world of more traditional sexual orientation. Both controls must tweaked and caressed like a lover’s nipple to get the desired effect. Ahem. Moving on…

Facing killjoy CO2 regs, Ferrari had to clean up their act. To satisfy the politicians, Maranello has introduced direct-injection technology to their famous V8. Although positioned over the front axle, the new 4.3-litre flat-plane-crank V8 knocks-out 454bhp and 357 lb feet of gut-busting torque. The Calfornia drop top nails the zero to 62mph sprint in around four seconds and cracks 194mph V-max. Not bad for a car that’s carrying 1735 kg’s.

Whether  you’re nailing your favourite back road or performing a brief overtaking manoeuvre whilst kicking back on the boulevard, the California V8 delivers the same sorts of aural delights enjoyed by F430 drivers. Ferrari’s dialed down the bass and treble, but with the roof stowed, hunting the red-line is equally tempting. The new seven speed twin-clutch transmission swaps gears quicker than the F430 Scuderia, which is like saying an F-22 is a bit quicker than an F-15. Porsche’s PDK may have set the benchmark, but they forgot about Ferrari’s F1 technology. This is Transformers for grown-ups.

The Manettino switch on the steering wheel offers a choice of Comfort, Sport or CST-off mode. Comfort is the default choice with relatively low intervention thresholds; the Sport setting raises the bar and allows for a good degree of tail swapping and tire mashing. The CST mode turns off all of the driving aids and reveals the California’s hidden side: beautiful balance on the limit behaviour.

This is where the buttons ping off your shirt and you start to turn green. The combination of engine, handling and hidden Ferrari DNA bursts out more alarmingly than the alien in John Hurt’s chest. The steering is quick but grip levels are less communicative through the steering wheel. Where the California really shines: its ride. With the optional $6k magnetic dampers, the Fezza delivers sensational body control and accuracy, without destroying ride comfort.

So, where does the new California fit within the Ferrari canon/cannon? At a not inconsiderable $244k, it’s got to fend off a raft of competition, including Lamborghini’s cheaper Gallardo Spyder ($224K). Why have Ugly Betty when you can choose Beyonce Knowles? Because it’s a Ferrari. A Ferrari convertible. And even though it’s a kindler gentler example of the breed, that’s enough.

[Ferrari provided the vehicle, insurance, and fuel]

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46 Comments on “Review: 2010 Ferrari California...”

  • avatar

    I haven’t seen it in a flesh, but based on images it may not be the prettiest car tuches, but definitely not an Ugly Betty

  • avatar

    Nice rack on the front, The center console looks out of place, the dash is pure business, even Lindsey Lohan can operate it.

  • avatar

    +1 for the blue.

    It looks like they stole some (obvious) design cue’s from the GranTurismo, but not executed as nicely; too many hard angles, and what’s with the swooping thing on the side.

    Still, I don’t think it’s Ugly Betty by any means.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    At $224,000 I think Ferrari is making a mistake trying to chase the SL65 crowd. This car “not quite being totally ugly” is a travesty for (1) a Ferrari and (2) any car that costs so much money.

    If it was $140,000, I could understand making design, engineering (folding tin roof, ahem), and image sacrifices for the Beverly Hills clientele.

    Regardless of what the car is capable of, it projects an image of “Ferrari does SL” and that’s unacceptable.

  • avatar

    The front is gorgeous. The aft is too big for the car. It looks disproportional, like another team designed the aft thinking the front prints they had were in a different scale. The rear lights manage to look cheap. The ¾ view looks nice but the side view reveals the big butt. I like the interior except for the HVAC vents which are a bit obtrusive. Overall it’s a nice looking car and if I saw it on the street I would gawk.

  • avatar

    And then we have the Lexus cosmetic card trick: fake exhaust tail pipes.

    People harp on the IS-F for this, but the Lexus was hardly the first, or the most expensive, or the most pedigreed, car equipped with this particular affectation.

  • avatar

    This is the first Ferrari that does NOT tug on my heartstrings. It’s not proportioned correctly at all, and the mistake of making this a folding roof car (as opposed to a cloth roof) is the cause.

    The price point is rediculous, too – why would you buy this car when you could have a used 550/575 Maranello for HALF THAT MUCH?!?

    And it looks like a Maserati. Boo.

    Axe the gimmicky folding roof (it’s gonna stop functioning in 10 years, anyways), replace it with a cloth roof, and sell it for under $200k.

    Maybe then I’d win the lotto and consider it.

  • avatar

    So this is the Ferrari SC430? It’ll probably sell then.

  • avatar

    “At $224,000 I think Ferrari is making a mistake trying to chase the SL65 crowd. This car “not quite being totally ugly” is a travesty for (1) a Ferrari and (2) any car that costs so much money.”

    I’ve said it before, but I think this is the best-looking car Ferrari currently makes, inside and out. Admittedly I don’t think much of Ferrari’s current output from an aesthetic standpoint, but in general I think the California is quite attractive.

    But on the broader point of being an SL rival…even if one takes this assertion at face value (which I don’t), so what? In some instances (Cayenne), venting at manufacturers over brand dilution is justified. More often, and I find it especially so in the case of this car, it’s amounts to armchair experts having their preconceived ideas of what the brand ‘should’ be about having a hole blasted through them. Big deal. Ferrari, like all manufacturers, has been through the hand-wringing from its fans many times before – the switch to mid-engine layout, the replacement of the V12 by the boxer, the Dino, the first slushbox in the 400 (a best-forgotten GM unit at that), the 400 itself…life goes on.

    There’s a reason the 365 GT 2+2 is nicknamed the ‘Queen Mary’. And even the original 250 California was by no means a light, lithe sportscar. Which is basically a convoluted way of saying, I don’t really understand the venom directed at this car?

  • avatar

    Extremely disappointing.

    A stylistic mess.

    Consider the original.

  • avatar

    So for less money I can have a Gallardo Spyder? Keys for the Lambo please.

  • avatar

    Why have Ugly Betty when you can choose Beyonce Knowles? Because it’s a Ferrari. A Ferrari convertible. And even though it’s a kindler gentler example of the breed, that’s enough.

    This statement sums ups the purpose of this car in a nutshell and that is why this car is sooooo wrong. The only reason to buy this thing is because it is a Ferrari! I see very little Ferrari “passion” in this car but a great deal of market expanding greed done on the cheap!

    In all honesty this thing looks like what Toyota/ Lexus would come up with if they decided to make a Ferrari knock-off. It is very SC430 in its proportions and that is NOT a good thing on a $250,000 car. The design of this car speaks loadly of compromise & constraint. It is easy to see were Ferrari had to use the theoretical hammer to cobble this design together. We are talking about a 1/4 of a million dollars here and the car looks like some chessy mass produced, platformed shared $60,000 car!

    The exterior design elements simply do not work well together; hood scoop here, extra cut line there, a mass hiding big strip of black on the back, staked tailpipe for god knows what purpose. It appears that Ferrari attempted to include every legacy Ferrari styling queue they could think of on one model.

    Just because it will sell does not make it right!

  • avatar

    I agree that the front and back ends are way out of proportion. If you look at them separately they both look pretty good, but they need to cut it in half and make two nicely proportioned cars out of it.

    That said in that color blue the car screams chick car. Then goes ahead and beats you with the message some to make sure it gets across.

  • avatar

    Sure, the front is OK, but the rear looks like a F430 that’s been backed into a brick wall.

    And the back end of an F430 is hardly the back end of a Halle Berry. More of a George Wendt really.

  • avatar

    Ugly Betty? Try Danny Trejo. I know older Ferraris shared similar styling on the front end, but the headlights on those cars didn’t look like they were being pulled back like a Schnauzer with its head leaning out of the window of a suburban going 40 mph.

    I always think Ferraris are ugly until they’ve been out for a few years. That said, I wouldn’t refuse the chance to drive or own one.

    Regardless of how good or bad any Ferrari is, the production allotment and waiting list will be booked two years will the entire time the car is in production, because it’s a Ferrari.

  • avatar

    I hope the interior materials are of the finest quality, because the design and the clashing colors are an abomination.

    Imagine sitting in front of that during a lengthy blast up the California coast.


  • avatar

    I could very easily imagine that in this and enjoying myself immensely. It is a Ferrari afterall.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    I was ready to diss the California before I went to the Paris show, being as it is a tosser’s car. But upon seeing it in the flesh, I thought it was beautiful. The argument could be made that the Ferrari brand has been californicated or, for that matter, dubaid. But ugly? This car?

  • avatar

    Am I the only one who think it looks a bit like a Maserati GT (particularly the second picture)…

  • avatar

    “And then we have the Lexus cosmetic card trick: fake exhaust tail pipes.”

    This is simply inexcusable. I am disappointed and terrified by Ferrari’s use of this cosmetic trick.

  • avatar

    I thought I liked the styling at first, but I’m really having second thoughts. The side view and back view are really busy, over-drawn nightmares, especially those air dams in the back and the faux exhaust.

    And it’s $244K??? SO overpriced. If it was, say, $180K it’d have a market against something like the Bentley Continental GT, maybe steal some of the Gallardo Spyder’s sales, but as it is now it’s terribly overpriced.

  • avatar

    I, too, don’t believe it’s an Ugly Betty. I actually think it looks pretty good, but it could be improved.

    And don’t forget, some guys like big butts, fat bottomed girls, bubble hineys, etc…

    Not me, but some do.

  • avatar
    Ken Elias

    They’ll sell every single unit at full pop, regardless of what any of us think as to the vehicle aesthetics. Guess no zero percent financing available?

  • avatar

    “And then we have the Lexus cosmetic card trick: fake exhaust tail pipes.”

    I’ll just choose not to believe that’s true for now and from now onwards act like I never read that.

    Seriously, while the rest of the car is growing on me after the initial disappointment of seeing the first pictures, fake exhausts would be enough reason for me to opt for something else instead.

    Also, I thought it would be cheaper than the F430…

  • avatar

    This is simply inexcusable. I am disappointed and terrified by Ferrari’s use of this cosmetic trick.

    Well, then prepare to be disappointed by the Audi R8, Lamborghini LP640, several Bentleys and the Veyron. For some reason, though, only Lexus gets called on it. Brand snobbery at it’s finest.

    Any car that has an exhaust moulded into the bumper is going to use this kind of stylistic fakery. Why? You can’t attach a hot, moving part like an exhaust pipe to a fixed, plastic bumper. Either you:
    * Have tips attached to the exhaust that float in the bumper and leave a gap, which is what most cars do.
    * Run the pipe under the bumper and look like an econocar.
    * Have a fake molding in the bumper that surrounds the exhaust. This, at least, looks clean and finished, unless you shine a light into it.

  • avatar

    Wow, it’s like someone went over the real design with a planer and this is the result. The comparisons to the SL65, both in terms of spec sheet and side profile, are dead on but the surcharge will make most people balk. I predict that this one will go the way of the 612 and start stacking up at dealers for list price (or lower in this economy, or lack thereof). You buy one of these first to get entrance to the Ferrari club so that you can buy a 430 later. But let me set the record straight, the 599 is Beyonce Knowles while the California is Victoria Beckham.

    Also, I thought it would be cheaper than the F430…

    JJ, the California will eventually be the cheap Ferrari when the 430 successor comes out. One begins to suspect that the timing of Ferrari’s move further upmarket will prove to be poor.

    And consider me once again amazed that a Delphi-sourced part (magnetic dampers) even made it onto a Ferrari build sheet, let alone became a model highlight.

  • avatar

    Hardly the Ferrari that I grew up lusting after. Particularly at $244k, the only reason this will sell is the name Ferrari. Sad and disappointing.

  • avatar

    I only just noticed the pentagram wheels.

    Aside from that the design is starting to grow on me, the proportions look somewhat better as I mull over the car more. The rear is still ugly, and the blue should never see production; but it isn’t that bad.

  • avatar

    1735 kg = 3,825 lb. That’s goddamn fat for a sports car.

    I would really like to see Ferrari lead the charge for some weight control. They can afford new technologies and exotic material, and their customers aren’t going to blink at a few extra grand for carbon fiber, aluminum, etc.

    I’d love to see an “entry-level” 308 weighing at least 600 pounds less than the California, with a new small V8.

  • avatar

    1735 kg = 3,825 lb. That’s goddamn fat for a non-German sports car.

    Fixed that for you. :)

  • avatar

    The wheels are heinous and the aluminum center console just begs for me to place my jimmy dangles on it.

  • avatar

    No matter how hard TTAC readers slam the car, there’s no escaping the fact that the quarter-mil Lexus 430 California SC is sold out for another 2-3 years. If that doesn’t speak volumes about the sheer brilliance of Ferrari AND the sheer stupidity of Ferrari owners, I dunno what does.


  • avatar

    Upon reading this, I’ve decided that when I win the lottery (a very big lottery. Multiple times.), I will buy a Ferrari spider. A 1967 275 GTB NART Spyder. Not this poseur atrocity.

  • avatar
    Usta Bee

    I like the fender vents, they’re such an original styling touch.

    What this thing needs is a three-on-the-tree column shifter. Why ?, it’d just be damned funny in a Ferrari.

  • avatar

    I like the dead on front view, and the dead on back, but the side view is very busy, some of those lines need to go, and the front 3/4 view is atrocious. How did this car get through the design stages without anyone noticing that the abrupt flatness of the grill makes this car look like a big mouth bass?

  • avatar

    I wonder how come Ferrari never made a car for Boston or New York.

    How about Ferrari Big Apple or Ferrari New England?

    What is so special about California? The sunny weather or the unpredictable earthquake, the foreclosure or wild fires with a twist of gang bang.

    Beyonce is pretty but I prefer Rihanna!

  • avatar

    I find it funny that when this car was in development, everybody thought Ferrari was bringing back the Dino. It looked like they were making a (relatively) small, front-engined car with the existing 4.3 V8. The car would also be slower and poorer-handling than anything else in the Ferrari lineup. It looked like an entry-level Ferrari to everybody.

    Ferrari adamantly denied reports that they were moving downmarket. There would be no cheap, entry-level Ferrari. Of course, this didn’t make sense, since everybody knew they were developing a small, front-engined, slower Ferrari with worse handling than anything else. Since the car looked a lot like a Corvette on paper (the base car or possibly the Z06, this is definitely not in the same league as the ZR1), everybody figured Ferrari would have to price the new car somewhere between a Vette and an F430

    So what does Ferrari do? Create a car that’s screams ‘entry-level Ferrari’ in every way, but price it HIGHER than the F430. This is either a stroke of genius, or one of the most egregious displays of automotive arrogance in recent memory

  • avatar

    It’s a shame that Ferrari are now making so much more money than they ever did in the past – when I compare the new California to, say, a 275 GTS, I want to cry.
    The GTS evokes mental images of Grace Kelly in a headscarf motoring serenely down the Côte d’Azur – all I can see when I look at the California is overpaid footballers at a McDonald’s drive-thru. The old Ferraris may have been crap cars with reliability measured in hours rather than years, but they had grace, beauty, and style in spades, sorely missing from the latest ones. The profile shot of the California looks like someone welded an aircraft hangar to the back of the car and thought it might do. Great legs, shame about the face…

  • avatar

    What a shame… 245K puts it out of the league of most enthusiasts who would buy one because they really wanted one. I think the last Ferrari that was at an approachable price point was the 348 – not cheap, but a reasonably successful chap like your doctor could get one if he really wanted to, and not feel too worried about driving it regularly.

    It will be interesting to see whether Ferrari’s move to the stratospheric end of the market is sustainable, since the ‘free money’ economy is toast. Would be a shame to see them implode because they priced themselves out of the 150K market and have an in-house Maserati brand occupying that space.

  • avatar

    I think people are being way too harsh on Ferrari for launching this car. Looks aside, I think it’s concept and execution are spot on. Ferrari have every right to expand. They could not do this by building more F430 – the demand simply isn’t there and flooding the market would have ruined the resales, ultimately damaging the brand ( not that they are that strong these days as is ).

    They needed a 4th model line to expand. They could have made something more extreme, but between the 430 Scuds and the various limited editions ( Enzo et al ) they pretty much have this covered. A 4 door or off roader wouldn’t be accepted. So it had to be softer, more luxiourous and easier to live with coupe. Bentley sell far more GT’s then Ferrari will ever do of Californias and, at this level, the price difference is not too important.

    This is the right car for Ferrari to make. The xx years waiting list ( which I am sure is slightly inflated ) suggests that they called the market correctly. This car is really the successor to the Mondial T convertible, which was never liked by those who deem themselves to be cognesti, but did very well for Ferrari ( and, in coupe form, is actually a very good car )

  • avatar

    Overall nice profile and proportions but a bit too many scoops/vents.
    Rims are pretty nice too.

  • avatar

    It reminds me of the 369 GTB/4 Daytona from Miami Vice. The back could look better but with Ferrari you pay for engineering at it’s best. The 599 GTB looks better to me but it’s a Ferrari, can’t argue with it much.

  • avatar

    I never thought Ferrari would go so radical with there designs! Enzo must be rolling over in his grave! You go from cars like the 328, 512, Testarossa, F40, F50, 360, F430, and the Enso to this! It’s kind of a radical styling change! Yeah when the Testarossa came out it was a radical change but not like this. I dont get it, they don’t need to over style like to many car companies today are doing! Look at the Porsche 911 – it’s kept the same shape since the 60’s and it still sells to any auto enthusiast!

  • avatar

    Interesting to see all these comments. I have owned many Ferrari’s over the years….none have been comfortable, just sporty. Long distance rides forget it in past models….Ferrari is a special company with very sexy styles and performance to a degree…however I will have to say that I was never impressed with acceleration, driver/passenger comfort and a few other things….it was mostly the Ferrari nameplate and looks that attracted me. Italians are great at looks. So I am shallow, guilty as charged. I ordered one these new babies this week….why?…I sat in one in Miami Florida a few months back and they finally got it right for comfort while driving. Looks?….come on anyone reading about this car would love to have one in their driveway….I think Ferrari got it right as evidenced by my purchase. Another quiltless car in my garage is a Bentley Flying Spur….now that is a performing cruiser with top notch comfort, best I have ever driven in.

  • avatar

    Hi there…As far as I’ve read, I think that all written things aboutthe California are full of….I have a 360 Modena and a 430 spyder and recently bought a California…being annarchitect we could argue about design añl day long, so I won’t go ahead on taste issues…..the car handles far more better than a 430, goes faster any of my Ferraris and when I drive it…..heaven….my respect to the purists but let me tell you, one of the best Ferraris ever buit!! Some opinions only take time to change….we’ll see that change some time ahead!

  • avatar

    This thing is a joke. A Maserati with a Ferrari badge. A fine car, but come on. Ferrari would never have had reputation it has now if it was building cars like this instead of the glorious Ferraris we have seen in the last few decades.

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