Ferrari California T (2015): First Ferrari with turbo put to the test
The facelift given to the Ferrari California T appears minimal, whereas the technical innovation, on the other hand, is ground-breaking: as he first Ferrari of the new era, the California - now with a T for turbo added to the name - has been equipped with a turbo-charger, including downsizing. The 3.9-litre eight is no less than the first lag-free turbo engine.
Why only now is Ferrari turning to turbo? The decision-makers wanted to wait until their engineers had solved the issue of turbo lag – if not completely, then at least better than all other manufacturer. With the Ferrari California T – the T stands for turbo – they are thought to have pulled it off. We are excited.
In a tactically clever move, the first downsizing drive system comes with the facelift of the everyday Ferrari California T. Here the expectations with regard to the radical nature of the eight-cylinder engine are not quite as high as in the mid-engine, two-seater 458 Italia, whose successor, the 488 GTB, will also receive the double turbo-charged V8. Ferrari will thus have the chance to respond to any complaints before this vehicle is introduced in the coming year.Just a facelift
In spite of the successful sales, the front-engine convertible has been further refined with a view to eradicating points of criticism. In the case of the 2009 test car,auto motor and sportpointed out careless workmanship – whereas now the interior of the Ferrari California T seems to be in perfect condition. The frequently chastised chubby back end has visibly slimmed down, and the front demonstrates the company's current trajectory.
The leap from the 360 Modena to the F430, for instance, was more dramatic – in spite of a host of new sheet metal parts, the changes to the Ferrari California T are only a facelift. Everything that is really of any interest in concealed inside. And by this we are not referring to the omission of a thus far seldom ordered option, whereby the back seats can be replaced by a storage compartment. No, we are talking about the additional display on the dashboard, which shows the charging pressure.
Ferrari California T, fired by a 3/9-litre V8
And this brings us back to the crucial topic, the turbo drive system. All the new 3.9-litre V8 has in common with the previous 4.3-litre naturally aspirated engine is the number of cylinders and the crankshaft, which is offset by 180 degrees. Incidentally, the latter is an important component of the typical Ferrari sound. The new engine in the Ferrari California T has a longer stroke than the old one – a disadvantage with regard to its revving capacity?
A press on the start button. A brief whimper, a snap, and then the Ferrari California T hums with a low idling speed – hardly any change from the previous California. We start in the dual clutch transmission's automatic mode, which works almost as smoothly as a torque converter.
The Ferrari California T can also do comfortable
Even before, the California hardly had a reputation for being a hooligan, but the T shows even better manners. Especially when it comes to drive comfort: even though the springs have been made 15 percent harder, the dampers respond better than before – their breakout torque has been considerably reduced. And even at forced motorway speed, the wind noise is so restrained that you almost doubt whether the Ferrari California T actually has a folding sheet metal roof with all of the necessary joints and edges.
Without doubt, the Ferrari California T manages everyday driving in a much more laid back fashion than before, meaning it now has a first-car character similar to that of the SL. Especially the maintenance costs – the K.O. criterion, per se – have long lost their terror: Ferrari covers routine repairs for a period of seven years.
Evidently, the smoothness of the new Ferrari California T caused us to day dream – the kilometres flew by without us clocking any noticeable speed. A Ferrari for tranquil minds.On the lookout for turbo lag
Let's go, commands the brain, which again wins the upper hand, give it to him! It wants it. Needs it. It's a Ferrari. And so we switch to manual transmission, full throttle at 2,000 rpm. And off you go. Click, next gear in the Ferrari California T. A thirst for revs as with the naturally aspirated engine, but even more thrust.
So where exactly was the turbo lag? It is difficult to pin down. The minimal delay in the deployment of the full acceleration could be interpreted as softened throttle response – but certainly not as turbo lag. Many have sought to eliminate it, but never before has anyone come so close as the Italians with the Ferrari California T. Not Porsche. And not McLaren either. This explains why Ferrari have only now introduced a turbo charger: they wanted to show how it should be done properly.
They have achieved a resounding success with the manifolds to the Twinscroll turbo-chargers; all of the tubes in the Ferrari California T are of equal length, which accelerates the flow of the exhaust gas to the turbine. Side-effect: the new engine sounds like a typical Ferrari V8 – bulky, but with an aggressive undertone. Compared to the previous naturally aspirated engine, only the overtones of the eighth engine order have been lost, explained Chief Executive Amedeo Felisa, who refers to his subordinates respectfully as "Ingegnere", on account of their huge technical expertise.
Ferrari California T: 0 to 100 in 3.6 seconds
On the other hand, the turbo drive system offers huge advantages. 755 Nm for instance – however, only in seventh gear. In first gear, the electronics initially only allow 600 Nm, then increasing the allocation. The driven rear axle couldn't deliver any more to the road without losses. Thanks to the increasing torque, the driver in the Ferrari California T has the impression of unending power reserves.
Thus, the Ferrari California T speeds from 0 to 100 in 3.6 seconds (California: 4.1) and – much more impressively – to 200 km/h in 11.5 seconds(California: 14.7). At the same time, the re-worked sheet metal convertible roof reduces consumption, now an average of 14.9 litres per 100 kilometres in place of the previous 17.1 l/100 km. Not exactly economical, but at least much more economical in comparison.
In the end, you can but stare in wonder: from nowhere, Ferrari, until now the leading turbo-resistor, is actually presenting the best turbo engine found in any sports car. Respect and five stars.
Date11 April 2015