BEST of the BEST 2015: Ferrari California T

A daily driver that practically drives itself. 

Having left the cobblestone streets of Siena, we were on a two-lane Chianti country road, butting through a Tuscan summer monsoon. The rain, horizontal and ferocious, had turned the dirt shoulders into mush. If there were any objects ahead, we prayed they would be small and soft.

 

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Saner souls would have headed for the nearest Autogrill Ciao and sipped espresso while the storm passed. But my valorous passenger and I were motoring in a Ferrari California T, which may be the finest, most driver-friendly GT in this generation of grandly touring automobiles. In a downpour rivaling the one that set Noah’s ark afloat, the California T practically drove itself. The sensors kicked in, the computers whirred, and the car automatically stayed in balance, on course, and far from hydroplaning into the weeds.

The T in the car’s name stands for “turbocharged.” The California T is the first Ferrari road car powered by a turbocharged engine since the mighty F40 of the late 1980s. The twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-8 produces 553 hp. The car also is equipped with a variety of technologies derived from Ferrari’s Formula One racing team, including electromagnetic shock absorbers and a creamy 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Notwithstanding its performance capabilities and sensual design, this convertible has a personality that is quieter and more domesticated than other Ferraris. It is intended to suit first-time Ferrari owners and their daily driving habits. Rookie Ferraristi account for 70 percent of the Cal­ifornia T’s sales total, and 30 percent of the owners use their car for picking up groceries and the dry cleaning. The $199,000 starting price makes it the least expensive model in the Ferrari lineup.

Sure, the California T will still hoot and holler and make rude noises on its way to a top speed of 196 mph, but the exhaust song is just a few decibels quieter than those of other Ferraris. Also, the car is equipped with the aforementioned driver-assistance features, a pair of miniature rear seats for the kids, and even cup holders. The familial comforts are further enhanced by a tightly fitting retractable hard top. It fits snuggly enough to weather a monsoon in Tuscany.

Ferrari, ferrari.com

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