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.
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.