Buying Guide

2012 Ferrari California

MSRP $195,840 Base Convertible


13 City / 19 Hwy

Horse Power:

460 @ 7750


357 @ 5000

If you want a Ferrari with a manual transmission, the California is your only choice. That’s kind of ironic, since stick-shift cars have a reputation as the transmission choice of “real car guys” and the California is earning a reputation as the “housewives’ Ferrari.” It may be the soft-core alternative to the mid-engine 458 Italia, but the California still has enough brio to run with the best. The force behind the magic is a direct-injected (also Ferrari’s first) flat-plane-crankshaft V-8 spinning out 454 hp at a lofty 7500 rpm. The engine doesn’t crackle, bark, or scream the way other Maranello V-8s have, but that’s why this Ferrari presents itself as a more civilized alternative than those undeniably insane mid-engine cars. The California’s retractable hard top (another first for Ferrari) stores in fourteen seconds and leaves enough trunk room for two rollaway bags or one golf bag. A finished cargo shelf behind the front seats can be replaced with two very small rear seats — perhaps for small children. The rear-mounted, dual-clutch automatic transaxle is tuned for smooth shifts, and the light steering won’t bother the driver with too much feedback. The California, in fact, is so well mannered you might wonder how it came from the same company that built Scuderias, 16Ms, and 599GTOs. Of course, now you also know why it has earned its reputation as a Ferrari for the fairer sex.

Drive: 4-wheel
Trim level: FF
Body style: Hatchback, 2+2-passenger
Engine: 6.3L V-12, 651 hp, 504 lb-ft
Transmissions: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic and 2-speed automatic
Passenger Volume: N/A
Cargo space: 15.9 cu ft

Ferrari doesn’t really “do” model-year changes, so don’t expect to see much new content in the California. It’s not as if this sports car were left wanting for much, anyway. It was a Ferrari of firsts: the first Ferrari in four decades to wear the California badge, the first to use a dual-clutch automatic transmission, and the first roadgoing Ferrari with a front-mounted V-8. Isn’t that already enough?

Front and side air bags, traction and stability control, and ABS are standard.

All: 13 mpg city/19 mpg hwy

  • The Ferrari badge
  • Not the most elegant design
  • Not the most involving to drive
  • Not Ferrari’s best effort

Entry level, so to speak.

  • Aston Martin V8 Vantage
  • Lamborghini Gallardo
  • Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG

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