Grand Touring Redefined
By Don Sherman
Ferrari's new California V-8 shares its basic architecture and defining features with the F430 and 430 Scuderia V-8s: a 4.3-liter displacement, a 90-degree V-angle, a flat (180-degree) crankshaft, and variable intake and exhaust valve timing. Added attractions include direct fuel injection, a larger bore, a shorter stroke, and a higher compression ratio (raised from 11.9 to 12.2:1). The 453-hp peak is less than Ferrari's mid-mounted V-8s and the redline drops from 8500 to 8000 rpm, but the California's torque curve is substantially broader and taller, with 358 lb-ft of maximum twist available at 5000 rpm. Superlative audio entertainment is orchestrated by equally spaced power pulses from each bank of cylinders and two muffler bypass valves.
The California's new rear-mounted, paddleshifted, dual-clutch transaxle is manufactured by Getrag, the German gear grinder that also supplies the BMW M3's dual-clutch transmission. Advantages over Ferrari's highly refined F1 automated-manual transmissions include no interruption of torque delivery during shifts-one clutch engages simultaneously with the other one releasing-and seven, instead of six, gear ratios. Clutch pedal and gated lever devotees needn't fret, because a conventional manual transmission will be offered in the California about six months after production starts.
Ferrari reports that the 0.32 drag coefficient achieved for the California yields ten percent less aerodynamic drag than any previous model, improving both mileage and performance. The aluminum unibody consists of the usual spaceframe clad with sculpted skin. Compared with the F430 Spider, the California is larger and heavier but also stiffer in both bending and torsion. Its convertible top, which weighs but eleven pounds, folds away in fourteen seconds. In the event of a rollover, a safety bar automatically deploys in 0.19 second from its guard station at the rear of the cockpit.
Brembo carbon-ceramic brake rotors are standard. The rear suspension is a new multilink design tuned to provide longitudinal resilience (for low impact harshness) with high lateral stiffness (for optimum handling). Magnetically adjustable dampers are optional. As in other Ferraris, damping rates, transmission actions, traction control, and stability control can all be adjusted through one steering-wheel-mounted manettino switch. Three settings fine-tune the California's dynamics for casual, sporting, and racy moods.