Driven: 2010 Ferrari California

The 453-hp, 4.3-liter V-8 is deeper in pitch and less sonorous in note than the F430's engine. The California's V-8 still uses a Ferrari's trademark flat (180-degree) crankshaft, so it sounds like two manic four-cylinders instead of the deep, distinctive burble that you get from 90-degree V-8s. The California's exhaust note is certainly impressive, but it achieves that more by virtue of its volume than its pitch, especially from inside the car. That's exacerbated when the transmission is in automatic mode-the lack of interruption in power during shifts makes the engine's note change sound just like a conventional automatic. I think Ferrari needs to program in a very quick misfire during shifts to interrupt the exhaust note momentarily. Other sports car manufacturers do this.

Speaking of fuel delivery interruption, one other area that could benefit from additional programming is at very light throttle openings. All modern cars cut fuel to the engine when you lift completely off the throttle-and the transition between very light load cruising and fuel-cutoff is quite rough in the California. It's especially noticeable when you're trying to coast down a hill or when you're in stop-and-go traffic, as it makes for considerable jerkiness. On the other hand, Ferrari has done a fantastic job of hiding the ticking sounds that high-pressure injectors make at idle. The injectors are located under a big, red, and gorgeous intake plenum, and the underside of the hood is lined with a sound-deadening material that makes the ticking almost completely inaudible. And lest we forget the important part-the California's big, wide, flat torque curve. This is a V-8 that never feels soft; it pulls hard from idle to its 8000-rpm redline.

The California's navigation system is the same Harman/Becker unit used by Chrysler. It's a decent touch-screen unit with great usability, but the screen's resolution is a generation or two behind the best, so the map itself is of limited use. The sound quality is only fair (it doesn't come close to the JBL sound system in the Scuderia Spider 16M, for example), but the system offers easy-to-use Bluetooth phone integration, a hard drive for music storage, aux-in jacks, and full iPod integration.

The California also comes with two-zone climate control and air conditioning that kept the cabin cool even in 105-degree desert sun. The seats are supportive, and without exception every interior material is top-rate. The folding hard top refuses to rattle or creak, and even though it required a few ticks longer than Ferrari's quoted fifteen-second time to open or close, it's quick enough to operate if you're the first to arrive at a red light. The mostly aluminum structure is so incredibly robust that at no time did I notice any scuttle shake or chassis flex.

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