From the driver's seat, the experience is typical of today's Ferraris, which means a big red start button, a Mannetino controller on the steering wheel, and a paddle-shifted transmission. Upon first driving off, you notice that the suspension is supple, the gearchanges are smooth, and, like all modern Ferraris, the steering is Cadillac-overboosted and lacking in feel.
I drove the California in traffic for almost a hundred miles before I finally flung it into a corner-and became quickly aware that, like the 599 GTB and the 612 Scaglietti, it has two very distinct personalities. The California turns in with amazing immediacy-likely a result of having most of its weight between the axles. To that end, the V-8 is mounted completely aft of the front axle and the dual-clutch transmission is a transaxle mounted in the rear. Not much feedback comes through the steering wheel, and the brakes are somewhat wooden, but this is a car that knows how to dance. Chassis balance is spot-on perfect, serving up high-speed drifts that are easily controlled with the throttle.
The dual-clutch transmission shifts with no interruption in power; it's nothing like the old F1's brutal, neck-snapping full-throttle shifts. But I actually prefer the single-clutch transmission, at least until Ferrari's software engineers get around to a Version 2.0. Even though the dual-clutch box provides mostly seamless shifts, making for more comfortable driving, it's not quite as well programmed as the old F1 box, and a few glitches are apparent. (Read my blog on Transmissions for more detailed information about the Ferrari dual-clutch transmissions.)
Like all modern Ferraris, the California's suspension is able to filter out small road surface irregularities without compromising body control. Lateral body control (lean in corners) feels, from the cockpit, to be nonexistent, but the suspension does allow a lot of brake dive.