Driven: 2010 Ferrari California

The California looks best in darker colors, which help hide its homely rear end. The stacked exhaust pipes supposedly made more room for underbody airflow management, but they're not pretty. I also don't care for the frowning horizontal opening that contains the supplemental rear lights. Fortunately, the front of the California is far better resolved, although the car appears tall and narrow, rather than having the wide and low stance that one expects from a sports car. The long front overhang is very reminiscent of the Maserati GranTurismo, a more elegantly styled piece of automotive jewelry. As always, styling is subjective-you might look at the photos and love it.

Visibility to the rear is acceptable, and what can't be seen is detected by standard parking sensors. The trunk is easily large enough, at least with the roof up, to accommodate a large suitcase. The California's rear seats are 911-sized (meaning two things: the same size as the back seats in a Porsche 911, and that you'd have to dial 9-1-1 to have emergency personnel extract any adult who tries to squeeze into the back.) The rear seats can be replaced with a beautifully finished cargo shelf at no cost, but in either configuration, the space can be used for additional storage, and the California even offers a trunk pass-through for long items.

All of the usability means the California can easily be driven daily, and for long distances. That is, of course, the very purpose of a Gran Turismo. This Ferrari is a few programming issues short of true perfection-but the important stuff is all there. The California hits 60 mph in about four seconds, tears up back roads with impeccable balance, and cruises quietly, smoothly, and comfortably. It's an F430 with a Vulgarity Reduction Program, which is exactly what Ferrari set out to achieve and exactly what its buyers will expect. People like me will still prefer an F430, but those of sound mind, body, and pocketbook needn't look past the California in their search for a Maranello masterpiece.

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