2012 Ferrari California Review


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2012 Ferrari California Overview

Ever since its release, people have criticized the California for being the "beginner’s Ferrari." Statistics showing the majority of California owners are first-time Ferrari buyers certainly did nothing to dispel such thoughts. So what to do? If you’re Ferrari, you take the new influx of cash and use it to make the California faster, lighter and more nimble.

Sadly, that won’t happen just yet, and for all those adjustments you’ll have to wait for your 2013 order to come in, or move to Europe where the changes take effect this year. If 2012 was where you landed in the Pininfarina prairie, you won’t be left without attention however, as the California picks up a 7-year maintenance warranty.

So no corrections to the hefty rear end or the dearth of cylinders up front, but even with just a 4.3-liter, 450-hp V8 under the hood, you should still be able to motivate around just fine. It will take just 4 seconds to reach 60 mph, and should you have the inclination and the space, 193 mph can be attained.

True Ferrari or not, those are impressive numbers for a car weighing nearly 2 tons. Look to fuel efficiency for more appropriate figures for its weight class—13 mpg city/19 highway, and even that will require premium fuel. Of course, such considerations are verboten topics of conversation amongst Ferrari faithful, as are Teutonic turns of phrase. Pardon me. Discussions of money and efficiency are crass, as evidenced by a "beginner" anything that costs nearly $200K.

But even beginner Ferraris come with plenty of F1 tech, like the 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual and the traction control system. No love for the traditional 6-speed manual. F1 cars don’t use them, Ferrari is eager to remind, so Ferraris don’t have them. No word on how many F1 cars have folding metal hardtops…

Only the most cynical among us can complain about the double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, though. And what nits are there to pick regarding the ventilated ceramic brakes in 15.4- and 14.2-inch sizes, front and rear? Of course, one could argue such a setup was needed for this portly offering.

F1 boasting aside, the California is a driver’s car, and it doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of comfort or convenience, symbolic rear seat aside. You get leather and trim in your choice of color and material combination, a hard drive for storage and upgraded navigation—although it’s still the same Chrysler unit with a bow and some silver paint. Silk and sow's ears come to mind.

Because the engine is up front, you still get a proper trunk. Twelve cubic feet of trunk if you’re the measuring sort, although the top will take up one-third of that if you like the sun on your bald spot.

For now, we’ll have to look to Europe to see if some extra power and a little less weight will make a big difference in the beginner’s Ferrari. To be sure, it’s not going to affect the California's already healthy sales. Attitudes are a different story, however, and the memory of Ferrari-philes is long indeed.


A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.

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