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2008 Ferrari California

red_cali.jpg

SPEX
Year: 2008
Host: GT5
Country: Italy
Class: Sports Car
Type: Coupe
 
Cost: 236,000 cr.
Mileage: 0.0
 
Construction: aluminum body over aluminum frame
Length: 179.65" // Width: 74.9" // Height: 51.5"
Wheelbase: 105.1"
Overhang: 6 feet 3 inches
Track: 64.2" [F] 63.2" [R]
Ground Clear:
Weight: 3,592 pounds
Wgt. Dist: 46/54
 
 
Layout: mid-engine / rear- drive
Tires: 245/40ZR-19 [F] 285/40ZR-19
F Suspension: dual wishbone, coils, shocks, anti-roll bar
R. Suspension: multilink, coils, shocks, anti-roll bar
Brakes: vented discs
 
Engine: 4.3 liter DOHC V8
Construction: aluminum block & heads
Aspiration: natural
Fuel Syst: direct injection
Valves / Cyl: 4
Bore x Stroke: a3.70" x 3.05"
Compression: 12.2:1
 
Starting Pwr: 439 @ 7,500
Strting Torqe: 344 @ 5,500
 
Credits per HP:
Pounds per HP:
Pnds per Torq:
Power per Liter:
 
Transmission: 7-speed manumatic
Differential: N/A
 
0-1/4 mile - 12.751
0-1 mile - 31.401

 0-60 mph - 4.347
0-100 mph - 9.606

 G-Force - 0.75 G

 Max Speed - 186.1 mph

 Daytona Lap - 52.262
 
 

EXTERIOR / INTERIOR / HISTORY---------------------------

The Ferrari California is a car which puts a lot of factors into one place. It is fast, very fast. It's a head-turner. It is made so you can get some babe action, no matter if you look like Brad Pitt, or if you look like a troll. In a way, this car is the ultimate chick-magnet ... it is designed to impress chicks, yet it's not really a chick car. Two seats, top down, foot to the floor, magic. There you go, now you got it all. If you can't get laid in a Ferrari California, maybe it's time to go to some single's night wearing a disguise.  
 
The California is an enigma for me personally though. It is one of the many cars I fantasized over when I was a kid, for instance. Well, I fantasized about the the original California, not the 2008 that's the focus of this review. The original was based on the Ferrari 250, a model which goes all the way back to the 1950s. There were many different 250s; the Europa GT, the Monza, the Testa Rossa, the GTO which inspired Pontiac's GTO, and a half-dozen or so others. Some 250s were rag tops, others were coupes, and others purer GTs. The California was one variant of these, and was known officially as the 250 California Spyder GT, but we can shorten this to "California" to make things convenient.

 
Most members of the 250 line were 2-seater sports cars, designed and built for rich people who wanted to have the very best. The California seems as though it catered more toward those who want to be seen driving the very best. Its name is a huge hint, as many Californias were destined to head toward that southwestern corner of America where a lot of people love being seen. Since this car was so rare, those who managed to afford one knew they wouldn't ever have one of those awkward moments in which his or her car winds up being just another example, seen all over Malibu or Marina Del Rey.
 
No doubt the California was fast, no doubt it was a Ferrari, but it was also a somewhat more luxurious Ferrari than other 250s. Like I said, it's a car (one of many) which I found myself drooling over as a child, looking at some automotive picture-books.

The modern California continues this trend. It's a car many will no-doubt drool over, and a car which is made to be seen in. "Hey everyone, look at me!  Aren't I gorgeous? AND I'm in a gorgeous car! Ha! Which is more gorgeous, me or my car?"   The California's engine is bigger, its profile arguably just as beautiful as the original. It's got a paddle-shifted 7-speed transmission, with a dual-clutch just waiting for our commands, not a messy gear-grinder like the original California had. It's got more power, an impressive interior full of hand-stitching, and just about everything a Hollyweird socialite could ask for. And as we shall see, this is one of those modern sports GTs which does almost everything I ask for. 
 
So, considering all that's been said so far, why am I not so impressed with this one?   
 
Yes, there it is. I love and still drool over the original 250 version of this car, but am "not so impressed" by the newer-generation one. And why?  Well for one thing, there's a lot of weight going on, close to 3,600 pounds of it. Weight is something we cannot avoid in most modern sports cars, and it's partially because 'most modern sports cars' are not just sports cars anymore. They are comfort zones. They are hot-spots. They are also definitely chick magnets. They try to do too much, evidenced by the folding hard-top contraption this one's got, so we get the best of both worlds: air in our hair if we want it, a literal cocoon if we don't. The original 250 would never dream of any of this nonsense. 
 
Many modern sports cars also often cater toward safety, whereas a car like the 250 GT California from the '60s could give a crap about safety. You crash?  Too bad, that's how it goes. You survive your crash?  Now you have a daily reminder, that it was YOU just destroyed an $11,000,000 vehicle, assuming you are the one who recently bought that '61 at Pebble Beach.
 
One of the things which bugs me about this car is its freekin' smile. Yes, it's a good-looking car, and yes it's definitely fun to watch in replays. I love the shape of this one, and its quad-exhaust pipes, sticking right out of this one's rear quarter panels. Like most expensive Italian machines, the California is a work-of-art-in-motion, but the constant grin of its grille is annoying. It reminds me of all the Chris Bangle-designed BMWs out there nowadays; it just look so freeking happy, and artsy-fartsy. STOP IT! stop smiling, stupid car!    
 
As we'll see later on, the California is packed with pounds, yet it does manage to handle itself just fine despite these pounds. But these pounds are also felt, even virtually they are noticed. Another demerit, especially in comparison to the original Cali.  
 
 
 

california_racing.jpg

ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN---------------

When the second-generation California made its debut, enthusiasts were enthusiastic, and reviewers impatiently waited their for their chances to review, and there were two major reasons for this (outside of the obvious return of the 'California' name). Number one was this car's engine, and number two was its drivetrain.
 
This was the first Ferrari to feature a V8 in a front/rear configuration, and also the first to feature direct injection, a technology which places fuel into each cylinder directly, rather than passively before a set of intake valves. This adds better fuel efficiency, and better fuel efficiency adds more power. Direct injection was all the rage toward the end of the 2000s, and Ferrari must have been glad to jump on this bandwagon, ensuring that they too were keeping up with the times.
 
And then there's the transmission, which is a paddle-shifted dual-clutch 7-speed. Again, keeping up with the rest. Power, to be commanded from your fingertips, basically in microseconds. "The new Ferrari California will satisfy even the most demanding of owners in term of its superb vehicle dynamics and driving pleasure," wrote an unidentified author over at Supercars.net.  

And the thing is, all of this sounds wonderful. The car must be a blast to drive in real-life, but how about virtually? Let's start with my rather prosaic opinion about the noises it makes. 

It pains me to be the one to have to write this, and as far as I know I'm the only one who seems to feel this way. But so far, I've been very unimpressed with the "voice" of this one. As the Cali's V engine rises in revs, the sound of those pistons and valves can barely be discerned. It just becomes one giant blare of "noise" once this car's over 5,000. Even the Cizetta's robotic purring (or the NSX's mechanical pinging in earlier games) blows the Cali away, so far as identity and uniqueness are concerned. I never thought I'd ever be tempted to describe a Ferrari's engine / exhaust note as "generic".

And this goes for any aftermarket exhaust parts too. For some reason, the California just doesn't do it for me. Sure, some may say 'who cares about the way it sounds?' but to me, this topic is important. The noises a car makes are part of what gets my adrenaline moving, and this is part of why I still play Gran Turismo as I'm nearing the age of 50.

Speaking of moving, oh yes, this car does move. No doubt about that. It's a Ferrari, after all. BMW and Mercedes may be toying with a few slugs here and there, dealing with the baser levels of autodom with their 1 Series and A160, but not Ferrari. Zero to sixty in 4.3 seconds. Zero to 100 in just over twelve. 400 meters in just over twelve and a half. These are the sort of numbers which speak for themselves. This car does like to move. 

.. But so do a lot of other cars, other cars which offer more. Not necessarily more power, not necessarily more speed. I'm talking about one element, a very crucial element, which is missing from the California as it stands in our racing game.  

CHASSIS / HANDLING-----------------------------

...What I am talking about is passion. Not speed, and not power, and certainly not looks.
 
It's the one thing we've all heard, all our lives. Not just about Ferraris, but about Italian sports cars in general. They've got this passion, this liveliness, about them. They're made to be driven, and driven hard, but they also have this ability to communicate some sort of magic. They offer plenty of communication and feedback: sometimes lovely, sometimes frightening, sometimes painful. They are temperamental and moody. They have good sides, but they also have bad sides. I get the sense of all this when I drive a Ferrari 512BB, for instance. This car, even virtually, is mercurial, impatient, fiery, and unpredictable. The 512 feels just like a prancing horse at times. The 512 feels dangerous. Its action is constant, and its rewards take split-second reflexes and patience. I imagine all of this is also true of the original California too. 
 
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the modern California is passionless. It does have some life, it does lift the driver's spirit, while raising a few smiles and grimaces. But it also feels rather 'softened', it feels like it's more coddling than any Ferrari from the good old days. It feels like a car made for the sort of people I imagine who drive it nowadays. The sort of driver who thinks a "hairpin" is only something that's used to hold his toupee. The sort of driver who's more interested in how "connected" a car is (in the sense that his phone calls won't get dropped) than how connected it is to the road. I'm not saying this car is bad at handling, or dull to drive. It certainly can hold its own.
 
And that, to me, is part of the problem.

 Let's do some cornering. Firstly, the brakes are amazing. All these cars nowadays are made to go fast, but they're nothing without a good set of stoppers, and this car knows how to stop just as well as it knows how to go. The brakes in this car are completely trustworthy,  stability is always a given. So let's stop right there. "Given" used with "stability" are two words you wouldn't see to describe an older Ferrari from the 250's day, right?  Nowadays, there is simply no excuse not to have brakes on an expensive car which don't do their job, and do them well. We can't fudge on this, and I'm not suggesting that we do.

But it goes beyond that. Braking while turning, for instance. An older sports car (not just Ferrari) needs you to get it right, when it comes to trail-braking. They need YOU to know what you're doing, or else. You get this sense of caution, but are rewarded once you finally figure things out. The California of this review, however, has none of this. It feels more like a BMW 5-series than a sports car, when it comes to cornering inwards while braking. Is this bad? Of course it isn't. But we're not dealing with a high-strung horse here, which needs its rider to really be in command.          

The California, as I drove and raced it at High Speed Ring, Daytona, and Nürburgring GP/F (Supercar Festival yet again) has all the right elements for a modern sports car. There's a tendency for light understeer mid-turn if too much throttle is re-introduced for instance, which is expected in a front-engine car with smaller tires up front than in the rear. Understeer shows up on occasion, but it's more of a limit than an overwhelming burden, and it's not too difficult to make it go away. Completely expected. This car can also lift-off to varying degrees once brakes or gas are removed, so if you want a tighter line through some turns, this is on our list of possibilities. 

Throttlesteer is also possible, assuming you kick the Cali into the right position just after braking is over. Actually, it's this car's light throttlesteering action that I look forward to the most, because it's mostly predictable, but it takes some configuring to make happen. Getting deep into some turn, giving (let's say) half-throttle, and then feeling the entire car start to twist inwards with a variable amount of throttlesteer is golden.   

But there's the bad stuff, like the overall traction this one offers. No, not loss-of-traction, but actual TRACTION. Traction is this car's best (and worst) feature in a way. It's hard to break for one thing, once we've got anything better than hard sport tires equipped. When it does break, it's the sort of rear-end action which feels patented, and just a little too predictable. ...  Which is great for reliably scooting out of turns, don't get me wrong. Your lap times will not suffer. But it's the feel of those lap times which might make you wonder what else there is to drive eventually. And once we've removed those hards for softs (tires, that is), this just about erases any sort of latent question marks we've got left.    
 
This car does not really feel very passionate and "Ferrariesque" because of these factors. I mean, I'm nearing 500 horsepower in this one at both "ring" tracks, and yes this car can handle all 500 of those horses at once, but where are the surprises?
 
Where's the surprises?  Where's the question marks? The endless tuning efforts? This car is somewhat passionate, but this passion feels watered-down, and just a little too safe. Where's the blood-boiling? The sudden sideways slips?  The goosebumps? Where are those "uh-oh" moments?  
 
Sorry to say, this car just doesn't offer what I expected. Maybe because it's a Ferrari, there are some preconceptions going on here, that's very possible. So keep that in mind if everything I just wrote in these last few paragraphs makes you disagree.   
 
 

PROS-----------------------
 
1). One of those modern sports cars that does everything right, well, almost everything.
 
2). Lots of power. Though there are no turbos for this one, the promise of over 600 horses still looms.  
 
3). Want a good-looking vehicle? We've got a typically-striking design from Pinninfarina, waiting to please. This is one of those cars .... even an unshaven alcoholic bum could look like a million bucks behind the wheel of a California. 
 
4). Heritage (and the California name) running back to the early 1960s, for those who care. 
 
5). All the right stuff, so far as handling, goes. Lots of traction, lots of grip, and therefore lots of options. Those tenths will be removed from your lap times.
 
6). Though games GT5 (and later games) offer paint jobs for any car, it's still nice to have a full spectrum of twenty-seven colors to choose from the Ferrari dealer itself.
 
7). Paddle-shifted, computer-controlled transmission. Though I loathe 'em, most people love 'em. It is nice having seven gears, and having the ability to use all seven of them, too. At a variety of different tracks, this one works just fine.  
 
8). Lots and lots of RPMs. The tachometer is placed dead-center in that dash cluster too, which is all kinds of wonderful. 
 
9). Confidence-inspiring brakes.
 
10). An overall confidence as well. Though I complained a lot during  this article, one of the best things about this car is its ability to be driven hard, with minimal consequences.   
      
 
CONS-------------------------------------
 
1). The California is one of the dullest modern sports car I've ever driven. Never thought I'd say the words "dullest" and Ferrari in the same sentence with the word "is" as a verb. Just did, though. Never any real surprises in this one. Everything's a little too safe, a little too comfortable.     
 
2). Poor visibility. The driver's-side  mirror  is completely off-screen, while the center mirror is nearly useless. Who's behind me?  Turn my head, I can barely see past the giant hump that's storing the frickin' hard top.  
 
3). Expensive. Yeah, what Ferrari isn't?  Still, though...
 
4). No turbos.
 
5). Unimpressive sounds from that engine, especially once we're over six grand, which is where we'll be spending most of our time. No tonalities at all, just one giant blare of noise. Oddly, this car sounds much better in replays (from a distance) than it does while being driven.
 
6). Too heavy.
 
7). Too happy.
 
8). Occasional understeer. 
 
9). And too many gears. Though this one's box is versatile, it's all too easy to wind up in 4th when 3rd would have made a better choice. And this car's small block hasn't got the grunt a torquier V8 would offer in those lower revs.
 
 
Published: March 30, 2016        
 
 
 
   



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