Ferrari California T HS

New Handling Speciale package adds extra spice

b y DA N TRENT

ENGINE 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8, DOHC, 32v / POWER 412kW @ 7500rpm / TORQUE 755Nm @ 4750rpm (in 7th) / WEIGHT 1730kg / 0-100KM/H 3.6sec (claimed) / PRICE $425,638

FERRARI offered a Handling Speciale package for the normally aspirated California back in 2012, upping power, sharpening handling and slicing weight from the carís aluminium structure.

Since then the California has gained a twin-turbo engine with 412kW and 755Nm, and the changes have been broadly welcomed.

Now the turbocharged California is established, Ferrari is again offering a Handling Speciale option, upping spring and damper rates, tweaking the F1-Trac stability control software and modifying the exhaust to unleash a more sporting character. A new matte silver grille and rear diffuser with black fences and exhaust tips characterise the HS. Thereís also a little plaque in the cabin.

Entry-level Ferrari or not, this is an extremely rapid car that deploys its huge turbocharged mid-range with devastating effectiveness. The steering is fast and light and the dualclutch automatic gearboxís shifts are anything from silky smooth to whipcrack fast, depending on whether you choose auto or manual shifts.

The standard ceramic brakes are mighty and easily modulated, so you can use what feels like a huge range of the performance at any time you please. Itís all very easy, though; if youíre looking for a demanding driverís Ferrari, this isnít it.

The California T is now more gregarious company, too, the new exhaust underscoring your every move whether you want it to or not.

Fun on a blast, itís borderline intrusive when youíre not in the mood, although the whistles and whooshes of forced induction add a level of sophistication.

The same can be said of the ride. Around town, you trade some composure over sharp-edged bumps for better body control and higher limits at speed. The difference between Comfort and Sport modes is much more pronounced than in the standard California T, in effect giving you two cars in one. But with the Handling Speciale package, the California T steps away from its GT roots and into a more sporting arena.

The emotive pull of the Ferrari badge will be enough for many considering a California T over rivals such as the Mercedes SL63 AMG or Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet.

The Germans are more technically advanced and have much slicker infotainment systems, but the Ferrari lives up to its frisky image.

The sacrifices in refinement mean you should ask yourself how youíd use your California T, though. If itís a day-to-day car for city posing, you might be better off with the generally plusher feel of the standard car. If, however, you crave attention or want a car that can be pushed harder on high days and holidays, the Handling Speciale package is an easy decision to make. M

STAR RATING 4.5

Like

F1-quick gearbox, high-speed stability, raucous exhaust

Dislike

Compromise of daily comfort for weekend speed