Ferrari California T HS

Cali T sharpens up for harder-driving owners

by DYLAN CAMPBELL pics CRISTIAN BRUNELLI

ENGINE 3855cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo / POWER 412kW @ 7500rpm / TORQUE 755Nm @ 4750rpm / WEIGHT 1730kg / 0-100KM/H 3.6sec (claimed) / PRICE $425,638

STAR RATING

4.0

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Makes the Cali T seriously fun to drive

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Could have gone further with upgrades RE YOU a keen driver after a convertible V8 Ferrari, but can't quite stump up the $526,888 'base price' for the 488 Spider? Never fear, Ferrari is here with the $15,750 Handling Speciale package that promises to turn your cushy boulevard-cruising California T into something you want to take for a long, hard fang all for a relatively sharp $425,638.

While the engine is untouched, the 3.9-litre V8 still pumping out a stonking 412kW and 755Nm to slingshot the 1730kg two-plus-two, rear-drive Cali to 100km/h in a claimed 3.6 seconds, the Handling Speciale pack focuses on making the Cali T sit flatter, swap gears more emotionally and sound meaner.

Ferrari bumps up spring rates by 16 and 19 per cent front and rear and recalibrates the manettino's Sportmode dampers for a flatter cornering stance. Meanwhile the power-down A nannies have been fiddled, the revised F1-Trac now promising better traction out of bumpy corners. The sevenspeed dual-clutch auto has also had a once-over for more aggressive shifts in the same Sport mode.

On the aesthetic front, only those folk who climb trees beside the Fiorano circuit on weekdays would spot the Handling Speciale, some black accents giving the ghost away on the exterior and a few subtle badges in the interior.

And Ferrari has also sought to make the California T a little growlier with a new, much louder exhaust system.

Thumb the HS's steering wheel starter button and it gurgles to a rich, loud-and-fast idle that'll have your neighbours wishing you bought a Tesla. It sounds good.

Fast forward to the twisty road and there's no doubt that, for a keen driver, the extra $16K is money well spent (and pocket lint for most Ferrari customers). Not that the chassis was particularly wanting beforehand, but the pack helps subtly lift it to the powertrain's performance level and turns the Cali T into something you want to take far from your city's local neon strip all without destroying the ride, which is still quite lovely.

The only drama is, we think the pack hasn't gone far enough.

The cushy Cali T feels ripe for transformation into something sublime and the Handling Speciale pack, while offering a ride/handling balance more up our alley, leaves us wanting a tad more.

After a fast, hard drive, you'll be undoubtedly impressed by the sheer potency of this thing the powertrain is incredible and nodding at the way it sounds, but it's just as likely you'll be left with an aftertaste of 'if-onlys'.

The manettino's Sport mode is cruelly restrictive for a rear-driven sports car with a glut of tyre-frying

lowdown torque; if only the HS offered a 488-style, more lenient 'CT Off' setting. The exhaust sounds fantastic, and you'll be making regular detours for nearby tunnels, but this is probably what the standard Cali T should have got, and the HS should have come with an active exhaust button and an even naughtier bit of kit.

The HS is an impressive, satisfying corner carver but those 1730 kilos make it reasonably easy to exhaust the P-Zeros' front grip. If only it had slightly more focused rubber.

These things are brought into sharper focus by other areas of the car that excel. The brakes are so much more potent than the rest of the car, like they're off a 458 Speciale, delivering mind-blowing stop. The engine is addictively flexible pulling hard and linearly from 2500rpm all the way to its 7500rpm limiter. And the dual-clutch seven-speed swaps its well-judged ratios crisply with a menacing blip on the downchanges.

The HS pack makes the brilliant California T a more enticing gadget for people who love driving. In that way, it's nailed its brief. But they could have gone a little further and we wish they had. M

After a hard, fast drive, you'll be impressed by its potency but wondering 'if only'