Rarely does a vehicle nameplate double as its dynamic assessment but with the Ferrari California T Handling Speciale package the $15,750 addition of the ‘HS’ tag does so emphatically.
Swapping out 4.3-litre atmo V8 for 3.9-litre turbo V8 last year – as shared with the mid-engined 488 GTB – traded some revability for a gobful of extra speed with the Ferrari California T. That isn’t a one-dimensional replacement, though, because nobody does turbocharged throttle response quite like Ferrari.
Thanks to ‘torque staging’ that keeps the 755Nm torque figure under wraps until 4750rpm in seventh gear, there is a combination of linearity and surging response that is unmatched. It feels as quick as its 3.6sec 0-100km/h claim, and yet the $425,638 HS is friendly to drive fast.
Thanks to a heavy tin lid that tucks away in its bottom, it weighs 1729kg – 309kg more than a 488 GTB. It doesn’t feel heavy though, and only in the tightest corners does it begin to wince when attempting to adjust its line on the throttle.
That HS package includes firmer suspension but, despite spring rates rising 16 per cent front and 19 per cent rear, the T’s flat-pointing front end staggers most. It also offers the same creamy steering as every other modern Fazz only with a fraction lost motion just off centre.
The standard carbon ceramic brakes pull the roadster up with conviction, and the HS-retuned stability control is liberal to a reasonable point.
The HS pack’s quicker gearchanges are noticeable when paddleshifter-slapping the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic around and the gearbox permits downchanges that throw the tachometer right up to its 7500rpm redline (also its 412kW peak).
Less convincing is the HS pack’s unique exhaust that drones too much with the top down. Throw the roof up and more of the V8’s sweet growl starts to come through the firewall.
Yet for all its special handling, this Ferrari manages to be that California cruiser as well. In Bumpy Road mode – yes, its real name – its adaptive suspension is silken. It is easy to get into, luxuriously padded and kids can even sit in the back.
The California T HS may not be as intensely focused on dynamics as the mid-engined Ferrari coupe that sits just above it in the range, but its depth of ability remains as impressive in its own right.
4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
LIKE: Excellent steering, ride and handling, epic engine
DISLIKE: Exhaust drone dominates roof down
Engine: 3902cc V8, dohc, 32v, turbo
Power: 412kW @ 7500rpm
Torque: 755Nm @ 4750rpm
0-100km/h: 3.6sec (claimed)