A Rare Mid-life Updo Comes To The Starter Ferrari Every time I travel to Maranello for a test drive, the three hours or so prior to turning the red key are driven in a U.S. Interstate-style straight line along Italy's A1 autostrada in my 99-horsepower 2001 Opel Astra station wagon with five-speed manual. It's just about the perfect antithetical setup for the unleashing of the hounds that awaits just over the hills south of Ferrari HQ. This trip over was for the midlife upgrade of the Ferrari California for our 2013 model year, a car that promises to weigh less, deliver more horsepower and torque, and go quicker. There is a generally agreed upon conversation about this upgrade that does not offend company authorities. The chat usually begins with admitting that the California is intentionally the softest Ferrari, has the least snappy steering and chassis dynamics, and is therefore most appealing to those new customers who want a Ferrari but who don't want a F-E-R-R-A-R-I. On that last point, the California has been a success; roughly 70 percent of the 8,000-plus units sold since the 2008 launch have gone to customers buying their first piece of Maranello. And the sales distribution has been fairly evenly parsed out, with 30 percent going to North America, 30 percent staying in Europe, 30 percent finding their way to Asia Pacific clients and the remaining 10 percent brightening driveways elsewhere. But after having listened to this discourse way too many times, Ferrari has developed a dynamically improved California. The A-Number-One issue to be addressed was the amount of body roll in tight turns taken with gusto. (The Italians refer to it as "rollio" with the accent on the i.) More responsive steering feel with more weight in it and new spring and damper settings to lessen lean were two key items on the list. From my Apennine drive time, I can unequivocally state that the steering is definitely less frou-frou now, particularly when buyers add the new $7,300 "Handling Speciale" setup – the amount of input needed for tight turns is diminished by nine percent. With the California pre-HS, I used to have to do a little hand-over-hand for all the hairpins on the exciting drive route I typically seek out for these day trips. Now I nearly don't have to do any. The $201,300 non-HS-enhanced California uses the same steering as before, but even it feels better now due to the greater punch from the powertrain and somewhat diminished roll in all those turns as a result of basic chassis modifications. So, yes, for the California HS you'd be paying around $208,600 base. In 2008, the first U.S.-bound California models had a base sticker of more like $194,000, but what's a few extra thou heaped on? Perhaps most importantly, the twin stacked exhaust tips on any new California crackle and burn beautifully like never before when pushed. The four-into-one manifolds suffer less backpressure than before, too, and much of the increased power is …
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|MPG||13 City / 19 Hwy|
|Transmission||7-spd auto-shift man w/OD|
|Power||483 @ 7750 rpm|
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