Ferrari California

The Pininfarina-styled Ferrari California  is the first ever front-engined and V8-powered chariot to wear the highly desired prancing horse badge. For the latest model year, Ferrari has updated this hardtop convertible with more power, a more aluminum-intensive chassis (resulting in a lower curb weight) and a new Handling Speciale package.

The California's direct-injected 4.3-liter V8 now makes 490 horsepower – an increase of 37 ponies - thanks to revised engine mapping and an upgraded exhaust manifold. Torque also grows from 357 lb-ft to 372 lb-ft.

All that power continues to be transmitted to the wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. This gearbox boasts shifts as quick as the automaker's earlier single-clutch gearboxes but with a much higher degree of refinement.

Reigning in the momentum generated by the above-mentioned partners in crime are standard carbon ceramic brakes at all corners, which also keep the forged alloy wheels clean of brake dust.

Weight reduction isn't typically part of a mid-cycle refresh, but latest California arrives 66 pounds trimmer than the outgoing model. As a result of that increased power and reduced weight, the California now takes just 3.8 second to sprint from 0-62 – an improvement of 0.2 seconds. Ferrari was able to realize that weight-savings by using “cutting-edge aluminum fabrication techniques and construction technologies” in the making of the California's Maserati-based chassis.

Interestingly, the California actually started life as a Maserati. It was developed under the codename M139 -- M for Maserati -- and was intended to complete Maserati's current lineup, giving the Italian Marque the Quattroporte sports sedan, the GranTurismo coupe and a hardtop convertible.

After Ferrari's 2005 split from Maserati, the prancing horse automaker decided to keep the M139 program entirely for itself. As a result, the California rides on the GranTurismo platform.

The California boasts a hardtop convertible design that reduces wind noise and creates a more coupe-like aesthetic in the upright position, though it does weigh more than a traditional fabric top. For extra versatility, this GT sports a pair of cramped back seats that are better utilized for carrying luggage than passengers.

The latest model year also sees the addition of a new Handling Speciale package to the California's option list. The handling package includes faster-acting Magnetorheological dampers, stiffer springs and a new steering box with a 10 percent quicker steering ratio.

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