2015 Ferrari California T joy ride

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Swimming pools, movie stars, things that end in the number 5. California means a lot of things to a lot of people but to Ferrari, it means grand touring.

In the latest installment of the Italian automaker's long-running love affair with the Golden State, the California is a 2+2 hardtop convertible--what Ferrari calls the ultimate grand touring car. Six years into its model run, it's received some gratifying updates, not the least of which is a twin blast of turbocharging to pull its performance numbers out of the scintillating range, firmly into the category of outrageous.

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Is there any better excuse to grab the red-lacquered key to a new California T and head for the high desert for a weekend-long joy ride?

California, to the T

Grand touring? Isn't Ferrari supposed to be sports cars? Yes, but who says you can't have a little of both?

The California was new in 2009 and it was built specifically for people who get a chill up their back from the wail of a classic V-8--but don't want to corner at ten-tenths every day. That's why the California has four seats, even if two of them are pretty skimpy. Why it has a folding hardtop. Why it has a paddle-shifted, clutch-pedal-free transmission. Why it has things like cupholders, a usable trunk, a stereo with more speakers than the car has cylinders.

This year it gets a round of touch-ups that make it a much better car—more of a Ferrari than ever. For starters, the California T looks sleeker than before. The proportions aren’t as menacing as a 458, but what is? The retouched front and rear end mask the tall tail a little better, and the spare grille is once again a thing of beauty, framed by reshaped headlights that claw their way up the fenders, like they're being peeled away from the car by the sheer speed it generates.

You see, what really upconverts the California into a T is power. The original California hustled by with a naturally aspirated 4.3-liter V-8 with 453 horsepower and 358 pound-feet of torque. Now the California has a 3.8-liter V-8 with twin turbochargers that whistle out a cool 552 horsepower, that prowess marked by a touch-sensitive gauge on the dash that toggles between boost and efficiency. Yes, the California T gets better gas mileage with the downsized engine, but it also puts out a massive 556 pound-feet of torque--almost 50 percent more than before.

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It feels more alive now, from the guttural bark that accompanies astonishing low-end power to the very faint whistle of the turbos when the right-pedal travel hits its maximum. Just listen to it whuffle at low rpm, then blast into a quintessential Ferrari soundtrack, and any fears about the aural effects of forced induction melt away, along with some tread.

If you think Ferraris should only have gated shifters, you’re behind the times. This one comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, and it’s fantastic to paddle through the gears. Pair it with the vigorously retuned powertrain, and the California T arrows its way to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds by Ferrari estimates, and guns for a top speed of more than 195 mph.

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