Ferrari turns to turbo for new California

Ferrari has introduced its first turbocharged model in more than 25 years in a clear bid to meet more stringent fuel use targets, and lifestyle-focused customers will be the big winners.

An almost clean-sheet remake of its lifestyle-focused hard-top convertible, the California, introduces a turbo mounted to a Maserati-sourced V8 engine to pump up power and torque figures over the outgoing model but lower official emission and fuel use figures significantly.

It's not 100 per cent focused on performance on the racetrack, it's more about being a day to day Ferrari.

The California T, as it is known, traces its lineage back to the original California, the feted 1957 250 GT. It was relaunched in 2008 and helped the company reach a new audience looking for a relaxed grand tourer rather than a hardcore racer.

Ferrari Australasia CEO Herbert Appleroth proudly proclaims that 70 per cent of California buyers were first-time Ferrari owners.

Greater lifestyle focus

“It brought in a whole new younger, different owner to the Ferrari experience,” he says. “They're far more GT (grand tourer) focused, they're far more 'lifestyle' about the versatility of the car, the functionality, as well as of course the style, elegance and the sexiness of the vehicle.”

Its focus on eating up lazy road miles rather than churning frenetic track ones meant the outgoing California model inspired its owners to rack up 50 per cent more mileage than owners of other Ferrari models. With more stringent fuel use requirements being enforced even at this stratospheric level, fuel use was put squarely on the company's agenda and sourcing more efficient turbocharged power became a top priority.

“It's just the right time, it's the right car,” Appleroth explains. “Obviously the performance you're able to get relative to the efficiency – 70 horsepower (52kW) more, yet 15 per cent less emissions, and 20 per cent less consumption.

“To be getting so much more performance with less consumption is quite an incredible outcome from our engineers.”

Faster, more frugal

The focus on lowering emissions – to an impressive official figure on 10.5 litres per 100km – and the promotion of the new California T's lifestyle aspirations is not to suggest owners will be anything but impressed with its performance pedigree.

With 412 kilowatts and 755 Newton metres of torque, 100km/h arrives in just 3.6 seconds courtesy of an F1-style launch control program, and 200km/h – if you do take it to a racetrack – comes up in just 11.2 seconds.

Ferrari claims it has completely nullified the lag that blights many a turbocharged car, proclaiming lightning-fast shifting via a seven-speed “F1” dual-clutch gearbox.

There's also a good dose of lifestyle-friendly practicality – by Ferrari standards, at least. The 2+2 layout can accommodate two (very) small children in the compact rear seat, or double as luggage space. The rear seats even fold down to reveal a small opening to the 340-litre boot (240L with the roof stowed) that means a golf set or skis can be accommodated.

“It's not 100 per cent focused on performance on the racetrack, it's more about being a day to day Ferrari, which has never been done before,” Appleroth says.

When less is more

With global production volume capped at 7000 new Ferraris per year – a target it can easily reach – the company's focus shifts from selling more cars to creating greater exclusivity around the brand, as well as promoting “the Ferrari experience”.

“What our focus is, and it's a direction that comes from our chairman, Mr Montezemolo, is that exclusivity is paramount for Ferrari. So he's capped our global production at 7000 units,” Appleroth says.

“We're not chasing volume, we're chasing experiences. We want to speak to our customers more, engage with them more, give them an experience they've never had before, build an exclusive relationship with them, rather than outright volume.”

Building the passion

Earlier this year the company's major local event, Ferrari Racing Days, drew 2500 fans of the brand and more than 200 Ferraris to the Sydney Motorsport Park.

“The general public could see all our Formula 1 cars and really build that passion, like I did when I was a schoolboy,” Appleroth says.

“That's part of what we're here to do, is to the build the passion, the 'Ferraristi' of the future and that happens with these events.

“We're building big events, but also exclusive events. It may be taking a select number of clients to Italy to give them a premium experience at our factory and racing on our racetrack, or giving them food and wine experiences. It's about opening activities they've never had before.”

There are limitations to Ferrari's new-found enthusiasm for lifestyle products, though – there are no plans in the foreseeable future to follow well-heeled competitors Maserati and Bentley into the SUV market.

“We'd never say never, but absolutely our focus is on two-door, two-seat or four-seat super-premium sports cars that are top of the class when it comes to performance and style and technology,” he says.

The new California T arrives next month in Ferrari dealerships and retails for $409,888 (excluding on-road costs).

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