There are certain memories, so visceral and emotional the experience, which forever find themselves imprinted into memory. We’re adding a recent weekend trip to Sonoma, Calif. where we got to partake in the annual Ferrari Challenge 2015 and having an opportunity to drive our very first Ferrari – the 2015 California T. Even weeks later since this long weekend with arguably Ferrari’s most refined ride, we still find ourselves daydreaming about the open road and the responsive performance of an automobile designed to go very, very fast…yet engineered with the civility of a daily driver.
One could easily make the assumption the “T” in the 2015 Ferrari California T name stands for “touring”, when in fact the single letter designates the brawny twin-turbocharged V8 heart of this grand touring vehicle. Over the span of a weekend we got to know the Pininfarina designed car, inside and out, taking it across the bucolic hills of Sonoma, deep into wine country where the Italian stallion revealed both to be equal parts beauty and beast, yesterday’s proven mechanics with today’s modern day amenities.
The beautiful side profile of the new California T leans back heavy, the car inspired by the aerodynamic sleek muscularity of the 250 Testa Rossa; eyes will follow the front wing line which stretches back towards the compact rear cockpit with just enough aggressive personality accentuated with air intakes to feed the car’s turbo intercooler. Dressed in a specially formulated Rosso California hue, the combination of the car’s lines and rich color did a noticeable job of stretching a few necks during our highway adventures whether in motion or parked street side (Instagrams aplenty!).
The interior steers away from unnecessary complications, tastefully and simply appointed with an array of tactile controls (only the steering wheel seems cluttered, but one becomes quickly acquainted and comfortable with the selection of buttons and switches within thumbs reach) complemented by sumptuous hand-stitched, posterior-hugging leather inside the two-tone cabin. F1 gear shift paddles are easy to use in Auto mode, but even better when switched to the driver’s whims where the engine’s more beastly attributes can be summoned (we had to watch out about pushing the engine too much, noting a heavy police presence during the Ferrari-centric weekend).
A few digital upgrades have been integrated inside the cockpit, including an up-and-center digital tap and touch screen turbo boost gauge with a 6.5″ touchscreen entertainment and cabin control center. Peering through the steering wheel to the left an additional screen displays driving mode; toggling between Sport and Comfort using the Manettino switch at the bottom right of the wheel can get a little “video game” addictive. But in the end the Prancing Horse retains all the uniquely physical force and feedback of a company with a philosophy cemented with motivating the senses by touch, sound, and sight rather than trying to impress with distracting displays. It’s too easy to forget all the digital amenities when the thrill of instantaneous torque at any speed is available – sans turbo lag – the danger of quickly feeling a 100mph doesn’t feel dangerously fast while inside a vehicle designed to go almost twice that amount at its maximum (196mph, to be exact).
When we weren’t driving the California T over the Ferrari Challenge weekend, we stopped in to to enjoy our first GT Racing competition, admiring the abilities of more professionally equipped drivers capable of reigning in the abilities of the Ferrari 458 Challenge EVO around the Sonoma Raceway. The chorus of these engines whizzing by can be physically and harmonically felt.
We won’t say how fast we took the car over the weekend, but it was fast enough to know Ferrari did its part in meeting the expectations – and obligations – which come attached with the iconic emblem of the Prancing Horse, all surprisingly wrapped with the comfortable demeanor of a grand touring ride imaginably drivable as a car for more mundane tasks…at least for those fortunate enough to have a bank account to meet such dreamed aspirations.
* Special thanks to Morgan Theys of Ferrari North America