Words: Niki Faulkner
We asked a professional driver to test out the new Ferrari California T HS
I have to be honest, I much prefer sports cars to grand tourers. It goes with the job, I suppose. So, I was intrigued when I was approached to review the new California T HS (Handling Speciale).
After all, this is a Ferrari with an improved handling package option that promises to be an even sportier proposition. To which end, the exhaust gets a redesigned silencer, pumping up the volume by 3dB, while the suspension has been cleverly reworked.
There are subtle exterior revisions, too. The front grille has a matt finish, as does the rear diffuser with the tailpipes in matt black. The rear end looks more defined and sporty, with the black exhausts and matt black fences (the vertical parts of the rear diffuser).
Inside, you feel instantly comfortable and know exactly where all the controls are. In a matter of seconds, you’re happy with your driving position, you’ve connected your phone to the media system and lowered the folding hard-top. It’s ergonomic but also very stylish.
The manettino on the steering wheel is my favourite switch. You can change the car’s attitude and settings with a simple turn from “comfort” to “sport” (or full “CST Off” for the kind of driving I do for a living).
Push the Start button that sits within the steering wheel and you immediately notice how the car wakes up with a deeper, more aggressive tone. This is thanks to the HS’s revised exhaust, with its geometry and silencers with two primary pipes. It all sounds more gruff, more purposeful.
The engine delivers the same 553hp and 755Nm of torque as the regular car, which is impressive in itself, but the sound it makes as the revs increase and the exhaust barks as you flick up through the gears is sensational.
This is one of those cars in which you’ll change gear for no other reason than to hear that gorgeous burble, pop and grumble.
My job usually involves pushing a car to (or often beyond) its capabilities, and I’m lucky enough to be on a closed road. For the first set of corners I leave the manettino in “sport” mode and the cornering grip is immediately impressive.
Re-apply the power and you can feel the rear settle down, supplying the power to the driven wheels and encouraging you to accelerate ever harder as you come out of the corner.
The steering loads up a little mid-corner, giving you better feel and allowing you to be more accurate with your inputs. But it’s still extremely comfortable.
The California T Handling Speciale is a car for drivers who like taking the scenic route, a car to have fun in, but equally one totally at ease when it comes to motorway or city driving.
Yes, there are lots of clever things going on with the gearbox, exhaust and damping, but really, you don’t need to worry too much about that. Far better instead to concentrate on enjoying the results of all this clever work. After all, that’s exactly what this Ferrari has been created for: enjoyment.