The California has always been a very fast car but this new turbo engine is something of a monster. It's not so much the 560ps/552bhp as the 557lb ft of torque that makes the difference in the T version, up from 372lb ft in the original. The SL63 AMG has even more grunt but, with its traditional transaxle layout, the California has much better weight distribution. This means the Handling Speciale modifications - stiffer springs, revised Magneride adaptive dampers and faster shifts from the dual-clutch gearbox – have a fundamentally strong base to work from. The HS package makes the switch from Comfort to Sport mode more decisive; this combined with natural balance, quick steering and superb damping making it easy to enjoy that huge performance.
Ferrari stood to lose most with the industry-wide move to turbocharged engines and has worked very hard to maintain the character of its engines in the forced induction age. The Handling Speciale's heavily modified exhaust system unleashes more noise and the ride is a little more brittle around town but if you want to keep comfort and refinement you can stick with the standard model. For those moments when you're roof down on a deserted mountain road in the Italian hills the Handling Speciale's added poise really lives up to the dream of an open top Ferrari sports car. That it can offer a sense of that with the roof up on a rainy commute into central London is its real masterstroke. Snobs may still dismiss it as a poser's Ferrari. But the Handling Speciale mods offer real substance to back up the style.
Price tag of our car
(£155,230 for standard California T, plus £5,568 Handling Speciale package)