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With the introduction of the Ferrari California, the venerable sports car manufacturer brought to market a number of firsts for the brand. The California featured Ferrari’s first retractable hardtop, the first application of a front-engine powertrain incorporating a V8 engine (all previous front-engine Ferrari models used V12 engines), the first seven-speed twin-clutch semi-manual transmission, and the first application of a multilink rear suspension system.

For all of this to be introduced to the world on the “entry-level” Ferrari model is even more remarkable. Considered by many to be more of a Grand Touring car than an all-out sports car like the mid-engined 458 Italia, the California was introduced in 2009—as a 2010 model. Power comes courtesy of a 4.3-liter V8 generating 460 horsepower and 357 ft-lbs of torque. Ferrari quotes zero to 60 at four seconds—which is pretty sharp for any car; grand touring or otherwise.

The engine can be equipped with start/stop technology, a variable fuel pump, a smart cooling fan, and smart transmission programming—all in an effort to reduce fuel consumption. Ferrari calls this the HELE system (High Emotion Low Emissions). Hey, we don’t name them, we just report on them—OK?

The roof is made of aluminum and can be stowed away or fully deployed in about 14 seconds.  When the roof is stowed, the interior on view is upholstered in fine Italian leather. Further, it’s a 2 +2, although the back seats are really best left to very young children, and even that application is stretching the reality of the situation a bit.

Comfort and convenience items include bi-xenon headlights, a full leather interior, a folding rear seatback (for added cargo capacity—yes, the roof eats into the trunk when it is folded away), Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming, a more powerful sound system and a touchscreen navigation system. Optional kit includes a choice of 19- or 20-inch wheels, a fitted luggage set, a magnetic suspension system, and smart headlights.

And while this may well be considered the “luxury” Ferrari, acceleration, braking, cornering and the like are all solidly into the realm of the expected performance parameters one brings to an encounter with any car wearing the Stallion Rampante. The real beauty of the Ferrari California, aside from its shapely bodywork and gorgeous interior is the fact the car readily permits drivers to enjoy all of the attributes of Ferrari ownership, while also driving a car with a comfortable ride and a civilized demeanor.

In other words, with the Ferrari California, you can both have a luxurious convertible and drive a Ferrari too.