Geneva Motor Show: Ferrari returns to turbocharging with California T

It’s back to the future for venerated sports car builder Ferrari. The Italian automaker has announced a heavily refreshed base model -- now known as the California T -- will bring turbocharging back to its street cars for the first time since 1992.

The updated hardtop convertible will officially break cover at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show in early March. When it does, it will use turbocharging for the same reason the technology is the darling of the rest of the automotive universe: power goes up while fuel use goes down.

The last time a street-legal Ferrari used such technology was the F40 supercar (ancestor of the F50, Enzo, and LaFerrari), which was last sold in 1992. More than two decades later, even Ferrari isn’t immune to increasingly strict fuel economy and emissions regulations around the globe.

PHOTOS: Ferrari's new California T

Since the California is Ferrari’s biggest seller (being the cheapest prancing horse helps), any increase in efficiency to the model has a meaningful effect on the brand’s overall numbers. So when it came time to overhaul the car, in went the turbo.

The engine in question in the new California T is a direct-injected, twin-turbocharged V-8. It wrings an impressive 553 horsepower and 557 pound-feet of torque out of 3.9 liters. That’s a jump of 70 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque over that outgoing naturally-aspirated V-8.

A zero-to-62 mph run flies by in 3.6 seconds, top speed is 196 mph, and the new California T does this while managing to be 15% more efficient than its predecessor. The car also gets a new steering box, an updated traction control system, and a retuned magnetic suspension that is 50% faster, according to Ferrari.

These updates are wrapped in a sleek new body designed by longtime Ferrari collaborator Pininfarina. The California T tones down the previous model’s catfish face in favor of a look similar to the rest of the current lineup (FF, 458, and F12).

The rear of the car has also been tweaked, doing away with some of the earlier version’s bulbousness. The quadruple tailpipes have also been rearranged to a more traditional horizontal layout.

When the Ferrari California T is unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show on March 4, it will put an exclamation point on a very good year for the brand. The company announced Tuesday revenues were up 5% last year, net profit climbed 5.4% to 246 million euro ($338 million based on current conversion rates), and cash flow was at an all-time high.

This growth came despite Ferrari’s planned reduction in the number of cars it builds to leverage the exclusivity and value of the brand. The U.S. remains the largest market for the automaker, with just over 2,000 new Ferrari’s landing in customer’s garages in 2013.


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