2014 Ferrari California

The Pininfarina-designed California is the oldest member of the Ferrari family. Designed to lure new buyers into showrooms, the convertible was hailed as the first front-mid-engined, V8-powered sports car to wear the iconic Prancing Horse badge on its hood when it made its debut.

Don't let the California's age immediately discredit it as a serious competitor in the segment. Built entirely out of aluminum, the droptop is powered by a 4.3-liter direct-injected V8 engine that sends 490 horsepower and 372 lb-ft. of torque to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The eight-cylinder is capable of propeling the California from zero to 62 mph in 3.8 seconds.

Alternatively, with a light right foot the California returns 13 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway.

Carbon ceramic brakes designed by Italy's Brembo safely bring the car to a stop. The electronic driving aids include an advanced Formula 1-inspired traction control system.

Being a veteran of the Ferrari lineup, the California wears a softer design than some of Prancing Horse's more aggressive creations like the F12berlinetta and the FF. The convertible's front end features oval headlights, Ferrari's trademark egg-crate grille and a lightly rippled hood, while the rear end is fitted with round headlamps, an air dam that spans the entire width of the car and four chromed exhaust pipes.

Life Aboard
The California's cockpit is noticeably dated compared to the rest of the Ferrari lineup. The car is equipped with a multi-function steering wheel but it still features stalks for the turn signals, the windshield wipers and the headlights. These functions have been replaced by buttons on the steering wheel on a majority of the latest Ferrari models.

To make matters worse, the California uses an older version of Chrysler's touch screen-based uConnect infotainment system. It is equipped with a hard drive and controls the California's entertainment, navigation (if equipped) and connectivity functions, but some owners have complained it is finicky to use.

Thankfully, craftsmanship is timeless and the California is as finely-built as any other Ferrari. The seats, the dashboard and the door panels are all covered in premium leather and buyers can order a matching set of leather-upholstered luggage at an extra cost.

For extra versatility, the GT sports a pair of cramped back seats that are better used for carrying luggage than passengers. Cargo capacity checks in at 12 cubic feet.

The California boasts a retractable hard top that reduces wind noise and creates a more coupe-like silhouette when closed. The hard top evidently weighs more than a comparable soft top, and the California tips the scale at 3,825 pounds.

Handling Speciale
Those who find the California too soft can order it with the Handling Speciale package that adds magneto-rheological shock absorbers and a faster ECU. The package also includes stiffer springs and a faster steering box.

Tailor Made
Buyers with extra cash in their pocket can customize their California through Ferrari's Tailor Made program. Every aspect of the car down to the minutest detail can be modified by the buyer with the help of a Ferrari-assigned personal designer whose job is to guide future owners through every step of the customization process.

Key Competitors
Those in the market for an exotic drop-top like the California can also consider the Aston Martin V8 Roadster, the Audi R8 V10 Spyder and the Porsche 911 Turbo Convertible.