If you’re in the envious position of buying your first Ferrari, then the Ferrari California T Handling Speciale is a great introduction to the marque.
The Ferrari California isn’t regarded very highly by Ferrari fans, but it’s a mistake to dismiss the car. The folding hard top means it’s great in all weathers, while the front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout delivers crisp handling. Adding the optional Handling Speciale pack only helps to sharpen the California’s responses. The package costs around £5,500, and it’s well worth adding.
The only visual clues to the Handling Speciale package are a dark grey finish for the grille and rear diffuser. Inside, there’s a plaque between the seats, but aside from that, its pure California T. But as Ferrari is a master of building bespoke, hand-crafted cars, there aren’t many models that feel as special as the Speciale.
You can personalise just about everything, from the seat trim to the carpet colour, and there’s plenty of carbon fibre upgrades on offer, too.
But it’s on the road where the Handling Speciale impresses most. While it doesn’t have the supercar responses of the mid-engined 488 GTB, fast steering that delivers good feedback, and an agile chassis that is well balanced in corners.
The updates give the Handling Speciale a sharper edge than the standard California T, while the sports exhaust gives the engine a harder exhaust note, too. But even better is that you can move the Mannettino switch on the sterring wheel back to Normal mode at any time, and the California T reverts back to a comfortable GT car.
So the California T Handling Speciale is pretty impressive, but it’s not without its shortcomings. The low-slung driving position means it can be tricky to see out of, while the back seats are only really for kids or legless dwarves, and are better suited to luggage than people – although you do get Isofix child seat mounts back there.
Go for a bright colour such as the vivid Giallo yellow of the car in the pictures, then you get awful reflections in the car on a bright day. Having said that, these are just about the biggest complaints to be had about the Ferrari California T Handling Speciale. In every other way, it maintains Ferrari traditions of being exciting to drive and good to look at, and is a worthy entry point to the firm’s range.