New Handling Speciale package gives Ferrari’s California T quicker reflexes

Ferrari California T HS
The Ferrari California recently underwent a major overhaul, losing its awkward styling and gaining a turbocharged engine to become the California T. For the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, Ferrari is sharpening things up even further.

Set to take the stage in Switzerland in March, the Ferrari California T HS (Handling Speciale) will be even more adept at tackling corners thanks to a new handling package. The upgrades include new damper settings and stiffer springs, which reduce body motion at only a slight cost to ride comfort, Ferrari claims.

In addition to the suspension hardware changes, there are some software changes as well. In Sport mode, the transmission is programmed to shift more quickly, and the magnetor-heological adjustable suspension system responds with greater speed as well. The F1-Trac traction-control system gets some revisions too.

There’s also a new exhaust system that may not provide any direct performance gains, but will likely make the driving experience more memorable. The HS package is rounded out by some cosmetic changes, including a new grille and rear diffuser, some matte black trim, and a plaque in the cockpit testifying to the car’s special nature.

There are no apparent changes to the 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8, which began the brave new world of modern turbocharged Ferrari road cars when it debuted in 2014. This engine produces 552 horsepower and 557 pound-feet of torque, which is sent to the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. It may be a somewhat cushy grand tourer with a retractable hardtop, but the California T can still do 0 to 62 mph in 3.6 seconds, and reach a top speed of 196 mph.

The move to turbocharged engines has accelerated since the launch of the California T, as Ferrari looks to balance performance with increasingly-strict emissions standards. The much-loved 458 Italia was replaced by the turbocharged 488 GTB and 488 Spider. The switch is lamented by some enthusiasts, but the competence of the new Ferrari models is hard to argue with.

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