By  on November 24, 2008

A new Ferrari for a new generation.

It’s not exactly Ferrari Lite, but the fabled Italian sports car brand’s latest model, the California, is just in time for the pinched economy. For one thing, it’s more  understated, smaller and lighter than the company’s other testosterone-fueled beasts, even if it can go from 0 to 60 mph in less than four seconds. And, if past Ferraris focused more on rpm, torque and horsepower, the California takes comfort equally into account, from its retro feeling, based on the brand’s 1957 California 250, to a roomier interior with handcrafted leather seats and a sophisticated gearbox with automatic or manual options.

Then there’s the price: just less than $200,000, compared with the top-of-the-line Scaglieti at $340,000.

“We will never steer away from our sports car tradition where performance is key, but with the new California, Ferrari has developed a new concept of sports car that mixes high-performance aspects with elegance and comfort,” says Federico Pastorelli, development manager of Ferrari’s eight-cylinder segment, which includes the Scuderia and the 430 models. “It’s the kind of car you can drive to the theater or use everyday.”

According to Pastorelli, the waiting list for the California is filled with younger customers, compared with Ferrari’s traditional clientele that is dominated by fortysomething senior executives who prefer to discuss rpm and horsepower rather than leather seats and wood trim.

The $2.1 billion Ferrari plans to produce 2,500 Californias a year, and there’s already a two-year backlog of orders. Aside from its prime markets, the U.S. and Europe, Ferrari sees significant potential in newly rich markets such as Russia and China.

The eight-cylinder California has direct injection that cuts emissions and fuel consumption, a retractable hardtop, a new racing seat with an all-carbon-fiber frame and an aluminum chassis and body. The leather interiors, hand-stitched by Poltrona Frau, are available in 14 colors including two new entries, chocolate and iroko brown.

Ferrari red is still an option for the exterior, but potential customers now have plenty of other shades from which to choose: a total of 16, to be exact, from pastels to metallics, plus the new azzurro, or light blue, shade, especially created for California’s launch.

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