What makes a Ferrari a Ferrari? Is it the engine, the handling characteristics, the exhaust note, or quite simply, the badge? Technically, it’s all of the above. However, when the Ferrari California made its debut, the brand faithful, as well as other supercar enthusiasts, dismissed it as not being true to the brand’s heritage or engineering formula. So that made us wonder if the Ferrari California is a “real Ferrari.”

The Ferrari California does wear the prancing horse badge

Like it or not, the Ferrari California does wear the correct badging to put it in the same stable as the 456 and even the Enzo. However, unlike those cars, its engine is front-mounted. And according to Ferrari fanboys (and girls), that’s where it goes wrong. That, and it was also the first Ferrari to incorporate a dual-clutch automatic transmission. So you can see why to some keyboard-slinging critics, a Ferrari badge does not make it so.

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Ferrari California | Ferrari

The California is an amazing performer

Regardless of what anyone thinks, it’s hard to deny that the Ferrari California is still an amazing exotic car. We know, it kind of looks like something Barbie would drive, however, we do like that the it’s technically a 2 + 2-seater, although the backseat should be reserved for something smaller than a baby. A notebook, perhaps?

Jokes aside, the California did have a good run when it was in production from 2008 to 2017. It was the brand’s first hardtop convertible with a folding metal roof, the first Ferrari to use a multi-link rear suspension, and the first to use a direct-injected engine. Speaking of the engine, under the hood of California was a 4.3-liter V8 that produced 453 horsepower and 358 lb-ft of torque and was mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. It was able to get up to 60 mpg in under four seconds and had a top speed of 193 mph.

It was made a little lighter in 2012 and given a little more power as well, but in 2014, Ferrari gave the California a refresh that included new sheet metal and a new engine. As opposed to the previous naturally aspirated engine, the California was now powered by a 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 that produced 553 horsepower and 557 lb-ft of torque, which made the automaker change its name to the “California T.” As expected, the 0 to 60 times dropped to 3.5 seconds and the quarter-mile was able to be completed in 11.7 seconds. It may have looked like Barbie’s dream car, but at least it was really fast.

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Ferrari California | Ferrari

It has a comfortable interior, too

Aside from the Ferrari California’s exceptional performance, the rest of the car was magnificent as well. It’s interior was well-appointed, complete with leather trim, aluminum accents, and a center-stack mounted, touchscreen infotainment system. Sitting on top of the dashboard is a “turbo performance” display that shows different types of data including a boost gauge and a digital clock. A look around the cabin reveals a plethora of world-class materials and a sleek styling that one would come to expect from the Italian brand and there are even plenty of storage solutions, including one cupholder.

However, not everything is included as some amenities like a premium JBL sound system, heated seats with lumbar support, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and Apple Carplay capability all come with a hefty price tag of $4,200. And if you want the two-mode adaptive suspension system, then that will set you back another $5,500.

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Ferrari California | Ferrari

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So is it really a Ferrari?

Considering the Ferrari California has a powerful engine under the hood, the performance prowess to keep up with competitors like the Maserati Gran Turismo and the Mercedes-Benz AMG 63, and an interior that’s fit for any high-dollar exotic car collector, we would say that it definitely deserves the badge it wears. That is, if you can afford the nearly $200,000 price tag. If not, maybe you can ask Barbie for a loan.