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First drive: Ferrari Portofino. Image by Ferrari.

First drive: Ferrari Portofino
The ‘baby’ Ferrari - the 600hp ‘baby’ Ferrari, mind - grows up into the marvellous Portofino.

 



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Ferrari Portofino

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Ferrari toughens up the artist formerly known as the California and comes up with the superb Portofino, which utterly revitalises the entry point of Prancing Horse ownership. This thing is terrific.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Ferrari Portofino
Pricing: Portofino from £168,390
Engine: 3.9-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Body style: two-door performance 2+2 convertible
CO2 emissions: 245g/km (VED Band 226-255: £1,815 first 12 months, then £465 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 26.4mpg
Top speed: in excess of 199mph
0-62mph: 3.5 seconds
Power: 600hp at 7,500rpm
Torque: 760Nm at 3,000-5,250rpm
Boot space: 292 litres

What's this?

A Ferrari Portofino. Because it's the least expensive Ferrari to buy, this (sort of) makes it the baby of the range, the entry level. And what we're talking about here is an entry level that doles out 600hp, 760Nm, a top speed that's as near as dammit 200mph (Ferrari simply says in excess of 199mph, although if it were actually 200mph you'd think Maranello would lay claim to such a prestige figure and so it's probably 199.3mph or something) and 0-62mph in 3.5 searing seconds.

On paper, it therefore looks to be quite serious and anything but 'baby' or 'entry level'. And in the metal, it looks to be quite a lot nicer than its ungainly California predecessor. Ferrari's stylists have worked wonders here, penning a 2+2 GT convertible with a retractable hard-top (lowerable on the move at up to 25mph in just 14 seconds) that looks wonderful. It's not out-and-out beautiful, of course, and it doesn't match up to some of the sheer stunners that are in this particular company's enviable back catalogue, but it's a lot more pleasing on the eye than the Cali and it can more than hold its own among aesthetically arresting rivals that include the Aston Martin DB11 Volante, the McLaren 570S Spider and the Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster.

Inside, Ferrari has worked wonders, blessing the Portofino with exquisite seats (comfy, grippy, able to be positioned on the floor of the Fezza), top-quality fixtures and fittings, and a new 10.25-inch human-machine interface for the infotainment, which also includes twin five-inch TFT screens in the instrument cluster. Rear-seat space is increased by 50mm compared to the California but, make no bones about it, this is a strict 2+2: only tiny kids are going to be happy in the back of the Portofino, so it's perhaps best to think of the rear pews as being an ancillary storage cavern for the rather useful 292-litre boot. One demerit mark here is a slightly-too-big-in-diameter steering wheel, which - as on other Ferraris - holds all the main switchgear, so you never have to take your hands off the wheel. We like the Manettino drive dial here, and we like the optional shift-up LEDs (a whopping £2,880, although this option does also include lotsa carbon fibre for the wheel itself) which illuminate in blue - as in F1 - when it's time to crack in another ratio, but it'll take some degree of familiarisation with where the indicators/wipers/main-beam light functions are if you've never been in a Ferrari before.

Pricing-wise, the Portofino comes in at less than £170,000 as standard and the equipment list for that cash is generous enough - carbon-ceramic brakes, 20-inch alloys, Launch Control, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, fully electric seats, LED lights all round, parking sensors all round, keyless entry and go, and the full infotainment system are all included, among more. However, as it's a self-respecting Ferrari, the options list is enormous and the majority of the items on it are four-figure upgrades, or even five figures. So fitting things like the Magneride dual-mode suspension will set you back £3,168, a two-tone exterior costs £4,320, a carbon-fibre exterior package is a dizzying £12,000, those 'Scuderia Ferrari' shields on the front wings are £1,056, a neck warmer for the seats would be £1,920, radar cruise is £2,755, a rear parking camera costs £1,536, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will set you back a colossal £2,400... in short, get busy with the tick boxes at ordering time and your Portofino is going to very quickly spiral beyond the 200-grand marker.

How does it drive?

Not that the aforementioned sort of cash outlay will put potential Portofino customers off. And nor will the way it drives. In a very simplistic definition, this is a rebodied California T with the Handling Speciale pack fitted, and then Ferrari decides to adopt the control software (for the steering, throttle, dampers and gearbox) from its mid-engined V8 sports cars range, like the 488 GTB.

Usefully, not only is the Portofino prettier than the California T by some considerable margin, it's also 80kg lighter and much stiffer - a fact which is reinforced when a Ferrari spokesperson is only too keen to point out that the A-pillar on this car is made of just two components, whereas the same structure on its predecessor comprised a baffling 21 different parts. That means the Portofino is much better for torsional rigidity than the Cali, which should further improve its driving manners.

And so it proves to be. First of all, there's a reason this flat-plane-crank biturbo V8 is award-winning; it's an absolute gem. Strong and torquey at low range, rev-happy and scalpel-sharp up in the vicinity of the redline, it blesses the 1,664kg Portofino with a quite ridiculous amount of urge all around the tacho. Choose a gear, plant the throttle, roar off into the middle distance - this is every inch supercar-quick, a machine that puts those 600hp/760Nm stats into greater real-world context than simply musing 'cor, the Portofino has 122hp more than the F40' ever would. Sounds fabulous, too. It's perhaps a bit heavy on the exhausts and not so focused on induction, but a growling low-revs personality gives way to, for the briefest of interludes (4,000- to 5,000rpm, more specifically), the trad Ferrari V8 howl before the high-revs loudness wins the day, all of which makes having the Portofino's roof down all the more rewarding.

But boy, can this thing handle! It's perhaps a little bit too assured for its own good, the third-generation E-Diff and darty steering making it easy to get the Ferrari into a fast groove, just a few miles from first acquaintance. Yet you'd have to be the mother of all curmudgeons to bemoan such epic body control, or such diligent traction, or such planted sure-footedness from a 2+2 open-top like this. Go half-measures and stoke the Portofino along at a medium clip and you'll be rewarded with a competent, pleasurable display from the chassis, but push it a little further and it feels every inch the proper Ferrari. You need to treat it with a degree of circumspection here, of course, as a 600hp car stretched out through the gears will soon land you in legal strife and possibly severe physical endangerment too, but there's enjoyment to be had in the Portofino without driving it like you're on a race track.

It functions equally well as a grand tourer, though, with a firm yet comfortable ride, excellent protection of its occupants from wind-buffeting with the roof down (something we incredibly managed to achieve in the UK in June... before all that rain set in) and decent suppression of external noise, elevated tyre roar aside. It's still easily the most everyday Ferrari of all, but it doesn't seem to lose a lot in the way of glamour or excitement as a result of that fact.

Which brings us to the minor bugbears, of which there are two. The bigger one is the steering. It's too light and too hyperactive, which means - for the first few miles, at any rate - you spend most of your time winding your initial input of steering lock off, because you find you're going in too hard at the apex. It never truly goes away, even after you feel like you've got to know it a little better, and the US-spec weighting means that you'll struggle to discern too much in the way of feel. Ferrari says this dartiness is because, if you're on any circuit in the world, you can keep your hands at a quarter-to-three and never take them off the wheel, even when negotiating the tightest of corners (although maybe not Loews at Monaco...). But, as good as it is, will customers really be tracking the Portofino? Is it the first Ferrari you'd aim for, if you're planning to go out on a few track days? Probably not - so weightier, marginally slower steering might have been preferable.

The second gripe is the gearbox, which is (in the main) exceptionally good, as twin-clutchers go. But, in full Auto mode, it wants to shuffle up to seventh as soon as is even semi-reasonably possible, which means by 30mph; then, when you ask for varying degrees of acceleration away from urban areas, it takes the gearbox fractionally longer than is necessary to decide which lower ratio it wants, engage it and accelerate away. Work around this by being in manual mode, by all means, as the Fezza is delightful enough to control as so, but if you're in Sport mode then you'll find any higher-revs upshifts become a touch clunky. This is OK at reminding you that you're in a Ferrari, when all's said and done, but not smooth enough to make your passenger(s) feel comfortable if you're, um, 'making progress'.

Verdict

Any underwhelming memories of the Ferrari California's tenure are eradicated by the Portofino. It's not quite perfect, as these things go, but it is vastly improved from its predecessor and it's everything a V8 Ferrari open-top should be - exciting, noisy, fast, good to look at and special to sit in. Entry-level motoring has never been as appealing as this.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 24 Jun 2019









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2019 Ferrari Portofino. Image by Ferrari.2019 Ferrari Portofino. Image by Ferrari.2019 Ferrari Portofino. Image by Ferrari.2019 Ferrari Portofino. Image by Ferrari.2019 Ferrari Portofino. Image by Ferrari.

2019 Ferrari Portofino. Image by Ferrari.2019 Ferrari Portofino. Image by Ferrari.2019 Ferrari Portofino. Image by Ferrari.2019 Ferrari Portofino. Image by Ferrari.2019 Ferrari Portofino. Image by Ferrari.








 

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