The Portofino is no ordinary Ferrari and words like versatile, roomy and generous are the unusual descriptors used on the brand's latest model.
It’s not to say the Portofino doesn’t have some of the brand’s iconic values such as passion, top speed and noise, but this is a more versatile steed than outright pace setter.
But such is a car that comes in to replace the mild child California T. The new prancing horse that Ferrari Australia chief Herbert Appleroth says is “absolutely a daily driver” is charged with attracting new customers and convincing buyers who are sizing-up from a Porsche or Aston Martin.
Vehicle Style: Grand touring convertible sports car
Price: $399,888 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 441kW/760Nm 3.9-litre 8cyl twin turbo petrol | 7spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 10.5 l/100km
At $399,888 it’s the most affordable car from the Maranello-based brand, although, clearly, affordability is a relative term.
And no matter the price the Portofino must convince the Ferrari faithful that it’s worthy too.
From California to Portofino, the name has made a culture-shock journey across the Atlantic, but the formula for Ferrari’s entry-level model is unchanged: folding hard-top roof, V8 engine up front and 2+2 seating configuration.
Visually, though, the Portofino is a vast leap forward, with more aggressive proportions and sleek, svelte lines.
From the aluminium architecture that helps shave 80kg to the graceful body – which was inspired by the Daytona of the 1960s - with its carefully crafted scallops and curves, the Portofino has the requisite head turning looks.
Inside, the Portfoino has a familiar Ferrari flavour, from the steering wheel to the circular air vents and honeycomb dash treatment. As with the GTC4Lusso and upcoming 812 Superfast there’s also an optional passenger touchscreen displaying everything from navigation commands to an instrument cluster.
Seat frames made from magnesium allow for thinner pews upfront and give the rear passengers 50mm more legroom - which makes you wonder how anyone could fit in the back of a California. It really is kids-only stuff out back.
The folding hard-top pops up and down in 14 seconds flat and at speeds of up to 40km/h in case you get caught out. And when it is up, the wind noise at 100km/h and even beyond is well damped, providing a pleasant escape from elements.
And, for all those practical Ferrari fans the boot can take three airline cabin bags, at least with the roof up.
ON THE ROAD
Hitting the red stop-start button brings the 3.9-litre twin-turbocharged V8 to life with a short but brash bark that suggests it means business.
And it’s quick, too – the more powerful California carry-over engine produces 441kW of power and 760Nm of torque that’s able to hit 100km/h in 3.5 seconds on the way to a top speed north of 320km/h.
But it does it without the ferocity of a 488, a car Ferrari markets as a true sports car, rather than a grand tourer.
Blame that partly on the weight. Sure, it’s lighter than before – and respectably light compared with other go-fast four-seater drop-tops - but it’s still nearly 200kg heavier than the iconic mid-engined 488.
Ferrari is also proud of the efforts gone into the engine sound, in part thanks to the single piece exhaust manifold and a dual-mode muffler designed to transition from mild to wild.
But the deep drone and shift from sedate to brash is overly pronounced and ever-present in even gentle driving. Nice for the first few minutes but testing over time.
Blame it partly on the low rev pull of the V8.
There’s so much torque available from as little as 1200rpm that much of the daily driving can be achieved on light throttle applications and at low revs. The transmission, too, is programmed to leverage that torque, quickly darting into taller gears; it’ll often pluck seventh by the time it’s doing 50km/h, which is good for relaxed cruising, not for the aural accompaniment.
Rounding out its softer side is softer suspension with generous travel and a relaxed vibe that disguise some flexing in the body, but the Portofino surprises with the way it ambles through the Italian countryside.
Its angry side begins to bellow when you drive harder and punch the rev needle towards the V8’s thundering 7500rpm limit, and it all makes sense. It’s an intoxicating mix and one that gets you on the wrong side of the law quickly.
The seven-speed automatic is also in sync with the engine and few engines rev with the gusto and excitement of Ferrari’s turbocharged V8.
Well-tuned electronic aids and the electronic differential instantly shift drive from left to right and find the perfect limits of adhesion and acceleration, albeit occasionally on the squirmy limits of the 285mm-wide Pirelli P Zero tyres.
All of the excitement is put to a stop equally well by the carbon ceramics that have a firm pedal feel and excellent retardation – it coaxes some wonderful race-like downchanges, too, with the engine singing proudly as it expertly blips the throttle.
It isn’t everything the California was not but there’s plenty of logical thinking behind Portofino’s ways which will appeal better to newcomers and curious tyre kickers.
It comes with a harder edge and sexier swagger that adds spark while continuing its play-it-safe ways and while it may not appeal to those who gravitate towards the ferocity of a 488, the Portofino is a multifaceted – and fast - introduction to Ferrari life.