Only ten years ago, for Ferrari to place an eight-cylinder engine in front of the driver was unheard of, as was the inclusion of an automatically folding hardtop. These defining landmarks first appeared with the California and they’ve been carried over to the aesthetically superior Portofino. Not only is Maranello’s new grand tourer prettier than the car it replaces, we contend it’s a better looker than any Ferrari on the road today. And here’s a fact to consider – it’s their new ‘entry level’ model. A 600 cv entry level model though. Kind of gives it all a whole new meaning doesn’t it?
It’s a looker, but more than this it’s a grand tourer that demands to be driven. As guests of the Ferrari dealer in Kuwait, Al Zayani Kuwait, Simon Balsom (in car, above) headed to the coastal roads of Italy’s Puglia region to get the top down and put some miles on the clock
Although we loved the California, it was always a difficult relationship. It’s still an accomplished automobile, but the niggles we had have all been answered with the arrival of the Portofino.
Although only marginally lower, wider and longer than the California, the Portofino immediately looks every inch the nimble athlete to its predecessor’s slightly heavier stance.
Roof up or down, it looks the complete sporting GT. No compromises. Indeed, roof up, so neatly does the roofline blend in to the trunk that you’d be pushed to guess there’s a retractable roof only the flick of a switch away. This is no mean feat, and countless other marque’s failed attempts to achieve this spring to mind.
The power-folding hardtop is lighter than before despite being larger and beefed up. It can be opened and closed at speeds up to 40 kmh; but doing so is like opening a drag chute.
The body is sculpted and includes a plethora of slats, vents and intakes – all designed to drag hot air away from the engine and feed air to the intercoolers. Complex, and necessarily open, the Portofino is nonetheless fully 6 percent more slippery than the California T.
Add to this more power – 40 cv more; deduct the sizeable weight-reduction – around the mass of an averagely-sized man; plus, factor in a slight addition to maximum torque; and you’ve got a car that will take you to 200 kmh in 10.3 seconds (it launches hard), and onwards to more than 320 kmh.
The roads of Puglia are not Italy’s finest – they put the Portofino’s chassis and suspension to the test. Ferrari claim the car’s lighter body is still 35 percent stiffer than before, and front springs are 15.5 percent firmer, 19 percent firmer in the back. It’s a sporting – but comfortable – ride all the time… adaptive damping sees to that.
Electrically assisted steering – only previously part of the 812 Superfast – is perhaps on its way to becoming the norm for all Ferraris. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s super-smooth and it centres well. The last one percent of feedback that you might be looking for doesn’t always appear – your heightened senses will be employed when the time comes make up for this.
Carbon-ceramic brake rotors are standard, and these offer reassuringly strong stopping power delivered in conjunction with a firm pedal feel.
Infotainment systems are a focus for both driver and passenger alike. In the Portofino neither is overlooked – as long as you select the optional touchscreen for your passenger to play with – then they’ll be able to modify navigation waypoints mid-journey.
The front seats, now with thinner – and magnesium – frames, are superbly supportive and wildly adjustable. They don’t provide enough rear leg-room for more than the briefest journey however.
Another Ferrari that’s really useable every day. This is becoming a habit for Maranello. The Portofino has picked up the California’s ball, but such are its advances, it is now playing an altogether more enjoyable game.