In the recent past, Ferrari has come under criticism for not naming its cars well. The 488 'Pista' and the 812 Superfast may mean something to the Ferrari aficionado but to the lay man, it is always a 'why would you name it that' moment. Well then, if you want your Ferrari names to sound exotic and sexy, you don't have to wait any more because the Italian automaker's newest car is called - 'Portofino'. Named after a charming village on the Italian Riviera, Portofino conjures up visions of sun soaked beaches, little cafes, sprawling villas and topless beauties. No, not that kind, the car kind! And that is exactly what the new Ferrari Portofino is, a topless i.e. convertible beauty from the legendary Italian automaker.
The new Ferrari Portofino replaces the Ferrari California range. And before we get into any sort of discussion about how it drives or how much power it makes, let me get something out of the way. In my opinion, the Ferrari Portofino is 'The Most Beautiful Production Car In The World Today.' While the California T wasn't a bad looking car, especially in the correct colour, the Portofino takes the 'front engine - rear wheel drive - retractable hard top' mantra to a whole new level. Everything is brand new. And it is quite evident too. A long swooping bonnet, a short stubby back and a curvy greenhouse gives the Portofino the 'ideal sportscar' silhouette that we all drew at the back of our notebooks in school.
And it isn't just pretty. It is designed with a purpose. While most people think the grinny face on the car is a little strange, it is actually there for a reason. All the vents on the bumpers are to ensure the engine runs as cool as it can and at the same time, little slits and cuts ensure that the airflow around the front is ideal enough to create enough downforce. You even get a set of vents on the front fender that add to reducing the pressures around the front fenders and all these little details remind me of the likes of the 250 GTO. In fact, with the roof up, the Portofino does have a lot of overall similarities with the GTO! Those swooping rear fenders, the accentuated front and of course, the perfectly proportioned rear end. All in all, an absolutely stunning car.
Now one of the reasons that the predecessor California looked a little strange was because of its rear end. The slightly disproportionate tail lamps and boot area was improved in the California T but not by much. The Portofino on the other hand has a completely redesigned rear end with references to the likes of the Ferrari 458 Italia. There is even a slight whale-tail like integrated spoiler on the bootlid and the lower half of the bumper now houses a quad exhaust setup and a larger diffuser.
And of course, the Portofino is a cabriolet. So you can take that hard top down by just the press of a button. And while the whole process of the bootlid raising up, the roof folding into two pieces to fit into the boot and showcasing that well made interior is a work of art, it did give us some issues. On the car that we drove in Dubai, the roof mechanism constantly had problems with a layer of dust and sand settling onto the sensor in the boot, which, considering the fact that the Portofino is an expensive and highly engineered car should have never happened in the first place. That said, once the roof is down, which in the Portofino can be done on the move (upto 20 kmph), the sheer drama you get out of a car like this is absolutely priceless.
And that brings us to the other thing that adds drama to the Portofino. That 3.9-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 engine, which just like the California is mounted up-front. Essentially, this is the same engine that you get in the likes of the Ferrari 488 with the power turned down a little to give you the best balance for grand touring applications. And what an engine it is! Although it has two turbos bolted on to give it that extra punch, it performs like a naturally aspirated engine. There is no turbo lag - none at all, which means you get instant power delivery when you stomp on that loud pedal on the right. And unlike say a 488 or any other modern supercar that throws you into the back of your seat and pins you there, the Portofino gives you all those 592 horses and 760 Nm in a smooth and non-scary way making it one of the most usable everyday supercars I have ever driven!
With the drive control knob or 'mannetino' in comfort mode, the Portofino is as drivable as your everyday luxury car. It even has a relatively quiet exhaust note that wont wake all your neighbours up and wont make people look at you with that typically annoyed face that loud supercar drivers seem to get ever so often. It even rides really well over both smooth and broken tarmac. While the roads in Dubai city are par excellence, the ones on the outskirts are at best mediocre, potholed ridden and full of randomly placed speed breakers. And not once did the Portofino bottom out or scrape. Even potholes were dealt with relative comfortably giving us a true picture of how the car would function over our Indian roads.
But of course, this is a Ferrari. And even though the Portofino isn't meant to set lap times around Monza, turn that Mannetino into 'sport' and it will reward you with a great driving experience. Everything now becomes stiffer, more responsive and yes, LOUDER! The Portofino comes with an active exhaust and although you don't get a button to turn the exhaust up, the sport mode does give you a louder note and all those added pops and crackles that everyone actually buys a sports car for. Tug on that carbonfibre paddle shifter, engage 'Launch Control' and the Portofino takes you from 0-100 kmph in under 3.5 seconds. Think of this figure for a second, about a decade or so ago, 3.5 seconds to 100 was hypercar territory and now an entry level Ferrari does it without breaking a sweat. Sport mode also makes gear shifts on the 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox shift much quicker along with stiffening up the suspension. But even in this mode, the Portofino isn't uncomfortable to be in or scary to drive. And that is what makes it such a great car.
If you do really want to scare yourself silly though, there is a mode where you can turn all the electronics off 'ESC OFF' on the Mannetino. But doing that on a public street is borderline foolish and unnecessary. The Portofino is the kind of car that feels more at home on Marine Drive in Mumbai that it would going around the parabola at the Buddh International Circuit. After all, it is a grand tourer.
(The Ferrari Portofino gets a lovely looking cabin complete with the F1 inspired steering wheel)
Being a GT means having a nice interior. While the car we drove came specced out with a whole bunch of carbonfibre on the dashboard and central tunnel, the seats were a lot simpler with a combination of black leather and red stitching. While this clean spec is great to look at, the fact that your interior will be exposed for everyone to see when you take the roof down, I would personally be a little more flamboyant with it. And of course, you can spec the Portofino exactly the way you want it with almost infinite options in terms of interior materials, colours and trim options. And if you still cant seem to get the spec of your dream, Ferrari will customise (at an extra cost of course) the Portofino to your taste through its tailor made programs. Everything but pink of course.
Coming back to the interior though, the Portofino is a lot less cluttered as compared to the likes of the Ferrari 488. You get a massive 10.25-inch high definition touch screen in the centre, an instrument console with centrally mounted tachometer, which in this case was in the traditional yellow (as every Ferrari MUST have) and two smaller screens on either side showcasing all the other vital information that you would need. Ferrari's tradition of having all your other driving controls on the steering wheel - just like a Formula 1 car continues on the Portofino too with the headlamp switch, wipers and even the turn indicators on the wheel. And as an optional extra, you can also spec your Portofino out with the LED shift lights on the top portion of the steering wheel (again, just like a Formula 1 car).
The Portofino also gets Ferrari's new passenger side screen, which showcases speed, revs and a bit more information to the passenger. And even though this screen is a bit gimmicky, we personally think it is quite cool. The seats are comfortable too - as they should be on a GT and yes, technically, the Portofino is a 2+2 or in more lay man terms, a four seater. That said, we don't think any fully grown adult would really be comfortable sitting in the back of one and are better left to give little children some lovely memories of being driven around in a sportscar.
The Ferrari Portofino isn't the fastest, best handling or loudest supercar out there. But for what it is meant to do i.e. look good while being drivable enough to be used every day, it is nearly perfect. The roof mechanism could be better engineered to take real life problems like dust and it would be nicer to be able to open or close it at speeds up to say about 35 kmph. I personally still think it is the prettiest car out there today and considering the fact that it is the entry-level vehicle in the Ferrari lineup, expect it to sell like hot cakes. While in the past Ferrari has been a little slow getting its new cars to India, the Portofino will be launched later this year at a price tag of about Rs 3 Crore (ex-showroom) without options. And if you do want a brilliant boulevard cruiser that can still give you a good enough kick in the back when you put that pedal to the metal, the Portofino is the best bet out there.