Cars

L'Officiel Arabia tests out the new Ferrari Portofino

Ferrari’s folding-hardtop California won a whole new set of customers for the marque following its 2008 launch – 70 per of buyers had never previously owned a Maranello-built car – so in that sense it was an unadulterated success.
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There was just one problem – the Ferraristi diehards were adamant it wasn’t a true Prancing Horse. Yes, it had the right badge on the grille and rump, as well as a free-revving V8 (turbocharged in the California ‘T’ that replaced the original), but it somehow never got the blood coursing in the way its stablemates did.

The remedy, Ferrari says, comes in the form of its all-new Portofino successor, which L’Officiel Arabia has had the opportunity to test across a variety of roads. As per the outgoing California T, the newcomer packs a 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 and electric folding hardtop, but pretty much everything else has been revamped.

A single glance at the accompanying image should be sufficient to glean the Portofino drips with far more visual machismo than its predecessor. The thrusting beak, slit-like headlights and elaborately contoured bonnet – replete with bulging power dome and beautifully sculpted air vents – make for a menacing visage.

What’s more, the Portofino ditches the California’s slightly dainty profile in favour of a suave fastback shape in which the roof – when raised – flows seamlessly in a single uninterrupted line to the ducktail rear spoiler. The roof can be made to disappear into the rear compartment (push a button and this is accomplished in 14sec), and even with the top down the Portofino retains a sense of visual purity.

That shark-like snout houses a 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 that kicks out 600hp at 7500rpm and a stump-pulling 760Nm from 3000-5250rpm. Considering it’s equipped with all the electromechanical hardware that make the folding metal roof go up and down, the Portofino tips the scales at a lithe 1664kg, and this is partly the key to a rapid 0-100kph split of 3.5sec and 0-200kph in 10.8sec. Keep your right foot buried on the throttle and the Portofino will top 320kph.

Like every other Ferrari – barring the V12-powered GTC4 Lusso – the Portofino is rear-wheel-driven, so the twin-turbo V8’s massive grunt has to be transmitted to the tarmac via only two contact patches of rubber. We keep the Manettino (drive mode selector on the steering wheel) in ‘Sport’ for most of our drive, and this setting permits a fair degree of side-slip leeway before rousing into action. We say that’s no bad thing, but some discretion is required in wet conditions as the car can kick sideways if you give it too much gas while exiting a corner.

The Portofino’s daily driver credentials vis-à-vis the California are bolstered via an additional 5cm of rear legroom. To be clear, no full-sized adult would want to be perched in the back for a trip across the country, but the rear seats are perfectly adequate for two grown-ups after a night out on the town. And while the boot may not be huge, its 292-litre capacity is sufficient to accommodate three airline cabin trolley bags (two with the roof down), which means the Portofino is a realistic weekend getaway car for two or three people.

The Portofino can maintain an unfussed 140kph – or significantly faster – cruise all day long, but it still can’t match the comfort and refinement of a Bentley Conti GTC or Mercedes SL. That said, neither of these would see which way the Ferrari went as soon as the road got twisty.

It may not be as absurdly rapid or spine-tingling as its manic 812 Superfast or 488 GTB siblings, but the Portofino is still a likeable roadster. Unlike the California, it now looks appropriately masculine and the visual muscle is backed up by immense performance reserves. The fact it also ticks the requisite boxes in terms of practicality makes it arguably the best rounded everyday Ferrari.

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