The Ferrari Portofino is a retractable hard top convertible with supermodel looks and performance to match, aimed at Ferrari first time buyers.
The exterior is curvaceous, muscly and taut, the wall poster supercar. Particularly in the Ferrari Rosso paint which adds glossy depth to the sheen, like the veneer on a priceless antique. This triumph from Maranello captures the ultimate sports car shape, the one you dreamt of as a child. I know it’s wrong to lust after a machine, but this is so beautifully crafted. A Platonic embodiment of perfection, the shadow on the wall, the distillation of the quintessential sports car. The elemental fusion of every classic car rolled into one.
A luxury tourer with the roof up and the racing car of your dreams with the roof down. The retractable hard-top roof and supports disappear into the boot in 14 seconds (at speeds up to 25 mph). The mechanism is fascinating, the rear window folds forward under the roof, then the roof and window fold back, along with the pillars, and disappear into the top of the boot. Leaving room for two travel cases or one large suitcase. Plus, you can get two travel cases in the back seats or two small adults.
The interior is refined and sporty, decked out in luxurious Schedoni leather with carbon fibre touches. It epitomises the summer lifestyle of the town on the Italian Riviera from whence it derives its name. The sports seats arrange in 18 different ways and are supremely comfortable, a treat for the back. The leather dash with contrast stitching is pleasingly modelled on the wing of a plane, with the protruding vents as jet engines.
It has electric power steering, which is fast and light. The flat-bottom leather clad wheel is a pleasure: eschew the carbon fibre, it is classier without. The indicators, start/stop button, windscreen wipers and lights are all on the wheel, with the paddles just behind. Though it is irksome that the indicator buttons then rotate around with the wheel.
You can opt for an additional passenger display with music, speed, g-force, sat-nav and presumably the nearest jewellery stores helpfully geo-located.
The driver’s dual-display feeds you sat nav directions, speed and infotainment, though I would like the addition of a heads up display with the current speed limit, as this car makes 70 mph feel like 30.
The performance is dynamic, masterful and everything you would expect from a Ferrari, it even has the same award-winning engine as the 488, so you get the full Ferrari testosterone and titillation on every drive. In comfort mode it is genuinely easy to drive, even in slow traffic, whilst in sport mode the Portofino clings to every bump and keeps those wheels glued to the ground, flying around any corner with zero understeer. You can spin the back wheels even with ESC on, there’s only so much that can be done to control 591 bhp in a car this light.
The accelerator pedal should be played like a concert piano, with maestro like dexterity, tiny movements to get exactly the revs desired. It then delivers emotional notes worthy of angels. Power to launch you like a mythical winged lion, with brakes that stop as if reaching the end of a chain attached to a wall.
The F1 gearbox is not built for comfort, but total control of your speed and efficient deceleration, brutal and yet smooth enough, and huge fun to play with. The engine shrieks stridently on the downshift, evoking an F1 racetrack. The sound from that 3.9 L engine is throaty and rich, almost boat-like, you can hear the fuel bubbling and burning at the slightest touch of the pedal. It is pointless playing music as the V8 sounds infinitely more melodious. A valve opens in sport mode, which kicks the engine up a note from the bass cough and gurgle in comfort mode.
The Portofino is balanced to deliver everything you need wasting nothing on frills. You don’t need all the carbon fibre whatnots, just get the MagneRide dual-mode suspension (£3,168) and you’ll have a Ferrari that is outrageously fast, yet comfortable. You also get seven years free maintenance with a yearly service, irrespective of mileage.
The 24 mpg fuel consumption puts it on a par with older family cars, but with more horsepower than the Lamborghini Diablo.
This is both beauty without and beast under the hood. To paraphrase the singer Marc Cohn and I think the Pope would agree, “If there’s a God in heaven, he’s got a Ferrari Portofino”. If the devil ever offers you this car in exchange for your soul, don’t hesitate, just make sure he throws in the Rosso paint.
How to judge this then? With the roof down it is heart-stompingly gorgeous, delivering faultless performance and a classic Ferrari racing interior. Your excitement levels and adrenalin will spike on every ride, whilst it is still comfortable enough to drive every day. Presented as the entry-level Ferrari, it’s more like a gateway drug, that you would sell your house to own, with no regrets. It’s lust at first sight for this stunningly beautiful, incredibly sexy, slightly more affordable Italian supercar.
Starting price: £168,386
This model with options came to: £249,084
3.9L V8 - 90° turbo
591 bhp or 600 PS
0-62 mph in 3,5 sec
0-124 mph in 10,8 secs
Top speed of 199 mph
F1 7 speed, dual-clutch transmission
Weight 1.6 tonnes: 46-54% front/rear
Combined fuel consumption: 26.4 mpg