There are only a handful of brands that have an intangible greatness to them. The kind that becomes apparent the moment you touch, use or even look at their products. Ferrari is one such brand.
To drive a Ferrari is to drive a dream. It’s the bedroom wall poster; it’s Schumacher winning his 7th world title; it’s every on-screen appearance from Magnum PI to Goldeneye. A Ferrari is more than just a car – it’s a fantasy that never wanes. All of which puts a lot of pressure on the Italian marque every time it releases a new one.
One of the latest is this: the Ferrari Portofino. It’s a V8-powered, leather-clad GT car with a convertible roof. And 591bhp. It’s loud, absurdly quick but also comfortable and refined, ideal for a continental sojourn to the Italian Riviera it’s named after. If there was any performance anxiety during the design process, it’s not evident on the road. This might even be the ideal road car.
What Is It?
The Portofino can trace its roots back to the Daytona, one of the Italian marque’s most iconic cars of all. Again, no pressure then. It’s a familiar layout, and one that the Daytona owned in the late-60s/early-70s as Ferrari’s first modern GT car: rear-wheel-drive, front-engined, convertible, a combination just as exciting today as it was back then.
The Portofino is many cars in one. It’s admirably comfortable, albeit in not quite as drastic fashion as the Bentley Continental GT with its massaging seats. It effortlessly eats up the miles as you’d expect, and invites long drives with the eagerness of a child at Christmas.
Put the roof down and it’s a fun, family friendly sports car (it has two small rear seats), ideal for a weekend away. But switch the Mannetino dial on the steering wheel to ‘sport’, plant your right foot and it’s prohibitively fast. And loud. It’s the do-it-all Ferrari, and it never disappoints.
All Ferraris feel special. There’s something about the almost toy-like prancing horse on the steering wheel that makes even the most jaded of adults feel like a kid again. But while the iconic Ferraris of old mostly left the factory as they were originally intended, today’s generation are completely customisable.
The Ferrari Personalisation Programme lets you choose from thousands of added details and extras, and even come up with ideas unique to you. From contrasting stitching to changing the colour of the brake pads, you can even forgo leather for a denim interior, as Lapo Elkann once did.
Take this Portofino and it’s absurd options list as a rough guide. The red rev counter alone is £442. The two-tone leather interior? £4,320. The carbon fibre exterior package costs £12,000. With everything fitted, the car’s price hikes from £168,386 to £249,084. And it feels like it.
It also looks spectacular, and every bit like a Ferrari should. While the car’s predecessor the California looked a bit bloated and never quite in proportion, the Portofino is svelte yet muscular, like that annoying guy you see in the gym all the time with the not-too-ripped biceps.
When Ferrari first started turbocharging its cars, there were widespread fears the signature engine sounds would be muffled. Ferraris have always been about theatre, and the main event has always been the engines. There needn’t have been any worry though.
The Portofino’s 3.9-litre, turbocharged V8 lets you know when it growls to life that it’s not happy with the naysayers. It’s a raw, aggressive engine note that is best explored with the roof down, in ‘sport’ mode. The latter opens a valve in the exhaust that’ll make you become addicted to down-shifting unnecessarily early. No, you’re not Schumacher at Hockenheim, but you will feel like it.
A Ferrari for everyone? Not quite – it does cost a quarter of a million pounds after all. What it is is a gateway drug to its faster, more addictive siblings. But you don’t ever need more speed than the Portofino offers, and since it’s arguably the most comfortable Ferrari to date, it’s about as close to a daily driver as Marranello will ever offer. Start saving now and you could well be able to trade in your Mondeo before combustion engines are banned. Bring on 2050.
Top Speed: 199mph
Acceleration (0-60mph): 3.5 seconds
Engine: 3.9-litre, turbocharged V8
Price: £249,084 (as tested)
Photography: Charlie Thomas