Forget California! Ferrari is an Italian brand, so when the time came for the marque to redo its entry-level model - as well as rename it - the geographical tack was at last rightfully placed in its home country.
If you’ve travelled the Italian coast, you might know Portofino. It’s located on the picturesque Italian Riviera at the edge of the Ligurian Sea, between Cinque Terre and Genoa, and it’s known for attracting wealth and celebrity to its exclusive shoreline.
It’s gorgeous, classic, timeless; all terms also suitable for this new convertible model, which looks so much better than the California did. And, quite truthfully, it looks more Italian, which is important for this macchina, a true auto sportivo italiana.
It’s a more angry-looking entry-level car for the iconic Italian brand, but not in an ugly way.
Sure, some angry faces aren’t pretty. But I bet if Elle Macpherson or George Clooney got cranky at you, you’d still probably find them attractive. And so it is with the Portofino, which has a mildly menacing front end, some scintillating curves over its taut metalwork, and a pair of high-set hips with bold tail lights.
It is undeniably more muscular than the old California was. And filling the wheel arches are 20-inch wheels, which measure eight inches wide at the front (with 245/35 rubber) and ten inches wide (285/35) at the back.
Filling the wheel arches are 20-inch wheels.
This isn’t a compact car, either - with dimensions of 4586mm long, 1938mm wide and 1318mm tall, the Portofino is longer than some mid-sized SUVs. But boy, does it pull its size off well.
And like many of the beachside manors in the seaside town for which the new model is named, you can shutter yourself in to combat bad weather. The folding electronic roof system takes 14 seconds to raise or lower, and can be operated at speeds up to 40km/h.
I actually think it looks better with the roof on. It’s not often you can say that about a convertible…
I actually think the Portofino looks better with the roof on.
You aren’t buying a Ferrari if you want the most practical car for the money, but that doesn’t mean there isn't some semblance of pragmatism to the Portofino.
There are four seats. I know, it’s amazing to think there’s a point in making the Portofino a 2+2 seater, but according to Ferrari, owners of the outgoing California model used those back seats about 30 per cent of the time.
I wouldn’t want to be in the back row that much. It’s designed to play host to little kids or small adults, but anyone nearing my height (182cm) will be very uncomfortable. Even tiny adult males (like fellow auto scribe Stephen Corby, for example) reckon it’s tight and not a pleasant place to be back there. (link to existing review). But if you have kids, there are two ISOFIX child seat anchor points.
The back row is designed to play host to little kids or small adults.
The boot space is not huge, but with 292 litres of cargo capacity with the roof up, there’s enough room for a weekend’s worth of luggage for a couple (Ferrari says you can fit three cabin bags in that configuration, or two with the roof down). And - a tidbit for the actual customers out there- it has more luggage capacity than you get in a new Corolla hatch (217L).
As for cabin comfort, the front seats are sumptuous, and there are some nice elements like the 10.25-inch infotainment screen, which is pretty easy to use, if a little slow to load when you’re skipping between screens or trying to key locations into the sat-nav system.
The front seats of the Portofino are sumptuous.
There are also two 5.0-inch digital screens in front of the driver, mounted either side of the rev counter, and the front passenger can have their very own display with speed, revs and gear on show. It’s a neat option.
While it may have some long-distance touring pretence, the Portofino isn’t a beacon of loose-item storage. It has a pair of cupholders, and there’s a small storage tray that will fit a smartphone.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
It would be silly to think that people who can afford a Ferrari aren’t conscious of finance. Most people who can buy a car like this are very specific about what they will and won’t spend their hard-earned cash on, but according to Ferrari, about 70 per cent of projected Portofino purchasers will be buying their very first Prancing Horse. Lucky them!
And at $399,888 (list price, before on-road costs), the Portofino is as close to an affordable new Ferrari as you’ll get.
Standard equipment includes that 10.25-inch media screen that runs Apple CarPlay (an option, of course) and includes sat nav, DAB digital radio, and acts as a display for the reversing camera with parking guidance lines, plus there are front and rear parking sensors as standard.
Standard equipment includes that 10.25-inch media screen.
The standard wheel package is a 20-inch set, and of course you get leather trim, 18-way electronically adjustable front seats, plus heated front seats and dual-zone climate control, and there’s proximity unlocking, too (keyless entry) with a push-button starter on the steering wheel. Auto LED headlights and auto wipers are standard, as is cruise control and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
Speaking of Ferrari’s fantastic Formula One-inspired wheel (with paddle shifters), the version with the carbon fibre trim and integrated shift LEDs fitted to our car cost an extra $8300. Oh, and if you do want CarPlay, that'll be $6793 (which is more than the best Apple computer you can buy), and that reversing camera will add $6950 to the price. WHATTTT???
Ferrari’s Formula One-inspired wheel with the carbon fibre trim and integrated shift LEDs fitted to our car cost an extra $8300.
Some of the other options fitted to our car included the Magneride adaptive dampers ($8970), the LCD passenger display ($9501), adaptive front lighting ($5500), a premium hi-fi sound system ($10,100), and a foldable rear-seat backrest ($2701), among plenty of other interior elements.
The as-tested price for our just-under-four-hundred-grand Ferrari, then, was actually $481,394. But who's counting?
The Portofino is available in 28 different colours (including seven blue hues, six grey options, five red and three yellow paint choices).
The Portofino is available in 28 different colours.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
The 3.9-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V8 engine produces 441kW of power at 7500rpm and 760Nm of torque from 3000rpm. That means it has a sizeable 29kW more power (and 5Nm more torque) than the Ferrari California T it replaces.
Plus the 0-100 acceleration time is better, too; it will now hit highway speed in 3.5 seconds (was 3.6sec in the Cali T) and moves past the 200km/h marker in just 10.8sec, if you believe Ferrari’s claim.
Top speed is “more than 320km/h”. Didn’t get a chance to test that, sadly, nor the 0-200km/h time.
The kerb weight for the Portofino is 1664 kilograms, while the dry weight is 1545kg. The weight distribution is 46 per cent front, 54 per cent rear.
But that’s more than, say, a Mercedes-AMG GT, (9.4L/100km; 350kW/630Nm) but not as much as a Mercedes-AMG GT R (11.4L/100km; 430kW/700Nm). And the Ferrari has more power than both of those, and it's quicker, too (and more expensive…).
Fuel-tank size for the Ferrari Portofino is 80 litres, enough for a theoretical mileage range of 745km.
Compared to the California T it replaces, the new model is stiffer, has a lighter all-aluminium chassis, gets a reworked transmission and also includes an electronically controlled limited-slip differential.
It’s faster, has more tech - like electronic exhaust bypass valves to make it sound better - and it's gorgeous.
So it's fast and fun? You bet. It has electronic power steering, which mightn’t be as tactile in terms of road feel as a vehicle with a hydraulic steering setup, but it is rapid in its reactivity, and arguably offers better point-and-shoot ability as a result. Old diminutive Corby criticised it for being very light and somewhat lacking, but I reckon that as an entry point to the brand, it serves as a very manageable steering setup.
Compared to the California T it replaces, the new model is stiffer.
The adaptive magnetorhelogical dampers do a magnificent job in allowing the Portofino to ride over rough patches of road, including pockmarks and potholes. It hardly ever feels ruffled, although there is some scuttle shake to the windscreen, as is often found in convertible cars.
The most surprising element to this Ferrari is that it is supple and reserved at times, but can turn into a manic machine when you want it to.
With the Manettino drive-mode dial on the steering wheel set to Comfort, you will be rewarded with sedate progress and cushioning from the road surface below. In Sport mode, things are all a bit more growly and rigid. I personally found the transmission in this mode, when left in Auto, was eager to upshift to help save fuel, but still responded pretty quickly when I put my foot down hard.
Turning Auto off means it’s you, the pedals and the paddles, and the car won’t overrule your decisions. If you want to see just how realistic that 10,000rpm tacho top is, you can test it in first, second, third… oh wait, you need to keep your licence? Just keep it to first.
The adaptive magnetorhelogical dampers do a magnificent job in allowing the Portofino to ride over rough patches of road.
Its braking is tremendous, with aggressive application resulting in seatbelt-tensioning response. Plus not only was the ride comfortable, the balance and control of the chassis was both predictable and inherently manageable in corners, and there was plenty of grip, even in the damp.
With the roof down, the noise of the exhaust is exhilarating under hard throttle, but I found it droned a bit under less-urgent acceleration, and in most instances of ‘regular driving’ it actually just sounded loud, rather than lush.
Things that were annoying? The throttle response is dull for the first part of the pedal travel, making for some testing moments in traffic. Not helping that is the fact the engine stop-start system is exceptionally overactive. And that there’s no fuel use readout on the digital trip computer screen - I wanted to see what the car was claiming in terms of fuel use, but I couldn’t.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
3 years / unlimited km warranty
Ferrari servicing won’t cost you a cent for the first seven years, and that’s whether you hold on to it or sell it - the new owner will have access to complementary maintenance for whatever is left of the initial seven-year period.
The standard warranty offer from Ferrari is a three-year plan, but if you sign up for the New Power15 program, Ferrari will cover your car for up to 15 years from the first registration date, and that includes cover for major mechanical components including the engine, transmission, suspension and steering. It reportedly costs $4617 for V8 models like this - a drop in the financial ocean at this price point.
The overall score doesn’t necessarily reflect how good this car is, but that’s because we have to factor in safety kit and equipment. Those things matter, sure. But if you really want a Ferrari Portofino, you’ll probably read the drive impressions and look at the photos, both of which should be enough to push you over the line if you’re not quite there yet.
The Ferrari Portofino 2019 model is not just bellissimo to look at, it’s also a more Italian offering. And that’s buonissimo.
Do you think the Portofino the best Ferrari-offering? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.