Portofino features a fully retractable hard top that gives it both a coupe and vert appearance... down or up in 14 secs. New chassis and magnetic shocks give it legit handling. Photo by Angelo Puyat
Drive Cars and Bikes

Named after an Italian resort town, the Ferrari Portofino is la bella vita

Maranello’s handsome drop-top proves that there are no entry level disappointments with this Italian marquee.
Angelo B. Puyat | Jun 06 2019

Portofino is an upscale fishing village and resort town in the city of Genoa, found also along the Italian Riviera. The postcard-esque charm of its coves with the colorful town houses, glittered with little bistros, while overlooking the fishing and leisure boats is like a scene from a Hollywood set. I would love to visit Portofino one day.

Fastback profile is very sexy.

 

More need for speed:

 

Instead, I get the next best thing. Scratch that, better! I was handed the keys to Maranello’s newest V8 grand tourer, the Ferrari Portofino. This is the Italian carmaker’s replacement to their long-playing California. With 10 years of service under that car’s belt, this fresh interpretation of what a two-door sports-luxury GT car should be is sure to appeal to both new and old fans of the brand.

Penned and conceived in the Ferrari Design Centre, the Portofino takes a decidedly more lusty appearance compared to its predecessor’s “conservative” facade. Form and function go hand in hand with the coupe’s shape. Having its powerplant mounted in front means cooling ducts are integrated to the design, ensuring that turbocharged motor receives its cooling requirements. Air dams on the bumper and on the hood are functional as they are aesthetic, giving the Portofino that creased front.

Twin Turbo V8 has fantastic power, sounds menacing too, thanks to electronic exhaust flaps.

Other details that draw the eye are the boomerang headlights, a familial detail adorning modern Ferraris. Deeply cut lines can be found on the side, ramping up the Portofino’s modern appeal. At the rear, single round tail lights and quad exhausts give this Ferrari that sporting credence. The biggest design gem of the vehicle though is that auto folding top, lending it a fastback shape when up and a bonafide convertible appearance when down. Ferrari made the roof appear and disappear in just 14 seconds, and Portofino can perform its magic trick at speeds below 40 km/h.

My time with the Portofino was short but sweet (just like a Hollywood affair), and began with a road roaring stint around the urbanized confines of Clark, Pampanga. Getting comfortable in the aptly padded seats was not difficult at all, thanks to the 18-way adjustable feature. One does readily notice how the Portofino’s cabin echoes its Grand Touring credo. Compared to the more track oriented 488 Berlinetta, which has the makings of a fighter jet cockpit, this one feels more relaxing. Ferrari has given it a 10.2-inch infotainment screen which sits neatly in the middle, while an accessory screen is provided for the passenger which displays speed and entertainment info among others. I start with the roof up (forgot my sunscreen), and enjoy the cruising pleasures of the Portofino.

Like any Ferrari, the steering wheel is the center of command. You’ll notice that there aren’t any signal light stalks in the Portofino, and are already integrated to the steering wheel. Also, the manettino switch doesn’t have the “race” mode of its other stable mates, suggesting its less rambunctious nature.

Race mode or not, 591 horsepower is 591 horsepower. So I floor the pedal and get treated to a hefty serving of G force. Man this thing can go! Motivating the Portofino is the same 3.9L turbo V8 that was in the old California T model, but thanks to the revised internals, exhaust size, and ECU mapping, the Portofino trumps the Cali by 39 ponies. For a car that should be the “slower one” of the breed, it races to 100 km/h from stand-still in just 3.5 seconds. Yes, just 3.5.

Cockpit is plenty comfy, with modern Ferrari touches.

What surprised me more than its pace was the very compliant ride. This is where the Portofino earns top GT marks, as the car’s ride quality was more akin to a luxury sedan. Ferrari’s endowed it with an all new chassis, that’s trimmed overall weight by 80 kilos, and is purportedly 35 percent more rigid than before. Couple this improvement with the optional adaptive magnetorheological dampers, and you can gleam at how Ferrari achieved this feat.

Taking the excitement up a notch, I flog the Portofino inside the Clark International Raceway for some white knuckle fun. Keeping traction control engaged, I was curious how the electronic differential would behave on more aggressive inputs. Suffice to say, you’d have to push the car really hard to over-step the system. The electronic steering was very precise as well, and though some drivers might prefer more feedback, well don’t forget this is a GT car after all. What satisfied re-ally was the rifle quick 7-speed dual clutch transmission which was bang on, and with the potent force fed V8 always on boil, speed came as fast as you could handle it.

Short but sweet. It was enough time though to get to appreciate the Portofino’s breadth of abilities. In the street or on the track, this Ferrari carried itself with so much aplomb, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a Ferrari fan (yes the F40 is the coolest car ever made and Michael Schum-acher is the greatest driver ever born). Even if the Portofino had half of the performance it offers, the fact that it looks this good, and is truly usable for daily travel, would be a homerun already. This dear readers, is how a modern GT car should be!

 

Specifications

Ferrari Portofino

Engine: 3.9-liter V8 twin-turbocharged

Power: 591 horsepower @ 7500 RPM

Torque: 760 Newton-meter @3000-5250 RPM

Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic

0-100 km/h: 3.5 seconds

Top Speed: 320 km/h

Price: Upon request.

Good: Striking profile, gobs of power, supple ride.

Bad: Hard top cuts boot space to a few bottles of milk, or wine.

Bottomline: Life is good if you’re rolling in one of these.

 

For more information on Ferrari, visit Ferrar.com. This piece originally came out in Metro Society December 2018 Vol. 16 No. 1