The new Ferrari Portofino was the highlight of a weekend of customer and media driving organized by Ferrari Middle East and Ferrari Oman in the Sultanate. While the entire range of current Ferrari mainstream models was present – the media drive itself was centered on the Ferrari Portofino.
As is the usual practice on these events, two drivers from Ferrari’s customer training program were on hand to oversee the actual drive after a training and familiarisation session at Ferrari’s showroom in Azhaiba.
The drive route included city driving as well as the faster and more appealing open roads past the Al Bustan to Qantab turn off.
The Ferrari Portofino
Ferrari’s latest version of its V8 powered sportscar is the most appealing yet. Like the California T that it replaces, the Portofino is powered by a brilliantly engineered lightweight aluminium 3.9-litre V8 engine, though with tweaks and performance upgrades, the new block delivers an outstanding 600PS and 750NM of torque.
Ferrari engineers have focussed on negating any perception of turbo lag with an almost predictive power delivery as well as custom geared and engineered seven speed F1 gearbox. The engine delivers on all fronts – power when needed, a flat and massive torque through the gears with a reserve of extra torque reserved for the tall seventh gear and a fuel efficiency that is quite baffling – after all it is a V8 engine!
The body has also been worked on completely – a new aluminium body structure with large reinforced sills and new aerodynamic paths underlies the reshaped beefier external panels. The Portofino is finally in that sweet spot of a design story where it looks like one of the larger and more desired Ferrari’s yet offers a marginally usable rear seat layout (strictly +2) along with a fold down metal roof. From the FF inspired headlights to the new grille and the strictly functional, yet so beautiful air paths just north of the door, the Ferrari Portofino is finally the looker that the California tried so hard to be.
And then you get the bonus of the reworked interiors. The new dashboard, familiar yet reworked steering wheel, large digital displays on the centre and for the passenger (again inspired from the GTC4Lusso) and the tachometer centric IP with two 5″ displays all works in the favor of a Scuderia lover who may be choosing this car. It is so familiar, yet so modern.
We also love the new seats that have been provided for driver and front passenger. Magnesium alloy underpinnings make for a lightweight and extremely thin frame, which is padded in typical Ferrari finesse, with new headrest arrangements, again taken from the V12 range.
Our love affair with Ferrari has been long and sometimes very much on the edge. Ever since the new range of engines and gearbox have come to the fore, making even city driving a very pleasant experience, there is no reason to not buy a Ferrari. And the Ferrari Portofino encapsulates every bit of that reasoning.
Switch on the engine and you fall in love with the new reality that is the roar of the turbocharged V8 engine. Like our course pilot said, “Ferrari never produces noise from the tailpipes, only music.” The rumble has been shifted a couple of octaves higher and you can get the flat snap of the tailpipe barking almost on demand. The drive mode selector or Manettino allows you to select between a more restricted set of alternatives than the 488, but then you really won’t think of the Portofino and a Corsa alternative. Comfort, Sport and ESC Off are a good enough range when partnered with the magnetic response selector on the suspension and the manual mode. That’s where we went through a moment – we know that the car’s Auto mode is good, but we held off and held off and then finally dialed in Manual just for the ability to hit a corner with a higher rev on the engine.
The car’s SCM3, dials in all the other aspects of handling and response – it isn’t as aggressive in its envelope at the 488 but then don’t expect it to be so. It delivers a reasonably aggressive yet fluid move through the curves, you can sense its inherent ability to provide oversteer and slip just at the edge of the envelope and yet the car is itself unfazed, taking curves flattish, while reminding you there lurks more power and torque under the hood.
The Ferrari Portofino is in that sweet spot – like we averred earlier, it is as pure a design as you would get on a 2+2 berlinetta, yet it uses engineering to hide a beast under the spotlights. That V8 engine has grown up nicely and yes we are still hunting for its turbo lag – instead being treated to a snappy feedback. The cabin is created for a Ferrari lover with a lot of extras that will haul in luxury aficionados. Like that passenger screen.
For us it’s finally that steering wheel, that engine response, the way you are sure you are going exactly where you point the car, while the wheels tell you they want to let loose, all without either the car or you breaking out into a sweat. Enough said, break out the bubbly.