Portofino the brilliant successor text and photos by: Tarek Hawchar. If Ferrari invites you to a test drive in Italy out of all the places, you reschedule everything else and say yes immediately. The test drive this time concerned their latest Portofino. A direct replacement for the California T, the Portofino is Ferrari’s luxurious and comfortable GT car. It’s the softest most relaxing car they make, but it’s got big shoes to fill. We loved the original California, and even more so the subsequent California T. Despite the amazing 488 and F12, the California T was the best Ferrari to live with on a day to day basis. The question is, can this new model be a match?
The front fascia looks like it’s constantly smiling, which pretty accurately describes what the person behind the steering wheel is doing most of the time
Our Portofino wasn’t finished in the traditional Ferrari red, but a wonderful color which is a mix between gray and silver. It shifts and changes contrast depending on the lighting, making the car really pop out. It was also a revelation to see just how good a color other than red and yellow suits this Ferrari. Dimensionally, the Portofino is almost identical to the California T.
The skin however, is completely new. Ferrari used their current design language to update the exterior, and it’s immediately apparent that this is an all-new model, not just a facelifted California. It’s smoother, sleeker and more elegant in every way, resembling the newer 812 Superfast a lot more.The front fascia looks like it’s constantly smiling, which pretty accurately describes what the person behind the steering wheel is doing most of the time.
The headlights have been redesigned with a new L-shape and the big grille has been angled upwards. The side air vents are also a lot bigger now, though that does improve cooling as well, Ferrari claims.
“I’M STILL STRUGGLING TO DETERMINE WHETHER I LIKE IT MORE WITH THE ROOF UP OR DOWN”
The profile view is extremely pleasing to look at. The long elongated hood, the short overhangs, the extremely low height… everything adds up to create one of the most stunning cars you’ll ever see on the road. With the roof up, the Portofino almost looks like it was designed to be a coupe from the very beginning. I’m still struggling to determine whether I like it more with the roof up or down.
To top it all off, the high waistline makes the cockpit look like a fighter jet canopy.
The rear exhibits traditional Ferrari features too. The single round taillights on each side, the aggressive diffuser at the bottom, and of course, the quad exhaust outlets. Ferrari has done an excellent job at making the Portofino seem like a true super car. Proportionally and design-wise they absolutely hit the nail on the head.
The Most Luxurious Ferrari Ever
Again, Ferrari has gone to the trouble of completely redesigning the cabin, not just giving it a mild facelift. Although I wouldn’t call the Portofino’s cabin luxurious in conventional terms, it is ergonomic and full of features. Compared to something like the 488 Pista, this feels like a Rolls-Royce. The 8-inch touchscreen has been improved, so it’s now faster as well as more aesthetically pleasing. Ferrari claims to have updated the graphics on the instrument cluster too, though they look as great as they did before.
The seats are new and are even skinnier than before. Still, Ferrari has managed to make them more supportive and a whole lot more comfortable. The ones in the back are cramped but are definitely more usable than those in the California T. They’re great for kids, not so much for adults. Shorter journeys aren’t an issue, but full-grown adults will require a stretch every hour or two. The steering wheel is as confusing as ever, but only if you’re a Ferrari rookie. If you’ve driven any model after the F430 starting with the 458, you’ll be immediately at home.
The wheel itself is perfect however. The right size and the right thickness.
The fact that it’s covered in gorgeous Alcantara helps things too.
It may be a GT, but the Portofino is a true super car at heart. The 3.9-liter V8 is derived from the 488, making 600 horsepower in this particular application. The variable boost system eliminates turbo lag completely, and you genuinely don’t even notice the fact that it’s turbocharged, even at low revs. Torque output stands at 760 Nm from 3,000 rpm to 5,250 rpm. Redline is a rather high 7,500 rpm. The figures are as follows: 0-100 km/h in 3.5 seconds, 0-200 km/h in 12 seconds and a top speed well north of 300 km/h.
Ferrari has stiffened up the chassis too. The change in construction made the Portofino 40 kilograms lighter over its predecessor, but a lot more rigid in addition. Just as we were starting to familiarize ourselves with the Portofino’s dynamic capabilities, it started to rain. When I say rain, I mean pour. Naturally, feeling a little down, I put the roof up and continued driving.
Little did I know, the rain was a gift, not a curse. It showcased the Portofino’s neutral chassis and accurate steering to a degree I would not have experienced on dry pavement. Because the limits of grip were a lot lower on the wet road, I was able to get closer to the car’s limits too. What I found simply blew me away.
This so-called GT possesses all of the poise and balance its 488 sibling does, with none of the drawbacks. It steers on command. If you want it to oversteer, it will at a moment’s notice. If you want it to just easily powerslide on the way out of a corner, it won’t even blink an eye while doing it. It’s a masterclass in driving dynamics.
The Portofino isn’t just a step up from the California T. Ferrari has managed to make a car which is 10 times better, and I’m not exaggerating. As a usable Ferrari, one which can be driven daily, this is Ferrari’s finest creation to date.
If you want it to oversteer, it will at a moment’s notice.