First drive: the Ferrari Portofino, a new breed of Italian sports car
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The Ferrari Portofino is the company’s “entry level” product, but the brand has a problem for customers in Australasia. A three-year problem.
The four-seater hard-top convertible replaces Ferrari’s California T and, as you can guess, is named after the Italian village, Portofino. Revealed at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show, the sports car was launched Downunder in Melbourne in mid December. Priced from $374,888 plus on roads, the Portofino is powered by a revised version of the California T’s 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 engine. Its output has been increased to 441kW at 7500rpm and 760Nm of torque from 3000-5250rpm.
The Portofino engine features new pistons, con-rods, air intakes, exhaust and headers — all designed to eliminate turbo lag.
Ferrari says that, paired with the Italian marque’s third-generation electronic differential, this means the Portofino is capable of 100km/h in 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 320km/h-plus.
It also has a new chassis design, brought about by advances in Ferrari’s production methods. It improves body stiffness by 35 per cent and helps reduce the dry weight by 80kg.
The car retains the 7-speed dual clutch transmission from the California T but features new software to allow for faster gearshifts. And that showed on the press drive.
It is 4.6m long and 1.95m wide, with the exterior design pure Ferrari thanks to the long bonnet and tapered rear. Inside, the Portofino has been refined after input from Ferrari owners.
The rear seats have increased legroom by 50mm, although they are suited still only for kids or as I used them for, handbags and shopping.
The infotainment system is more advanced and easier to use, featuring a 10.2-inch display screen in the centre console with Apple CarPlay functionality. The air conditioning system has been refined as well and is now 25 per cent faster and 50 per cent quieter than the California’s, making it better to hear that V8 engine.
Impressed? Well if you head into Ferrari’s Auckland dealership today and want to buy a Portofino, it won’t arrive in your driveway until 2021. There is a huge global demand for the Portofino.
But don’t worry, Ferrari Australasia’s CEO, Herbert Appleroth, is heading to Italy soon to have a chat with the factory to get that wait time down.
“We’re thrilled to debut the Ferrari Portofino on Victoria roads and truly expect this stunning new Ferrari V8 Grand Tourer to become the dream car for clients and fans,” said Appleroth.
“Portofino is one of Italy’s most beautiful towns, and one which has become internationally synonymous with elegance, sportiness and understated luxury. The Ferrari Portofino captures the intangible characteristics of that charming seaside town, opening up a new breed of vehicle that truly embodies the pinnacle of Italian excellence.”
The media drive started at Albert Park — home to Melbourne’s Australian Grand Prix — before driving along Melbourne’s famous beachfront roads towards the Mornington Peninsula. Except Melbourne’s weather wasn’t cooperating. The previous day’s press drive was cancelled when torrential rain flooded the streets and the two Portofino test cars were stuck in the hotel carpark.
My drive day started with drizzle but by the time we heading towards Red Hill and the famous twisting road to the area, heavy rain hit us and we couldn’t put the Portofino’s V8 through its paces.
Heading towards the Cape Schanck Lighthouse, we used a break in the weather to remove the metal roof that unfolds in 14 seconds and up to speeds of 45km/h, which was handy for when the rain came back.
Those open, quiet flat country roads to the peninsula were ideal to test the Portofino. Its road handling and grip is impressive, with cornering smooth and confident. With the roof off, the sports car handled aggressive road conditions and tight manoeuvres at speed but with the roof on, it became a grand tourer with versatility to boot.
And talking of boot, there was plenty of room in the rear for two cabin bags with the roof folded down, or three bags with the roof up. Or in my case, enough space for a trip to Ikea that night.