The New Portofino Is Ferrari's Most Powerful Convertible
It has been a rather unusually bitter winter in Europe, but Ferrari has wisely chosen the region of Puglia in southern Italy to introduce us to its new baby, the Portofino. In summer, Puglia’s stunning beaches and whitewashed towns are packed with holidaying foreigners; while in the depth of winter, the roads are nearly empty and ideal for some driving fun.
The Portofino takes its name from a picturesque fishing town on the Italian Riviera and supersedes Ferrari’s front-engine California T, which in turn replaced the original 2008 California four years ago. The original California was conceived as Ferrari’s entry-level model, with the same level of aesthetic refinement as the rest of its cars. It was highly successful, thanks to its coupe‑convertible design, and its 4.3L, naturally aspirated V8 engine that could push out 460hp—this was later uprated to a 560hp twin-turbo V8 engine in the California T. In fact, as an accolade to its success, up to 70 per cent of California’s buyers were new Ferrari customers.
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That said, Ferrari wasn’t yet completely satisfied with its creation, and sought to further elevate the California experience with the launch of a more focused model, the Portofino. It boosts the driving experience with an engine that boasts a top speed of 320km/h, ups the ante to 600hp and zips to 100km/h in just 3.5sec.
What is remarkable is that this performance is not only quicker than that of its forebear, but also similar to that of the considerably pricier Ferrari GTC4 LussoT. The car also features a new chassis that is about a third stronger and 80kg lighter than the one it replaces.
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Aesthetics wise, it is noticeably sexier and comes in a new exclusive shade of red—Rosso Portofino—as a tribute to the coastal town it was named after. It also features a fastback shape that draws resemblance to one of Ferrari’s previous heroes, the F12 Berlinetta, which was the Italian marque’s most powerful naturally aspirated 12-cylinder car.
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Zooming in on the more technical details, the car’s excellent F1-DCT transmission minimises the car’s turbo lag to nearly unnoticeable, giving you the sense that you are driving a naturally aspirated car instead of one that is turbocharged.
The driving experience is dramatically improved as well, as Ferrari has carefully developed its electric power steering system to give correct feedback under all driving situations. Together with a moderately uprated suspension and MagneRide dampers that are used in top-of-the-line Ferraris, these features are some of the reasons why the Portofino is arguably one of the finest gran turismo cars in the market today.
All these improvements and upgrades reinforce the driver’s bond with the car. Where the California T was too aloof, the Portofino involves you in the nuances of any journey you undertake with it. The Ferrari Portofino lets you feel the road better and enjoy its impressive capabilities far more than what its performance numbers suggest.
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This story first appeared in the June 2018 issue of Singapore Tatler.