The term “everyday Ferrari” is about as oxymoronic as motoring terms come, but that is indeed how the grand old Italian carmaker has labelled the Portofino.
Let’s not get things twisted: your definition of “everyday” will still require having more than Dh800,000 fluttering around in your pockets when the first examples of the California T’s replacement land in the UAE in May. But it doesn’t take too long behind the wheel of the car that is named after a beautiful fishing village on the Italian Riviera to understand what they’re getting at.
The California T set high standards for the marque – 70 per cent of its buyers, Ferrari says, were new customers. It posted new benchmarks for a Ferrari being used as a daily driver. In Abu Dhabi last year, I spied one driving towards Saadiyat Island in roof-down form with several metres of Ikea packaging protruding behind, anchored down in the back seats.
Yet the California never quite sat well, from its American name to its almost cheerful grille that exuded a gormlessness not quite in keeping with the manufacturer of some of the best-looking motor vehicles the world has ever seen.
It was, in short, too friendly.
The Portofino, thankfully, is an altogether meaner proposition, with hints of the range-topping 812 Superfast’s angry lines. That’s not to say that the California has been discarded entirely: the brief was to expand on its strengths, and the outgoing model’s dimensions are retained, ensuring that a compact feel remains.
In the week that the company’s charismatic founder, Enzo Ferrari, would have celebrated his 120th birthday, I am in the southern heel of the geographical boot that is Italy. The rural roads of Puglia, ravaged by winter, provide a suitably robust test of whether you can indeed drive this Ferrari from Sunday to Thursday – and still want to swan about it in during the weekend.
The answer is yes.
If you were to take another V8-powered Prancing Horse, the sportingly rigid 488, out on tarmac such as this, your spine would not be thanking you at all. The Portofino, on the other hand, has a forgiving all-new suspension set-up, with well-weighted electric power steering, and rarely gives you the impression of being in control of almost 600hp. That last figure is the thick end of 10 per cent up on the California, while the top speed climbs 4kph to 320kph, no doubt aided by a weight reduction of about 80 kilograms.
As what Ferrari claims is the only sports car on the market to be a true 2+2 coupe and “spider”, with its retractable aluminium hard top stowing itself away in 14 seconds at speeds of up to 40kph, it certainly possesses a flexibility that would be the envy of many rivals.
Despite the five centimetres of additional legroom in the rear, four fully grown adults aren’t really a particularly viable prospect. My shins are aching just contemplating what that must have been like in the California. The Portofino’s 18-way adjustable front seats, though, have support in all the right places, while with the roof down, scarf, hat and/or wig wearers will be glad to hear that wind buffeting is minimal.
That isn’t the only pleasing facet of the completely new cockpit, which also features a totally fresh air-conditioning system that is 50 per cent quieter and automatically reconfigures when you put the roof up or down. A 10.25-inch HD infotainment touchscreen is complemented by an 8.8-inch HD touchscreen option on the passenger side, replicating that in the likes of the 812 Superfast and GTC4Lusso.
The full-tank range of 740 kilometres is an impressive claim that marks it out as a genuine grand tourer, albeit not one that you assume would stand up well once you engage Sport mode. Once in said faster setting, there is no noticeable turbo lag and the 760Nm of torque pulls you towards the horizon in just about any gear with all the velocity that you might expect of such a sizeable number.
Your progress is aided by some mightily clever aerodynamics that could doubtless fill an entire science journal – the most visual element of which is dramatic slashes that extend from behind the front wheel arches to evacuate air that has flowed through sizeable vents beneath the headlamps.
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It may look meaner than the California, but it is kinder to the Earth in general, with improved CO2 efficiency and reduced fuel consumption. The exhaust valves close at idling to make it more sympathetic to city use. Ferrari purists shouldn’t despair, however: once it is unleashed, the Portofino’s self-styled “orchestra of sound” moves from a rumbling bass through tenor tones and into a soaring soprano as the revolutions per minute skyrocket to a max-out level of 7,500.
The only driving niggle is that on hill starts – something that, admittedly, aren’t too widespread in the UAE – the car is prone to momentarily rolling backwards in auto and manual modes. An expensive prang could certainly await should that little crease not be ironed out.
That aside, the Portofino is, to steal a comic-book comparison, Venom to the California’s Spider-Man.
It looks tougher, accelerates faster and has better grip, performance and traction – yet it is easier to drive. It is a GT with supercar looks. And you really could drive it every day, assuming that your routine doesn’t demand carrying much more than two human beings and a tremendous sense of driving pride.