WHEN Fer­rari in­tro­duced the Cal­i­for­nia con­vert­ible in 2008, its aim was to en­tice new buy­ers to the mar­que by of­fer­ing a less hard­core model, al­beit one pow­ered by a nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 4.3-litre V8.

In 2014, the Cal­i­for­nia was re­placed by the Cal­i­for­nia T, which has a smaller but more pow­er­ful tur­bocharged 3.9-litre V8. Seventy per­cent of buy­ers of these two models were first-time Fer­rari own­ers, which in­di­cated that the Prancing Horse was on the right path.

Re­plac­ing the Cal­i­for­nia T is the Portofino, which takes its name from a pretty fish­ing town on Italy’s west coast. It is in­ter­est­ing how the name of an Ital­ian fish­ing vil­lage sounds more se­duc­tive than a US state.

The Cal­i­for­nia T was crit­i­cised for its lack of ag­gres­sive looks, so the de­sign­ers gave the Portofino a more pur­pose­ful ap­pear­ance. The re­sult­ing de­sign bears more than a pass­ing re­sem­blance to the F12berlinetta.

The Portofino’s styling also low­ers the drag co­ef­fi­cient to just 0.31, or a 6 per­cent im­prove­ment over the pre­vi­ous model. The air­flow be­neath the car was op­ti­mised to en­hance brake-cool­ing and gen­er­ate more down­force.

The Portofino doesn’t pro­duce as much down­force as Fer­rari’s other sports cars, but the 40kg it de­vel­ops at 200km/h without any wing el­e­ments is noth­ing to sneeze at.

To achieve this fig­ure, Fer­rari de­sign­ers en­sured that the air


flows through the body, rather than around it, to gen­er­ate the de­sired aero­dy­namic re­sults.

For in­stance, if you in­spect the head­lights closely, you’ll see vents be­side their hous­ings that lead air into the wheel well to cool the brakes. On each of the front fend­ers, there are vents which ex­tend to the doors that ex­tract the air from the wheel wells, thereby re­duc­ing front axle lift.

Like the Cal­i­for­nia T’s roof, the Portofino’s hard-top also takes 14 sec­onds to open or close. The good news, how­ever, is that un­like its pre­de­ces­sor, which had to be sta­tion­ary, you can op­er­ate the Portofino’s roof while the car is mov­ing at speeds of up to 40km/h.

The Portofino’s cockpit is sim­i­lar to the GTC4Lusso T’s. That’s not a bad thing, though, since this gen­er­a­tion of Fer­raris have pret­tier in­te­ri­ors com­pared to the models from past decades. Get­ting this right isn’t easy. There are a lot of tech bits that need to be in­te­grated into a lux­u­ri­ous de­sign, but at the same time, it must re­main driver-fo­cussed so that it will not ham­per pi­lots with harder driv­ing styles. Thank good­ness the in­stru­ment clus­ter con­tin­ues to be dom­i­nated by an ana­logue tachome­ter that’s flanked by two high-con­trast LCDs. These ad­di­tional screens are the best way to dis­play the wealth of in­for­ma­tion gen­er­ated by the car’s sys­tems.

The 10.25-inch in­fo­tain­ment dis­play is sim­i­lar to the one in the GTC4Lusso T. The Portofino also has the same ad­di­tional screen for the front pas­sen­ger to see the car’s speed, en­gine revs and gear se­lec­tion.

It is clear that Fer­rari is try­ing to make the in­te­ri­ors of their cars more lux­u­ri­ous and com­fort­able. The Portofino’s

cabin is qui­eter than the Cal­i­for­nia T’s with the roof closed, but when it’s open, the new wind de­flec­tor dra­mat­i­cally re­duces draughts. Small touches, such as the al­most rim­less rear view mir­ror, show how much the de­sign­ers sweated over de­tails.

The Portofino’s tur­bocharged 3.9-litre V8 de­vel­ops a heady 600hp, or 40hp more than what the Cal­i­for­nia T pro­duces. The power in­crease was achieved by care­fully op­ti­mis­ing the com­bus­tion char­ac­ter­is­tics in­side the cylin­der heads. Be­cause the power peaks at a rel­a­tively high 7500rpm, the driver can still rev the V8 as if it were nat­u­rally as­pi­rated. The Portofino’s pow­er­plant isn’t quiet, but it also isn’t as ef­fu­sive as Fer­rari’s nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gines.

In­deed, sorely miss­ing is the char­ac­ter­is­tic “war cry” from the ex­haust. Even Fer­rari can­not re­con­sti­tute what is at­ten­u­ated by the two tur­bos in the path of the ex­haust plumb­ing.

Of course, the Portofino is sup­posed to be more of a gen­tle­man – a so­cially re­spon­si­ble Fer­rari that won’t an­noy your neigh­bours if you come home in the wee hours. The F154 bi-turbo V8 en­gine is the same one found in the GTC4Lusso T, where it is tuned to pro­duce 610hp.

How­ever, both the Portofino and much heav­ier GTC4Lusso T sprint from zero to 100km/h in 3.5 sec­onds, zero to 200km/h in 10.8 sec­onds, and reach an

iden­ti­cal top speed of 320km/h.

That said, the Portofino per­forms the cen­tury sprint a tenth of a sec­ond quicker than its Cal­i­for­nia T pre­de­ces­sor, and its top speed is 4km/h higher as well.

My test car is equipped with the op­tional SCM-E sys­tem of mag­ne­torhe­o­log­i­cal dampers, stan­dard in more ex­pen­sive Fer­rari models. Com­pared to the stock sus­pen­sion, SCM-E has spring rates that are 15 per­cent stiffer in front and 19 per­cent stiffer in the rear.

This en­hances the Portofino’s agility and re­spon­sive­ness, as the dampers rapidly con­trol body move­ments, while still de­liv­er­ing an ac­cept­able ride. Com­ple­ment­ing SCM-E are the new Pirelli P Zero tyres which were de­vel­oped to­gether with Fer­rari en­gi­neers, whose fo­cus was on im­prov­ing han­dling and wet grip.

The Portofino’s elec­tric power steer­ing is a pleas­ant sur­prise. My past ex­pe­ri­ence with other sys­tems has shown that they typ­i­cally have lit­tle or no steer­ing feel com­pared to their hy­draulic equiv­a­lents. How­ever, ku­dos to the Fer­rari en­gi­neers for care­fully map­ping out the steer­ing as­sis­tance level – their ef­forts have pre­served and de­vel­oped a sem­blance of steer­ing feel.

The re­sult is a helm that not only feels much bet­ter than the Cal­i­for­nia’s, but also comes close to the steer­ing of the 812 Su­per­fast in terms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Without all-wheel-drive, Fer­rari en­gi­neers had to work harder to put all the power to the road to achieve com­pet­i­tive ac­cel­er­a­tion rates. The Portofino’s F1-Trac and E-Diff 3 sys­tems re­ally have their work cut out for them.

Torque de­liv­ery within the first three for­ward gears in­creases pro­gres­sively, with the max­i­mum 760Nm only avail­able from fourth gear on­wards. This dis­guises turbo lag and also helps pre­vent the turbo boost from over­whelm­ing the tyres and elec­tron­ics. One piece of tech­nol­ogy miss­ing from the Portofino’s ar­ma­ment is a rear-wheel­steer­ing sys­tem.

Fer­rari claims that with the firmer and sharper sus­pen­sion, it was not needed. More­over, since the Portofino is a smaller car, its ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity in tight spa­ces is not a huge is­sue.

If you were hop­ing for the Portofino to de­liver a magic car­pet ride, you’ll be dis­ap­pointed. After all, this con­vert­ible is still a Fer­rari, and its han­dling is also aided by the 35 per­cent in­crease in body rigid­ity over its pre­de­ces­sor. That said, the Portofino’s ride com­fort is equal to the Cal­i­for­nia T’s de­spite the stiffer sus­pen­sion. While the 7-speed F1DCT (dual-clutch gear­box) is fab­u­lous at de­liv­er­ing very rapid re­sponses to shift com­mands, it now also pro­vides smoother shifts in auto mode. The Portofino may be the “en­try-level” Fer­rari with “only” 600hp, but one does not have to be driv­ing at il­le­gal speeds to en­joy it. With the elec­tric power steer­ing of­fer­ing a com­mu­nica­tive feel, and the ab­sence of a clever rear­wheel-steer­ing sys­tem, the Portofino ac­tu­ally de­liv­ers a driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that is purer than I ex­pected. Who would have thought that the least ex­pen­sive Fer­rari would ac­tu­ally turn out to be one of the car­maker’s most en­joy­able models?


Tur­bocharged 3.9-litre V8 has 600 Ital­ian stal­lions, but its sound­track isn’t as ef­fu­sive as Fer­rari’s nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gines.

Cockpit is sim­i­lar to the GTC4Lusso T’s, with a de­sir­able mix of tech­nol­ogy, lux­ury and sporti­ness.


Portofino’s steer­ing not only feels much bet­ter than the Cal­i­for­nia’s, but ac­tu­ally comes close to that of the 812 Su­per­fast.

Fold­ing hard­top opens/ closes in 14 sec­onds, but more im­por­tantly, it can now be op­er­ated on the move.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Singapore

© PressReader. All rights reserved.