It’s always a brighter day knowing that you are going to drive a Ferrari. Waking up earlier than usual and carrying out the daily ablutions with zest are some of the positive symptoms I experienced before heading out to pick up the all-new Ferrari Portofino M for a road test review.
Design & aesthetics
There it stood afront the showroom on Sheikh Zayed Road glistening under the sunshine in a bright red livery — Ferrari red as the common folk call it. This one had a tinge of orange to it. The Portofino is the successor to the California, both of which are GT Spiders. The term GT expands to Gran Turismo and these vehicles are designed for transcontinental travel; and the term ‘Spider’ is an Italian equivalent for a convertible vehicle.
Ferrari vehicles have always been known to be emotionally evocative. The Portofino carries that message in its own interpretation as a curvaceous bodied sports car with a sharp nose, truncated rear end and plenty of chiseled surfaces; with the visual heft of the 812 Superfast as opposed to the lithe-framed F8 Tributo brethren. Undoubtedly, the silhouette is recognisably Ferrari… just as you’d have imagined it as a 7-year-old.
The ‘M’ in its moniker stands for ‘Modificata’, implying that it has been tweaked for added performance and visual appeal. The new aluminium slats on the grille with its contrasting faceted tips and the redesigned rear diffuser, which can be specified in carbon-fibre, are some of the changes. It also now features a new drag-reducing air vent beside the wheel arch.
Overall, the Portofino M is a pretty car, certainly prettier than the California it replaces. But there are others in the Ferrari range that are more worthy of pageantry. That being said, it certainly looks like a million bucks and costs just as much.
The exhaust note on a cold start is remarkably loud and will awaken everything inert in you. The tailpipes emanate a note that has a deeper bark, quite distinct from the high-pitched howls of the high-revving, naturally-aspirated Ferrari engines of old. But rest assured, it is a win-win situation.
The originator of that thunderous exhaust note is the famously red-painted engine that sits over the front axle, and not the rear. It has a twin-turbo 3.9-litre V8 configuration, which comes from the range that was voted “International Engine of the Year” for four consecutive years. So, there is something special here. Rev it up to 7,500 rpm and it makes as much as 620 PS — a 20 horse bump over the predecessor, thanks to the new cam profiles that increase valve lift and optimise combustion chamber filling. Torque remains at a high 760 Nm, available from 3,000 rpm all the way to 5,750 rpm. And all that mechanical enthusiasm is driven through a new 8-speed gearbox (instead of the 7-speed it replaces) down to the rear wheels. To think that the littlest of Ferraris makes this kind of power is both frightening and empowering at the same time.
On the move
At 4594 mm, it isn’t much bigger than a Porsche 911. But even as I gently steered it out of the parking lot onto open roads, I got the feeling that the perceived size is much larger. So, watch out for those fender extremities especially around town and in traffic.
As for the “main event” i.e. acceleration… there is little need to dig deep into the higher parts of the rev counter or select the right gear. This thing just goes…even in half throttle! And if you decide to put the pedal to the metal, the Portofino M makes a violet effort forward, legitimatising its space in supercar territory. If we go by claimed numbers, 100 km/h comes up in just 3.45 seconds from a standstill and the 200 km/h mark is eclipsed in 9.8 seconds. That’s quicker than the legendary Porsche Carrera GT from 2004.
The steering is incredibly precise for a road car but feedback is a touch wanting. It just means that you can place the car wherever you wish and at almost any speed. With all that speed in question, what prevents you from meeting with the maker is the brute braking force the Portofino M provides. The 390 mm and 360 mm discs workswith the eagerness of a trigger-happy cop, which is great for sporty driving, but not so much for the law-enforcement entities.
All the speedy antics aside, the real value of the Portofino M is experienced when you exercise its ability to go from a hardtop coupe that is quiet, refined and insulated from dust and heat, to a roofless wonder that allows you to enjoy the fresh air, the incredible Dubai skyline and the added decibels of the exhaust note.
Features and practicality
Gladly, the other functions that make a sports car usable have not been ignored. The infotainment duties are handled via a 10.25-inch touchscreen on the centre console with legible menus. The audiophiles haven’t been ignored either. The on-board JBL speakers are real thumpers. Also available are Apple Car Play and Android Auto.
The air vents are deliberately shaped like jet diffusers, the efficiency of which I’m positive owners will appreciate as we approach summer. In the trunk, there is just about space for a golf bag — the yardstick of luggage accommodations in luxury vehicles. With the protective cover down, it’s a lot less than the advertised 292 litres and can store a spare set of clothes. So, at the very least, you can jump from office to gym or night club, without hassle.
You should also know that Ferrari offers an extended seven-year maintenance programme, which specifies a very liberal 20,000 km gap or once a year service requirement with no mileage restrictions.
In a world where many things are demanded from a single vehicle, the Ferrari Portofino M does well to justify its place in the market. For roughly a million bucks, you get a swanky supercar that looks like nothing else on the road and is faster than any road car should be. The draw here is the quick-folding convertible top that helps transition this from a refined hard top coupe to an opulent open-top roadster… in just 14 seconds. Back benchers may fuss and you may struggle with boot space, but keeping that aside, the Portofino M is a promise of grand touring that Ferrari delivers.
Portofino is a small fishing village in Italy that attracts celebrity visitors. It derives its name from the term Portus Delphini or Port of the Dolphin.
GOOD: Blisteringly quick; sharp handling; refined interior; quick-folding convertible hardtop
BAD: Not the prettiest Ferrari; tight rear quarters; limited boot space; competent rivals
AUTHOR’S RATING: 7.5/10 stars
Body type: 2+2-seater; 2-door premium performance convertible sportscar
Engine & layout: Front-engine;
twin-turbo 3.9-litre V8; rear-wheel drive
Transmission: 8-speed DCT (automated manual)
Peak output: 620 PS @ 5,750 – 7,500 rpm
- 760 Nm @ 3,000 – 5,750 rpm
0 to 100km/hq: 3.45 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 320-plus km/h (drag limited; claimed)
Price: Starting at Dh 850,000 or there abouts
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