The WhatsApp message from the boss read: “How would you like to test a Ferrari Portofino for a couple of days in January?“
He did not have to ask me twice.
I was a little nervous – I have to admit. I’ve driven some quick cars in my time however, the Prancing Horse was one I hadn’t yet ‘ticked off’. Some desk research was necessary, and the best preview of the Portofino I found was thanks to Tim Burton aka Shmee150.
The Portofino is the third incarnation of Ferrari’s foray into the front mounted, turbo charged V8 mated to a DSG gearbox driving the rear wheels that’s also a 2+2 hard-top convertible. And visually it’s a massive step forward from the California T and California that preceded it.
After a quick introduction to the car from Ferrari Australia, I ventured onto the streets of Sydney in the middle of a very warm January day and so began my 72 hours with the Ferrari Portofino.
Resplendent in Blu Mirabeau with stunning Cuoio interior, the Portofino is a classic beauty such as Raquel Welch or Sophia Loren (back in their day), as opposed to a Kardashian – nothing overt or too attention seeking. Very, very easy to live with.
What strikes me first is that in Comfort mode the Portofino gets about the often careworn streets of Sydney with ease. The suspension is very supple and forgiving, and the clearance under the front chin spoiler is ample and never once came into contact with the plethora of unavoidable speed bumps on our various journeys.
Twist the Manettino dial (Italian for: little lever) on the steering wheel to Sport and quite a few characteristics of the Portofino immediately change – gear changes are quicker and more physically and aurally noticeable especially with the roof down. The traction control backs off a little, and the suspension firms up as well. The exhaust note is the other very welcome modification to engaging Sport mode.
After some time spent getting used to the myriad of buttons on the steering wheel – which is easier than I thought it would be – I was up to pushing the limits of the Portofino a little more. It was in the car-park adjacent to our local Woolworths supermarket that the realities of living with almost half a million bucks worth of car become very apparent.
Parking is utterly off limits and the combination of beautiful music coming from the engine and the exhaust are completely lost on everyone who walks past the Portofino. That being said, there was nothing wrong with their eyes as every single person looks at the Ferrari. It’s quite overwhelming to be on the receiving end of so much attention everywhere you drive.
“I can’t hear you…“, came the phone call from my wife as she emerged from Woolies with some essentials for the family. A single press of the beautiful red START/STOP button on the steering wheel quickly alerted her to my location and readiness to move on.
The skies were changing for the worse as we approached home and I took the opportunity to get to one of my photo locations ahead of the impending storm. It’s only now that I notice the enormous yellow brake callipers that wrap around the carbon-ceramic discs.
With the roof up the Portofino is a very comfortable and quiet GT car. Sure you can still hear the engine and every gear change, but you are in a very comfortable and cool cabin with everything you need and no real excess. The large touch-screen in the middle of the dash is very functional although Apple Car Play would have been an option box I ticked.
I venture home and the down-shift cracks and bangs from the four exhaust pipes at the back of the Portofino are going toe-to-toe with the thunderstorm to the north as it passes out to sea.
It’s late evening on day one when I venture out again to test another feature of the three day test of the Portofino. We are planning to shoot some 360 degree video of the Ferrari the following day to show off the 360 degree capabilities of the new GoPro Max camera. I use the lack of traffic and sticky-beaks to test the rig and have a bit more fun with some of the other settings on the steering wheel. It’s almost midnight as I arrive home.
Up early the next morning to check that it wasn’t a dream. Thankfully it wasn’t.
The electronic mechanism to remove the roof is very slick. Ferrari had requested that we avoid opening the roof when the Portofino is not on level ground. Judging by the weight of the roof section, I can see why this could become an issue if not done correctly. I would estimate that without the roof and the various mechanisms to remove it, the Portofino would weigh at least 250kg less. At 1.664 tonnes currently, this would be a significant diet and would lift the power to weight ratio from 355 bhp/tonne to 418 bhp/tonne.
Some more shots of the Portofino are needed at another location where we rig the GoPro Max on the windscreen and head off towards the Harbour Bridge. (Note: I’m really sorry about the wind noise!)
The second trip with the GoPro Max sees us mount it between the rear seats. This gives a far better view of the incredible interior of the Portofino from a lower angle.
Again I ventured out late in the evening knowing that my time with the Portofino was coming to an end.
I finally got to open the taps and really feel the massive amount of thrust that the Ferrari V8 can muster when it needs to. The shift lights on the steering wheel give you a very clear indication that you had better pull on the beautifully machined aluminium gear lever behind the wheel if you want this experience to continue. It’s quite intoxicating.
After catching some rain on day one I venture to a 24 hour carwash on Sydney’s upper north shore to give the Portofino a rinse before some more photos in the morning. It’s late and I incorrectly assume that I’ll have the place to myself and it will be a quick rinse and go. The carwash is packed and the Portofino is a magnet for interest and a huge amount of respect for the badge and the stunning colour combination.
With my dues paid by way of some enthusiastic gear-changes on departure, I head for home with the top down.
My last day dawns and it’s time for some more shots of this awesome machine that has really grown on me. We lift the bonnet and marvel at the engine bay. Those red rocker covers with those seven letters never cease to stir you when you see them in person – although this is one of the very rare times I’ve not seen them through the clear glass at the rear of a 458 Italia or 488 GTB.
It’s also the first time I pay close attention to some of the other details on the interior.
Ferrari have been very good to let me keep the car a little longer so I can give 16 year-old son an experience that I had to wait forty plus years for. He’s quite impressed and marvels like I have at the comfort and stunning details on the Portofino.
The time has come to hand back the keys to Ferrari and conclude an experience that will stay with me for quite a while.
It is without a doubt one of the most exhilarating rides when you want to reacquaint yourself with the joy and pleasure of driving.