New Ferrari Portofino 2018 review

It might not have been the most revered car in Ferrari’s line-up, nor the fastest, but the V8-engined California T was still an exceedingly desirable sports car all the same.

Now Ferrari has improved its front-engined, rear-wheel-drive roadster, giving it a new name 10 years after the original California T was first seen. Welcome to the all-new £166,180, 199mph Ferrari Portofino.

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Boasting yet more power and torque from its 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 (591bhp and 760Nm), the Portofino also has a new lightweight retractable hard-top, a bigger boot, roomier rear seats, a fresh electronic differential and a brand new chassis with revised suspension.

It’s 80kg lighter than the California T, too, while its seven-speed dual-clutch “F1” gearbox can shift between gears faster than before. Ferrari claims it takes 3.5 seconds for the 0-62mph sprint, while the Portofino covers 0-124mph (200kph) in a mere 10.8 seconds.

Whether you love or loathe the way Ferraris are styled, there’s no debating how much more aerodynamically efficient they have become, and the Portofino is no exception. In brief, the frontal area is down, so drag has been reduced. Yet at the same time the model produces around 10 per cent more downforce than a California, so is more stable at higher speeds.

The cabin has been thoroughly restyled and looks good. Rear-seat space is up, as is the overall quality of the interior, says Ferrari, while items such as the new magnesium-framed seats have helped to reduce weight.

The main instrument display is a TFT screen and there’s a big 10.25-inch touchscreen in the dash that controls most on-board functions, including a new, much-improved air-conditioning system. A new wind deflector also helps reduce airflow into the cabin by as much as 30 per cent, claims Ferrari.

What strikes you most about the Portofino on the move to begin with is how well resolved its ride is, even in Sport mode. This is the most usable everyday car that Ferrari makes, and its electronic suspension can iron out whatever a bumpy road can throw at it.

Body roll is also virtually non-existent, no matter how fast you aim it at a corner, to a point where the car can feel a touch unnatural in its responses. But this is also, you suspect, due to the hyper-fast response from the new electric power-steering system, which always seems light (maybe too light) in the way it never really loads up mid corner.

Ferrari claims the set-up has more feel and precision than a conventional hydraulic system, and we don’t doubt that. But when it comes to feel, there isn’t quite enough of it in our opinion.

There’s not a lot wrong with the way the Portofino accelerates, however. Even at 2,000rpm in a high gear, it has enough torque to generate serious thrust. And if you drop it down to, say, third and give it full throttle, the way it fires itself towards the horizon is deeply dramatic. The sound that accompanies the performance is also pretty spectacular.

The brakes are carbon ceramics as standard and they’re massively powerful if you stand on the pedal really hard, but once again there’s a fair bit of sneeze factor built into the response that isn’t ideal at lower braking efforts. Ideally we’d prefer a harder pedal that has sharper initial responses.

Overall, though, the Portofino is hard to fault considering its undeniable everyday versatility. It’s also just £6k more expensive than the Aston Martin DB11 Volante, which has less power, more weight and slower performance.

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