by Karl Furlong
Not everyone who wants a Ferrari plans to spend all day out on the track. For a specific clientele with a deep appreciation for the marque that desires something a bit less uncompromising, there is the Portofino grand tourer. With 2+2 seating, a retractable hardtop, a front mid-engine layout, and looks to die for, it's a Ferrari that you can use every day. Fortunately, it's not all soft because under the hood lies a 3.9-liter twin-turbocharged V8 producing 592 horsepower, enough to send the graceful Portofino from 0-62 mph in a much less genteel 3.5 seconds. While softer than a 488, the Portofino is still a rewarding driving machine but is also comfortable enough when you're taking it easy. There's also a usable, high-quality cabin to enjoy, although the rear seats are better thought of as extra storage space. Competitors include the all-conquering Porsche 911 Cabriolet, which although even more dynamic, lacks the Portofino's allure. As with virtually any other Ferrari, one drive in the Portofino is all it takes to fall in love.
The Portofino is Ferrari's latest GT and replaces the California T. Its many improvements include a 35-percent stiffer body, while there is an overall weight reduction of around 176 pounds relative to the California T. The Portofino is also the first Ferrari GT to feature electric power steering, along with a small reduction in the steering wheel angle/ratio. While the Portofino also has a 3.9-liter twin-turbocharged engine, power output has been increased to a strong 592 horsepower to provide thrilling acceleration. There have also been improvements in the cabin, with rear legroom increased by just under two inches (although space is still severely limited back there), and an air-conditioning system that is said to be 50 percent quieter than before.
The California T was already beautiful, but the Portofino (romantically named after the quaint coastal village of the same name on the Italian Riviera), is even more exquisite. There's not an angle from which the proportions aren't spot-on, and whether the roof is open or closed, it's the same story. The design is highlighted by 20-inch alloy wheels, carbon-ceramic brakes with brightly colored calipers, quad exhaust outlets, and LED lighting. It may be an "entry-level" Ferrari, but there's nothing ordinary or watered-down about the entrance this car makes.
The Portofino measures 180.6 inches in length, 76.3 inches in width, and 51.9 inches in height, while riding on a 105.1-inch wheelbase. Curb weight works out to 3,669 pounds, around 176 lbs lighter than the California T thanks to various weight-reducing strategies that extend to the engine and electronics.
You've just got to get it in one of Ferrari's red Rosso shades, right? Resplendent in Rosso Portofino (yes, that's the name of the color itself), the GT looks absolutely stunning. For the non-traditionalists, don't despair as there are over 25 other shades available for the Portofino. The solid colors include Giallo Modena (yellow), Rosso Corsa (think of it as a burnt orange), and Nero (black). Then, there is also a range of metallic hues like the icy-looking Grigio Alloy, Argento Nurburgring (silver), and Blue Tour De France. On a car this pretty, anything looks good, but the red works best for us. However, if you have cash burning a hole in your pocket., you could always opt for a 'Ferrari historical color', which adds a further $12,487 to your bill.
Powered by a 3.9-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine with 592 horsepower and 561 lb-ft of torque, the Portofino is every bit a bona fide Ferrari when you plant the throttle. Sending power to the rear wheels exclusively, 0-62 mph is completed in a swift 3.5 seconds, 0-124 mph takes just 10.8 seconds (0.4 seconds quicker than the California T), and it'll hit a maximum speed just shy of 200 mph. While there are more luxurious grand tourers around like the Bentley Continental GT and the Mercedes-AMG S63 Convertible, they don't evoke quite the same excitement as the Ferrari when chasing the red line.
Turbocharging has not been allowed to dilute the driving experience nor the exhaust note, so purists can rest easy. The 3.9-liter V8 is a gem and wasn't a recipient of the International Engine of the Year award for no good reason. It produces 592 hp and 561 lb-ft, while modifications like a flat-plane crankshaft improves fluid-dynamics and eliminates turbo lag completely. The powerplant is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that shifts with alacrity when you make use of the column-mounted paddles, but it has a few flaws in automatic mode, sometimes shifting with a reluctance that isn't ideal in a grand tourer. And it must be said that the dramatic and booming engine, too, is a joy but perhaps not especially GT-like. It's as if Ferrari wanted to build a GT but simply wasn't willing to compromise on the drama imbued in all of its other cars. In general, acceleration off the mark and passing power are everything that gearheads dream about - the Portofino is massively quick.
The stiffer Portofino has much better body control than the California T and, together with the adaptive suspension and the latest generation of Ferrari's electronic limited-slip differential, the Portofino is a lively and agile companion through the twisties. The electric power steering system is incredibly direct (sometimes more so than you'd expect) and the on-throttle balance is pure driving joy. That said, it isn't as confidence-inspiring or predictable as harder-edged Ferraris which are fitted with the advanced Side Slip Control system - this is a different kind of Ferrari that you can push, but which starts to feel just a bit uncomfortable at higher limits.
Approaching the Portofino with a more sedate driving style and flicking the Manettino driving mode selector to a softer setting will reveal a planted and reasonably compliant ride. Although more relaxed than other Ferraris, the Portofino reminds you in subtle ways that it has a prancing horse on the hood, such as how it communicates more of the road surface than its rivals, in how the steering sometimes responds more keenly than you'd like, and with its slightly lumpy idle. Even a Porsche 911 feels more settled at lower speeds, but we like the way the Portofino is Ferrari's unique interpretation of a GT.
The Portofino's EPA-rated economy numbers work out to 16/22/18 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles which is pretty much the same as what the older California T achieved. With a 21.1-gallon gas tank, a combined cruising range of just under 380 miles will be possible if you're conservative enough with your right foot.
The sporty-looking cabin is trimmed in an appealing mix of leather and metal trim, that, for the most part, exudes a sense of quality. There are some areas that aren't in keeping with the Italian's exotic price tag though, such as the air vents and the array of switches below the infotainment display. There are also quirks like an absence of indicator/light stalks; instead, these functions are controlled with switches on the busy-looking steering wheel. In true supercar style, the driver faces a centrally-mounted rev counter. The cabin isn't overly spacious, although there is enough legroom on offer in front if the seats are pushed back. While you get power-adjustable seats, a 10.25-inch infotainment display, and air conditioning, there isn't exactly an abundance of features in the cabin and it's here that more traditional grand tourers from Mercedes-Benz and Bentley comfortably outclass the Ferrari.
Officially a 2+2, let's get those back seats out of the way first because they're pretty much useless. Even with the front seats moved well forward, there's barely any legroom back there, so think of them as little more than space to store extra cargo. The news is much better for the driver and front-seat passenger in terms of space, but even so, it's not what you'd describe as an airy-feeling cabin. Shorter drivers will also feel like the high window line and stretched hood make it challenging to get a sense of the Portofino's width in restricted spaces. The comfy, leather-upholstered seats are welcome, plus ingress and egress are less awkward than in something like a mid-engine 488. As long as you don't expect to be able to carry passengers in the back, the Portofino is easy enough to live with.
Leather-upholstered seats are standard and available in a choice of 15 shades. You can choose between darker colors like Charcoal, Nero, and Blue Sterling, or go for a more expressive color option like Rosso Ferrari, Crema, or Beige Tradizione. Sporty Daytona seats are available as an option along with diamond-stitched seats. A carbon interior upgrade costs extra and adds the material to the steering wheel, center console, and dashboard, plus there is a choice of five rev counter color backgrounds including red, white, and yellow. The level of customization even extends to the floor carpets, which you can have with an embroidered logo and in a selection of nine colors.
With 10.3 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity, the Portofino's trunk size is much more useful than its mid-engine counterparts. It's not a giant space, but the opening is wide and you can get a suitcase or two in there. That's with the roof up, though. With the roof folded down, trunk capacity is reduced substantially and it becomes a lot more awkward to reach in and get items out. Of course, this is the price to pay for the benefit of a hard-top roof, as most soft-tops take up a lot less space. The way to circumvent the possibility of your luggage not fitting is to buy a matching set of luggage from Ferrari, which will fit perfectly whether the roof is up or down.
Interior storage is also much better than in other Ferraris, although once again, average when compared to traditional GTs. You get door pockets, a slim center compartment, and a glovebox to store items like wallets, keys and mobile phones.
While not equipped to the same standard as some truly lavish GTs, the Portofino has a bit more luxury inside than the average Ferrari, although this has more to do with the comfortable layout (in front) than a ton of equipment. Standard features extend to climate control, heated seats, cruise control, a digital gauge cluster, remote keyless entry, a rearview camera, and push-button start (with Ferrari's customary red starter button). Of course, you also get your drive mode adjuster (on the steering wheel) and some slick paddle shifters mounted to the column and not the wheel. A surround-view camera system and parking sensors are available, but you can't get modern driver-assist features like lane departure warning and blind-spot monitoring.
The Ferrari's infotainment system is both modern and functional, comprising a 10.25-inch touchscreen in the dashboard center. An available co-pilot screen places a slim digital readout ahead of the front-seat passenger and displays information like speed and gear selection. While you do get satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and an auxiliary audio input, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are only available as pricey options, which is a bit ridiculous considering that these smartphone integrations are often standard on many subcompacts. The standard sound system is decent, but don't expect the equivalent of a Burmester surround-sound unit that you'd find in a Mercedes-Benz.
The Ferrari Portofino doesn't yet have a J.D. Power rating and low sales volumes make it more challenging to assess reliability, but as with any other Italian sports car, it would be in your best interest to adhere to a strict preventative maintenance schedule.
The Portofino is covered by a three-year/unlimited-miles warranty (including coverage for the powertrain), while complimentary maintenance stretches to seven years regardless of mileage.
Local authorities have not evaluated the Ferrari Portofino for crashworthiness (as is the case with the majority of exotics) so no ratings are available at this time.
Although the Portofino gets dual-front and side airbags, an advanced stability/traction control system, and the availability of a surround-view camera system and parking sensors, that's essentially it for the thin safety specification. The modern driver aids that should be fitted to such an expensive GT (adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane departure warning, for instance) aren't available at all.
Ferrari's interpretation of a GT stays true to the brand in many ways. Although positioned as a more comfortable Ferrari that can be used every day, the Portofino remains a thrilling driving companion with its turbocharged V8 engine, super direct steering system, and a focus on performance gear rather than opulent extras that would merely add weight. It's also a truly beautiful design and a definite improvement over the California T it replaces, while that electrically operated roof instantly transforms it into a glamorous boulevard cruiser. At over $200,000, it's still annoying that Ferrari wants even more of your money for basic features like Apple CarPlay, while the rear seats are among the smallest and most unusable of any car on sale today. It also doesn't waft you down the road with the serenity of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe or the Bentley Continental GT. And yet, none of these flaws seem to matter because the Portofino is just so achingly desirable. We want one, and you will too.
At the time of writing, the Portofino is the cheapest Ferrari on sale - of course, this is a relative term. The gorgeous convertible carries an MSRP of $214,533 before taxes, licensing, options, and a destination charge of $3,750. To get into another Ferrari convertible, you'll have to cough up upwards of $280k for the 488 Spider.
The Portofino is available in a single trim, although you can delve into Ferrari's extensive range of cosmetic upgrades to create a bespoke product. The Portofino is fitted with a 3.9-liter V8 twin-turbocharged V8 engine with 592 hp and 561 lb-ft of torque. Sending power to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the convertible provides spectacular performance.
Along with the electrically folding hard-top, the stunning Portofino also gets 20-inch alloy wheels, carbon-ceramic brakes, LED lighting, and quad exhaust outlets. The 2+2 cabin layout may not have much space for rear passengers, but you do get attractive leather upholstery, a steering wheel housing several controls (including those for the different drive modes), a 10.25-inch touchscreen interface (with an available co-pilot display), Bluetooth connectivity, available Apple CarPlay, dual-zone climate control, power mirrors and windows, and available front and rear parking sensors. A variety of grille treatments, paint colors, interior trim and carbon fixtures are available optionally.
3.9-liter Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
Ferrari hasn't exactly equipped the Portofino to exotic levels (especially considering the price), and even the additional options are mostly cosmetic. This differs from German competitors where virtually every available feature can be had. Outside, your Portofino can be fitted with a choice of several wheel designs such as Forged Matt Grigio Corsa rims. You can also choose a brake caliper color and add a carbon exterior that includes, among other things, a front lower lip in carbon. Some options carry truly exorbitant prices, like a front parking camera for over $6,000 and Apple CarPlay for an unreal $4,219. For $5,906, you can add a front passenger digital display, while full electric seats go for $6,412. $2,531 adds carbon fiber interior bits like a cupholder, while $5,568 gets you the dual-mode Magneirde suspension.
You only have one Ferrari Portofino to choose from, and we'd equip ours with the Rosso Corsa paint, the 20-inch forged painted rims ($6,243), and Magneride dual-mode suspension ($5,568). In protest, we'd skip the laughably expensive Apple CarPlay and front parking camera options for a total of $226,811.
The Portofino effectively replaced the California T, so the question is whether you should spend extra on a new Portofino relative to a slightly older California T. The answer to that is a resounding yes. Not only do most people consider the Portofino to be much prettier (which is half the point of this car, anyway), but it's also better to drive thanks to a body that's 35 percent stiffer than before. Although Ferrari claims more space in the back of the Portofino, you won't be carrying rear passengers around in either of these convertibles too often. Otherwise, each car offers brilliant power delivery and breathtaking noise from the turbocharged V8 (the Portofino gets more power), and road manners that make them well-suited to everyday driving. At the touch of a button, you get access to thrilling wind-in-your-hair motoring coupled with the sight of that prancing horse on the steering wheel. Both the Portofino and the California T are two of the most desirable cars on the road, but it's the newer Portofino that we want more.
With its mid-engine layout, the 488 Spider has two fewer seats than the Portofino and a lot less cargo space. The 488 Spider's cabin is even more driver-focused but lacks the Portofino's comfort and modern 10.25-inch infotainment screen. If it's ultimate performance you're after, though, then you'll want to go for the 488 Spider with its 661-horsepower twin-turbo V8 being even more powerful than the Portofino's 592-hp mill. The 488 is faster to 60 mph, getting there in around three seconds and because the 488 isn't trying to play double duty as a GT, it can focus all of its attention on a sharp, responsive, and intense driving experience that few other supercars can match. Both have electrically operated roofs. Ultimately, the 488 Spider is the better performance machine and the Portofino is the more versatile. Because Ferrari is Ferrari, we want the one that feels the most likely to set your pants on fire, so it's the 488 Spider for us.