by Karl Furlong
The idea of an entry-level Ferrari sounds like an oxymoron if ever there was one, but that's exactly what the Ferrari Portofino M is. Essentially an upgrade of the Portofino, the Portofino M is, by some margin, the least extravagantly priced Ferrari drop-top you can buy. It's anything but docile, though. The 3.9-liter turbocharged V8 engine now produces 612 horsepower and 561 lb-ft of torque, making it more powerful than the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet, but less powerful than the Turbo S. As usual, the Ferrari is the more theatrical car of the two and will hit 62 mph in only 3.45 seconds. The Portofino M has undeniably glamorous looks, but by wanting to be both a comfortable grand tourer and an engaging sports car, and offering the benefits of folding a hardtop and wind-in-your-hair motoring, it does try to tick perhaps a few too many boxes in one go.
The 2021 Portofino M is effectively the mid-cycle upgrade of the Portofino. 'M' stands for 'modificata' and translates to 'altered', which is precisely what this model is - a quicker, more powerful Portofino. The Portofino itself replaces the California T. Compared with that car, the original Portofino's structural rigidity was increased by 35%, and it was over 170 pounds lighter than its predecessor too. It's also quieter, more spacious, and has better transmission software to make it better to drive and live with than the California T.
Compared with the Portofino, the new Portofino M gains a few styling enhancements, more power from the V8, and a new Race Mode, the first ever to be offered on a Ferrari GT Spider model. The big news is that V8; the cam profiles and the turbocharger assembly's speed sensor have been revised to deliver 612 hp, a 20-hp increase over the Portofino. Outside, you'll notice new air vents, aluminum slats for the grille, new wheels, and an upgraded exhaust system.
Although not a drastic departure from the Portofino, the Portofino M adds an edginess to the otherwise beautiful cabriolet. There are new air vents at wheel arch height along with slashes on the front bumper. These form part of a few aerodynamic upgrades for this model. The grille has new aluminum slats, and overall, the front has just a little more menace to it than before. Along the sides are new 20-inch wheels with an attractive diamond finish. At the back, the circular taillight housings remain, but it's the quad-exit tailpipes that really give this aspect an aggressive touch. The exhaust system itself has been redesigned, enabling the removal of the silencer assembly and giving the Portofino M a more compact tail. From any angle, the Portofino M is a seductive and well-proportioned drop-top.
The Ferrari Portofino M has a length of 180.9 inches, a width without the mirrors of 76.3 inches, a height of 51.9 inches, and a wheelbase that's 105.1 inches. The Portofino M has a dry weight of 3,406 pounds.
As usual for a Ferrari, there is no shortage of color choices for the Portofino M's exterior. Customers can choose from solid, metallic, historical, or special color palettes. Ferrari's online configurator lists over 25 colors alone. From the solid palette, there are choices like Giallo Modena (yellow), Rosso Scuderia (a reddish-orange), Rosso Corsa (a more classic red), and Nero (black). Metallics include Grigio Alloy, an icy blue/silver hue, and Blu Tour De France. Choices from the historical palette include Avorio, Rosso Fiorano, and Verde British. Two 'special' colors are available, namely Rosso Portofino and Bianco Cervino. Despite all these choices, we'd still go with one of the classic reds.
Under the hood is a 3.9-liter turbocharged V8 engine rippling with energy. All 612 horses and 561 lb-ft of torque are directed to the rear wheels, and no other configurations are available. Scorching performance is the order of the day as the 0-62 mph sprint comes and goes in only 3.45 seconds. From 0 to 124 mph, the Portofino M needs only 9.8 seconds. Not much longer after that, the top speed of around 198 mph will arrive, and you'd only want to attempt that with the roof closed.
As quick as the Ferrari is, the Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet is even quicker. With 640 hp, the Porsche needs just 2.7 seconds for the 0-60 sprint.
Ferrari worked hard on the Portofino's 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 to unleash even more power in the Portofino M. The engineers incorporated new cam profiles to both increase valve lift and optimize combustion chamber filling. This, together with turbocharger speed sensors, helps to unleash 612 hp, 20 hp more than the Portofino has, and 561 lb-ft. The engine is paired with a new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, replacing the seven-speeder used previously. This gearbox has a 20% smaller clutch module and 35% higher torque delivery.
Although the increase in power isn't obvious, the Portofino M is incredibly quick. It'll rifle through the gear ratios with alacrity, coupled with a loud although not always melodious V8 bark from the new exhaust system. With the ESC off and damp conditions, this car will still spin the wheels all the way up to fourth. Mid-range torque is endless, and it's instantly responsive in a way most turbocharged cars aren't. The gearbox works best in manual mode with the paddles. In automatic mode, it feels a lot clumsier, taking away somewhat from Ferrari's positioning of this car as a grand tourer.
Uncharacteristically for a Ferrari, we'll discuss the Portofino M's abilities as a grand tourer first. This is, after all, a more comfortable Ferrari that you're supposed to be able to undertake longer journeys in comfortably. Whereas Bentley and even Mercedes-Benz can churn out smooth GTs with their eyes closed, Ferrari is too intrinsically linked with driver engagement to make a softie. As a result, the Portofino M isn't the best GT out there. Yes, the seats are comfortable and it's much better than the average Ferrari on a smooth highway, but slight undulations quickly expose a rather jittery ride quality. It feels constantly busy below the surface, and sharp bumps send minor shudders through the body, too. Of course, using the Manettino switch to select Comfort mode improves matters, but it never entirely settles down. There's also the issue of exhaust drone, which becomes tiring after a while.
In Sport or Race modes, the rear-wheel-drive Portofino M's character shifts quite dramatically and wheelspin becomes even easier to invoke. The electric steering is light and extremely direct, but it isn't as feelsome as one would expect from a Ferrari. What is undeniable is the car's balance and lateral body control. Considering that there are over 600 horses going to only the rear wheels, the Portofino M manages it well indeed. At the end of the day, the Ferrari Portofino M has a decently broad spread of dynamic abilities, but it's neither as comfortable as some other GTs nor as intoxicating to drive as other Ferraris.
According to the EPA, the Portofino M RWD is a little more efficient than the Portofino. It returns 16/23/19 mpg city/highway/combined; both the highway and combined figures are better by 1 mpg. With its 21.1-gallon gas tank, the Portofino M should be able to cover about 400 miles. Considering the power it has, the Portofino M's fuel economy isn't terrible, but digging into those reserves will quickly drain fuel quicker than the EPA figures might suggest.
The 2+2 cabin of the 2021 Ferrari Portofino M makes a positive first impression. The red engine start/stop button and red Manettino switch jump out at you, as does the traditional central tachometer. The materials are generally excellent, but it feels more sporty than it does opulent. No gymnastics are required to get into the front seats of the cabrio - a reminder that this is more of an everyday Ferrari than the company's other products. Ferrari has stuck with a power hardtop, so it's comfortable when the weather turns bad, too. Considering the price of the Ferrari Portofino M, it isn't loaded with features, but there's a user-friendly touchscreen interface and you can specify driver-assist aids like adaptive cruise control.
Comfort and space are dramatically different in the front and the back, and yes, this is technically a four-seat Ferrari. The driver and front-seat passenger have enough headroom and legroom, and ingress and egress are effortless. Those power-adjustable front seats are also super comfortable, and they hold you in place when caning the car. At the back, there are two storage areas posing as rear seats; really, Ferrari should've just made this a 2-seater. Unfortunately, legroom is almost non-existent for even smaller adults, so these seats are best left for emergencies.
Although the materials in the Portofino M's cabin lack the solidity and depth of quality of a Bentley, they still feel expensive. The leather seats can be upgraded to Daytona or Squared Pattern seats. The color palette here is also comprehensive, with options including Charcoal, Blu Medio, Bordeaux, Rosso Ferrari, Crema, and Cioccolato. A carbon fiber interior upgrade adds the material to the steering wheel, dashboard, and more. Even the rev counter can be finished in a variety of colors like red or yellow. Ferrari will also equip an aluminum footrest for both the driver and front-seat passenger if you wish.
Convertibles aren't known for being able to carry a lot of cargo, but the Ferrari isn't too bad in this respect. At 10.3 cubic feet, the Portofino M's trunk makes it one of the most practical Ferraris for cargo. Of course, the engine being in front has made it possible for the company to design a more conventional trunk. There is a cover that restricts the loading of bulkier items but shows you how much space the roof will take up when it's folded, so that's useful.
Inside, there are slim front door pockets and a surprisingly useful glovebox. Below the climate controls, there is an open storage area that can accommodate phones and wallets. There's a small center console and, just ahead of that, there is a single cupholder. The rear seats are all but useless as actual seats, though, so they add to the storage complement as well for larger items.
As is often the case with Ferrari, most of the budget has been spent on the mechanicals rather than unnecessary gadgets in the cabin. As standard, the drop-top comes with dual-zone automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, push-button ignition, 18-way power front seats, a power tilt/telescoping steering column, power-folding side mirrors, dual digital screens on either side of the tachometer, and the power-retractable roof. It's hard to believe that heated and ventilated seats cost extra, but they do. Besides a rearview camera, parking sensors, and Ferrari's advanced stability systems - including electronic side slip control - most driver aids cost extra. Available features include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, a surround-view system with 3D view, and lane departure warning.
The main infotainment system consists of a 10.25-inch central touchscreen. The system is reasonably responsive, but it's far from the more advanced systems found in much less expensive German sports cars. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available, and we think these features are a must. A seven-speaker sound system, Bluetooth, voice activation, and integrated navigation are standard. Another option is a seven-inch full HD touchscreen that can be positioned ahead of the front-seat passenger. From here, the passenger can manage navigation settings, change the music selection, or even view speed and engine data.
Since its launch, the Ferrari Portofino has not been recalled for any serious issues. There is also no Ferrari Portofino M review from J.D. Power. If anything does go wrong, the car is covered by a three-year warranty regardless of mileage. It also enjoys seven years of complimentary maintenance.
To nobody's surprise, the Ferrari Portofino M convertible has not been subjected to crash-testing by local authorities. We don't expect crash reviews of this exotic to ever be published, so you'll need to take Ferrari's word that it has built a safe, secure car.
Besides dual front and side airbags, the car comes with parking sensors, tire pressure monitoring, and Ferrari's electronic side slip control system. Optional driver-assistance safety systems include adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go, predictive emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, traffic sign recognition, a surround-view system, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Portofino M is not the best Ferrari on sale, but it comes with several of the key ingredients that make the Italian brand's cars so special. It has ravishing looks, a 3.9L V8 engine with huge reserves of power, and an immediacy to its responses that make it a joy to drive. It is also far cheaper than most other Ferrari models, so for anyone dreaming of owning a Ferrari, this isn't a bad place to start. Dynamically, the Portofino M strikes a fine balance between comfort and composure, and the combination of spacious front seats and a decent trunk mean that you can actually use it as a daily driver. Our gripes include the pitifully small rear seats, the lack of any standard driver-assist features, and the occasional drone from that V8. If you want a grand tourer, Bentley does it better, but the Portofino M is still a dream car that many of us would love to own and a massive step up from the old California.
The Ferrari Portofino M convertible starts at an MSRP of $222,050, excluding a destination charge of $3,950. The Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet has almost exactly the same starting price, but it's faster and slightly better equipped.
We know that a fully equipped Ferrari Portofino M will increase the base price by well over $100,000. Ferrari's option pricing is notoriously kept secret to anyone who isn't actually ordering one, however. You can add items like upgraded seats, a passenger-side display, and carbon-fiber trim. Most driver aids are optional, and even just adding Apple CarPlay/Android Auto costs over $4,000.
The essentials we'd add are heated/ventilated front seats, smartphone connectivity, and adaptive cruise control.
There aren't multiple Ferrari Portofino M models or trims to choose from, so it all comes down to how much you're willing to spend on options. It's easy to increase the Portofino M's base price by close to $150,000 by adding things like better seats and driver-assistance features. The essentials we'd add on are Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, heated/ventilated front seats, and adaptive cruise control.
These two Ferraris share the same platform and the same turbocharged V8 engine which produces 612 horsepower. Both also use an 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox. With its fixed roof, the Roma is a little lighter and faster than the Portofino. Some would also argue that the Roma is the better-looking machine, both inside and out. From behind the wheel, the Roma has irritating touch-sensitive steering wheel controls and a strangely slanted, vertically-arranged central touchscreen; we prefer the Portofino's setup. But on the road, the Roma is better to drive with its more solid structure and with less weight to carry around. Together with its breathtaking styling, it's the Roma we'd choose.
The Porsche 911 lineup is a lot more diverse. Starting at around $100,000 and going all the way up to the pricey Turbo S, there is something for everyone. Unlike the Ferrari, the 911 is more subtle to look at and sit inside. Its six-cylinder engine also has a more cultured howl. But whereas the Ferrari is high on emotion, the 911 feels like an even better engineered car. It steers and handles beautifully, and it is comfortable enough for daily trips. At the same price as the Portofino, the 911 Turbo S Cabriolet is significantly faster. Plus, Porsche's on-board technology is more advanced and there are more standard features for the price. Although the Portofino M will turn more heads, it's hard to argue with the overall competence of the 911 lineup.
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