Handsome coupe, dashing convertible, superfast sportscar!
By Jason Grunsell
Test driving a new car should ideally involve a number of tests including handling and performance ideally carried out on various roads in a variety of weather conditions. I got to experience rain, flooded roads, bumpy roads, smooth roads, sunshine, and overcast weather over 4 days while test driving the new Ferrari Portofino.
The Portofino is an all new replacement for the Ferrari California. Ferrari produced 11,000 California’s between 2008 and 2017. I have a soft spot for the California as it was the first Ferrari I ever got to drive. To my mind the Portofino is one of the best looking Ferrari’s of recent times. Power for the Portofino comes from a V8 twin turbocharged engine that it shares with the Ferrari Lusso T, and produces 591 horsepower at 7.500 rpm. The Portofino retains the 7 speed dual clutch transmission from the California T with new software to allow for quicker upshifts. The list price for my test car was $268,608, which included $2,531 for carbon fibre cup holders.
I picked up my Grigio Titanio metal Ferrari Portofino with cuoio interior and headed up Angeles Forest highway on our way to Palmdale to sample the handling and performance of this new Ferrari. I love driving amidst the stark arid desert landscape, where the emptiness of the terrain makes you feel intoxicatingly liberated from the urban sprawl. It was advisable to engage the bumpy road button to iron out some of the harsher elements of the road. Change the setting on the manettino (Italian for: little lever) from comfort to sport and you have changed the dynamic of this Ferrari from a GT cruiser to a rocket of a sportscar.
Driving along Angeles Forest Highway I could feel all the changes in the Portofino over the California. The Portofino feels faster, and the electronically assisted power steering feels quicker which facilitates better engagement with the car. Tackling the twisty roads of Angeles Forest allowed my wife to view on her passenger display screen the speed, revs and the G loading of our journey (a $5,906 option). This novel feature can be highly amusing or cause extreme anxiety to one’s passenger. Happily, we made it to Palmdale without any incident.
The party piece of the Portofino is without doubt the ability to convert from a hardtop coupé to an open top convertible. I pulled over along Angeles Forest highway to put the top down and enjoy the fresh desert air. Ferrari first introduced this hardtop convertible on the California in 2008. For me the hardtop is aesthetically more pleasing than a canvas roof found on other manufacturer’s convertibles. The hardtop provides better all-round visibility. Just watching the mechanics of the conversion process is a sight to behold.
The cities of Palmdale and Lancaster make up the region known as Antelope valley that is home to a number of aviation related industries such as U.S. Air Force Plant 42, Edwards Air Force Base and the Mojave Air and Space Port. I am a huge aviation enthusiast and I love combining my passion for aviation and supercars whenever possible.
Palmdale weather provided many tests for the Portofino as we experienced heavy rain, lightening and even some flooding to make this a true test for the Ferrari Portofino. Heading to the Mojave Air and Space Port, the heavens opened up and I got to use the windscreen wipers on a Ferrari for the first time. Ferrari has conveniently changed the wiper function from a small paddle to a rotary dial on the steering wheel. The old version was a big hit and miss when trying to get the right setting, whereas the new version is an easy toggle between modes.
Long straight back roads provided an opportunity to investigate the overtaking capabilities of the Portofino. I was blown away by how rapidly this car harnesses its power. A car that has 591 horsepower and a top speed of 199 mph is by definition fast, but it’s how it achieves that speed that is remarkable. It was effortless even in comfort mode to overtake traffic. Not that I advocate driving at this speed but the Portofino could easily cruise at 100 mph with plenty to spare.
No Los Angeles Ferrari experience is complete without a visit to Rodeo Drive. Thanks to my wife’s suggestion, we got to drive Benedict Canyon, which has some splendid views of Los Angeles. We cruised at a steady 30 mph through the canyon and past the endless multi-million dollar mansions. Driving down Rodeo, one is struck by the fact that most of the people walking about seem to be tourists rather than locals. At the end of Rodeo Drive is the Beverly Wilshire Hotel who kindly allowed me to pull into their drop off area to take some photographs. The Portofino looked right at home in this environment.
The Portofino has an edge to its performance and pleasing styling. You can use this Ferrari as your daily driver, with the added bonus of having the option to transform from a handsome coupé to a dashing convertible at the press of a button. The California was at its heart a GT touring machine; the Portofino however, is undeniably a super-fast sportscar.
To learn more about the Ferrari Portofino visit www.portofino.ferrari.com. Follow Jason Grunsell on Twitter @JGrunsell and Instagram @firstrides. Photos courtesy of Ferrari.