New name, new look, but can the new entry-level 2018 Ferrari Portofino turn conquest sales into tifosi for life? Motormouth went to Italy for a spin…
Nobody is going to track the 2018 Ferrari Portofino, which is a shame – the carbon ceramic brakes are almost as impressive as the savagery of the 3.9-litre V8 that, without a hint of irony in its 7,500rpm drone, takes its place in the Ferrari line-up powering an entry-level model. In Maranello, they’re just getting started with the third espresso, and 600 horsepower. From 3,000rpm you also get 760Nm of torque rendering most of the seven available gears useless because there’s enough of this engine to go around all day.
And if it wasn’t for the great, fixed shift paddles behind the hyperactive steering wheel, maybe you wouldn’t even bother with the automatic, but unlike the old California, this new Portofino does invite you to explore all that Ferrari offers for the low, low price of $179,650. On every downshift the car kicks back into the power peak and jolts forward with another rush of torque, and then you smile because rare is the car that gets essentials like shift paddles so right.
Compared to its predecessor, the new Portofino is stiffer and lighter with 35 percent higher rigidity which means it feels solid and compliant with the roof up or down.
In terms of design too things are vastly better though not knee-achingly beautiful – it’s no 288 GTO or 550 Maranello. It wasn’t that hard to improve on the California anyway, and Ferrari’s in-house styling team did well to disguise the huge rump this time around, necessary for stowing the folding hard-top.
The roof drops in 14 seconds on the move at speeds of up 40kph, which wasn’t possible in the California, and details like these and the improved ergonomics and equipment levels appeal to exactly the sort of buyer who would gravitate to the Portofino. Over, say, an S-Class Cabriolet or Aston DB11 Volante.
Undoubtedly the Portofino driver gets a much more frenzied, hurried car with a spikey throttle response and immense power ready to catch you out if you get brave with the various driving modes and stages of stability control.
The quick steering gives this Ferrari a decidedly more supercar disposition over the advertised word – it’s not exactly a Grand Tourer in the Mercedes or Aston Martin mould, so shop carefully.
Having said that it’s not exactly the tingling Ferrari experience you’d expect either – no matter how much powertrain engineer Giancarlo Ferrari talks to Motormouth about lightweight exhausts (overall the new car is 80kg lighter than the California) and flat-plane cranks and obsessive attention to noise, the fact remains this force-fed V8 can’t hold up against the old naturally aspirated Maranello V8s that we remember screaming to 9,000rpm.
Push hard and the car starts washing ever so gently wide to remind you to back off, at which point the torque vectoring almost imperceptibly nudges you back into line, all in the Portofino’s attempt to flatter every driver.
If you want to rationalise something like a Portofino, Ferrari paid attention to wind noise and vibrations (the wind deflector is now 30 percent more useful) and details like seats and golf bags. With a new 10.2-inch screen in the middle of the dash the car is closer to its rivals in terms of kit too, but don’t expect massages and adaptive cruise.
The Portofino will have to account for over a third of annual sales, bringing something like 70 percent of buyers fresh into the Ferrari brand. As a first experience it’s not a bad one, but then again a used 430 Scuderia isn’t a shabby way to start either.
2018 Ferrari Portofino
3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 | seven-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive | 600 horsepower and 760Nm of torque | 0-100kph in 3.5 seconds and top speed of 320kph | $179,650