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We review the 2019 Ferrari Portofino

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The Car.co.uk verdict:

4.3

The Ferrari California won the brand a lot of new customers – but critics often said it didn’t quite do enough to truly deserve the prancing horse badge. Ferrari has listened – and, after some time at the drawing board, they’re back; with a completely redesigned chassis and a heavily tweaked 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 that’s good for 591bhp – all tucked into a 2+2 with a retractable hard-top.

The Portofino is a something of a paradox; it aims to be an entry-level supercar that’s easy to drive – but that driveability can take the edge of the bristling power that comes from a sublime engine and world-class gearbox. The Portofino looks fantastic – but will Ferrari fans mind that the light steering and intelligent suspension sometimes leave you feeling detached from your £166,000 supercar?

Pros

  • Authentic aggressive Ferrari design that’s a huge improvement on the California
  • Outrageous performance that’s still usable for sedate driving
  • A hands-down winner for the best engine and gearbox at the price point

Cons

  • Redesigned chassis and steering can feel a bit lifeless when pushed
  • As usual, Ferrari options are astronomically priced
  • Interior might be a little too race-orientated for some tastes

At a glance

  • Looks
  • Practicality
  • Engine & power
  • Reliability
  • Equipment & options
  • Interior
  • The drive
  • Cost
  • Safety
  • Why buy

Looks

4.5 out of 5

Sharper and meaner than the California T it replaces

You might think that any Ferrari is a hard act to follow – but in the case of the California, even casual Ferrari fans were a bit disappointed. Sure, the revised T version of the car was better, but it was still bulky, it and divided opinion; something Ferraris don’t often do.

So, it’s goodbye California – and hello Portofino. Out go the overly-smooth lines of the predecessor – and in come the sharp edges, huge scoops, and curvaceous arches that we’re more used to seeing from Maranello. Ferrari has opted for a retractable hard-top for the Portofino too – so you can bask in the occasional sunshine the UK receives without compromising on the lines of the car. The hardtop retracts in about 14-seconds too – at speeds up to 30mph, so it’ll even cope with the fleeting showers that often punctuate our summers.

At the rear, a race-style diffuser slices into the contours of the car. While this a Ferrari that anyone can drive, but it’s got plenty of reminders that it’s spent time in a wind tunnel to make sure none of the 591bhp is going to waste. As with all classic Ferrari outlines, there are no unnecessary protrusions, wings or fins, just a chiselled masterpiece that’s Italian through-and-through. This might be an entry-level Ferrari, but it looks every bit as beautiful as 812 Superfast.

Practicality

5 out of 5

A Ferrari that could easily be your daily driver

The team at Ferrari have gone on record to out the Portofino as a car that you’ll be able to comfortably use as a daily driver – and, sure enough, from the second you pull away, it genuinely feels like it could.

Now, it’s hard to criticise the interior of such a beautiful car – but it still feels very race-like in there. While some people are going to think that’s fantastic, you’ve got to wonder if a little more plush luxury will be on the shopping list of someone who’s spending £160k+ on a daily driver.

Of course, if you’re actually hoping to be greeted by an F1 inspired steering wheel and plenty of carbon fibre for your commute, then you’re not going to be at all disappointed, especially when you realise this is a deceptively easy car to get to grips with. Steering is as light as a feather around town, and the electronically controlled suspension takes the sting out of even the roughest roads.

There are nearly 300-litres of boot space if you fancy a weekend away too – although rear seats are little more than decoration really – but if you’re only ever likely to be driving alone or with a single passenger, the Portofino definitely passes as a practical supercar.

Engine & power

3 out of 5

A torque-happy and ferociously quick evolution of the California T’s V8

Ferrari doesn’t just make stunning cars; they also make outstandingly attractive engines. Lift the bonnet on the Portofino, and you’re greeted by a beautifully engineered 3.9-litre, twin-turbo, V8. At 7,500rpm, this heavily reworked California T engine produces 591bhp – and as you work your way through the revs, it’ll make 560lb-ft of torque – so it feels like it just never stops pulling.

As a result, your every-day Ferrari is capable of 199mph – and it’ll get to 62mph (100kmh) in 3.5 seconds. If you’re on the track and find a big enough straight to keep your foot planted, it’ll take you to 124mph (200kmh) in just 10.8 seconds too. All the way through the revs, the V8 sounds nothing short of wonderful – especially with the roof down.

The engine in the Portofino is really only half the story when you’re talking about the car’s power – the gearbox and clutch are equally outstanding. The 7-speed dual clutch is absolutely phenomenal; according to Ferrari, shift speed is up compared to the California – and the Portofino is silky smooth as it works its way through the ‘box. It’s a bold claim – but this really is one of the best gearboxes you’ll find on any car today.

Reliability

3.5 out of 5

Options for enormous extended warranties offer some peace of mind

Italian supercars are unlikely to ever be winning reliability contests – but it’s also unlikely that anyone’s ever walked into a Ferrari showroom with reliability at the top of their wish-list. The good news is, your Portofino is backed up by exceptional aftersales support; you’ll get a 3-year unlimited mileage warranty – and a 7-year free maintenance programme.

Ferrari also offers an unrivalled extended warranty that can run for as long as 15 years beyond the first registration of the car. The ‘New Power’ service will make sure your engine, gearbox, suspension, steering, and more are all ship-shape for years to come – so even if reliability is a worry, you’ve got options that’ll keep your Portofino ownership stress-free for a long time.

Equipment & options

4.5 out of 5

You can take your pick from a hugely expensive options list

As standard, the Ferrari Portofino spec is fairly limited. Sure, there’s a nice big screen that’s sitting slightly lower than is ideal on the dash – and you’ll be able to access sat nav on there, but that’s about it.

For £166,000, you’ll get a beautiful car with base level spec. Now, this is a Ferrari, so there are no hub-caps involved at entry-level, but if you’ve got daydreams about carbon fibre bits – or even just cup holders, now might be a good time to sit down and brace for an eye-watering financial impact.

Let’s begin with modest options. A carbon cup holder and embroidered mats will cost you around £2,000 on top of list price. A slightly different finish on your grille? That’ll be another £2,000 or so, depending on the design. Maybe you’d like Apple CarPlay? £2,400 please. Ready to get serious? How about some lightweight alloys and a more exclusive colour? Yours for a mere £25,000-£30,000 depending on your taste. This may well be an ‘entry-level’ car, but if you want it to be loaded with exciting options, you could easily find yourself nudging the asking price well beyond £200,000.

Interior

4 out of 5

An upmarket interior that doesn’t disappoint

Before you’ve even touched the wheel or brought the infotainment system to life, the interior of the Portofino looks great. Everything’s clad in black leather as standard, and you can’t fail to feel good with that yellow and black prancing horse badge right in front of your eyes.

When you start to press buttons and adjust the air-vents, the quality isn’t quite up there with the Audi R8’s impressive cockpit, but you’d have to be a real stickler for details if you were going to claim to be disappointed with anything. If there’s one criticism to level, it’s simply that the infotainment screen is closer to knee-height than it is to a reasonable eye-level, but it’s not the end of the world.

To say the design team at Ferrari have managed to shave such a significant chunk of weight from the old California, it’s very impressive that it hasn’t come at the cost of comfort inside. Of course, if you do decide you’d like to upgrade to make things more plush again, then the options are there – from diamond stitched seats in a spectrum of colours – to passenger displays that will tell the person beside you how many Gs the car’s pulling around corners.

The drive

4.5 out of 5

Outrageous speed, zero lag, and a beautiful soundtrack

The Portofino is a full 80kg lighter than the California it replaces – an impressive amount of weight-loss that’s thanks to a completely new chassis. It’ll come as no surprise to find that mating this lightened frame with a 591bhp twin-turbo V8 produces exhilarating speeds – but it’s fair to say that you don’t always feel as connected to the car as you might want to.

‘It corners like it’s on rails’ is one of the most clichéd euphemisms you’ll find when you’re talking about performance cars – but the Portofino really does – and it’s not a good thing. Ferrari has installed an electronic stability system on this new offering – and while it does a remarkable job of smoothing out poor quality roads, it also dynamically handles each damper as you hurl your Portofino into bends. As a result, there’s zero body roll – and it just doesn’t feel quite right – especially with the ultra-light steering.

You can get out of the new Honda NSX after 5 prompt laps of the Nürburgring feeling fresh as a daisy – and the Portofino is similar – but rather than feeling like you’ve mastered your new Ferrari, you kind of feel like you’ve been playing a racing game with steering assist engaged. This new Ferrari is very accessible – but some of that driving ease comes at the expense of a hair-raising supercar experience on the bends

Cost

4.5 out of 5

A cost-effective way to get to 200mph – but the Portofino has competition

The Ferrari Portofino price begins at £166,000 – and, as we’ve already covered, the price will go quickly skyward if you’ve got a taste for options. Realistically, most Portofinos are likely to leave the showroom having cost their owners £200,000+.

At base-spec, the cost of the Ferrari is virtually the same as the Aston Martin DB11 Volante. The DB11 is a more luxurious car inside, and it’ll match the Portofino’s top speed, but it’ll take half a second longer to get to 60mph and might not have quite the same wow-factor as the Ferrari – depending on your taste of course.

If you’d like to weigh up some German options, the AMG S 63 Convertible matches the Ferrari’s BHP pound-for-pound, but again, probably won’t get as many admiring glances. For a competitor that’ll really scare the Portofino, you might want to look at the new 911 Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet – a straight-6 with far fewer horses, but one that’ll keep pace to 62mph with ease.

At £166,000 the Ferrari seems like a very cost-effective way to get some blistering performance – but if downright connection and driving experience is your thing, you’ll definitely want to drive the Porsche before you part with your money.

Safety

5 out of 5

No Euro NCAP rating and sparse safety kit

As is normal for high-price performance cars, the Portofino has not been crash-tested by the Euro NCAP team – so there’s no star rating attributed to the car. Hopefully, the carbon ceramic brakes will help you keep you out of trouble in the first place; although good brakes and your driving skill will have to do – as the Portofino doesn’t come with any driving safety aids to assist – and they’re not available as options either.

Why buy

4.5 out of 5

A winning combination of jaw-dropping looks and incredible performance

The Aventador wins the award for ‘most-improved’ hypercar hands down. The original car was outrageously attractive, but always felt like a series of thrashing and colliding systems you could only hope would stick together. The S is something very different – it’s a more ‘together’ car; it’s still a brute – but one that’s on your side.

Lamborghini’s Ego mode and 4-wheel steering systems are the stand-out features – they transform a big and unruly car into a beautiful driving experience.  The Aventador S comes tantalisingly close to having it all; it’s blisteringly fast, it’s arguably the best-looking hypercar on the road – and its new approach to handling means it doesn’t just deliver in a straight line.

The Lamborghini Aventador S 2017 price tag pits the car against some stiff competition for best in class. There no doubt that the Ferrari 812 Superfast out-performs it in a number of ways, however, what the Aventador lacks in finesse and refined grace, it more than makes up for with its ferocious roar, brutal power, and unashamed good looks.