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2019 Ferrari Portofino review

By Tony O'Kane, 19 Dec 2018 Car Reviews

2019 Ferrari Portofino review

If the Ferrari Portofino is the entry point for the range, it’s doing a terrible job of tempting you into any other Ferrari. It’s that good.

The Ferrari Portofino takes over from the California as the Italian marque’s ‘everyday’ model, a car pitched as being friendlier and more easy to live with than its rapier-sharp lineup of mid-engined V8 supercars and front-engined V12 mega-coupes like the 488 and 812 Superfast.

More importantly, however, it’s also the new gateway into Ferrari ownership. Are you a person of means who has aspirations of owning hot Maranello metal like the F12 tdf? You’ll need to be a long-time Ferrari customer before the company even considers extending an invitation to you to buy its upper-echelon vehicles, and putting something like the Portofino in your garage is the first step towards putting your name on Ferrari’s radar.

Read next: 2018 Ferrari Portofino makes Australian premiere

VALUE

Is ‘value’ even a crucial criteria for a Ferrari? Retailing at $399,888, and with the next two years of supply already accounted for, one could argue that the near-$400K sticker is no impediment to the Portofino. After all, when it comes to putting one of the most coveted badges on the planet into your possession, many people would gladly pay even more than that.

STANDARD FEATURES

You’d expect plenty of gear for that spend, and the Portofino isn’t exactly stripper-spec. Standard inclusions comprise dusk-sensing LED headlamps and tail lamps, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, a self-dimming rear view mirror, heated wing mirrors, power-adjustable seats, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors and gorgeous 20-inch alloys.

Carbon-ceramic brakes - often a megadollar option on cars of this calibre - are also standard, and so is a Portofino-specific car cover and battery maintainer.

The Portofino’s 10.25-inch colour mulitimedia touchscreen is a slick unit, with integrated satellite navigation and digital radio tuner, along with smartphone-like responsiveness to prods from your fingertips. It’s easy to use, if a little low-set in the dashboard.

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However, as is the norm for a Ferrari, there’s ample scope to increase the price via the option list. The vehicle we drove was also equipped with, among other things, magnetic dampers ($8970), ventilated seats ($5900), a premium stereo ($10,451), front and rear parking cameras ($9981) and a small colour touchscreen for the passenger ($9501). All of those options pale in comparison to the cost of the luscious Bianco Italia paintjob on this car, though, which comes at an eye-watering premium of $43,450.

SIZE

The Portofino shares none of its underpinnings with the California that it replaces; however, its footprint on the road isn’t all that different. Marginally longer at 4.59m versus the California’s 4.57m, the Portofino is also 280mm wider. Fractional differences, and the 2.67m wheelbase is identical.

What differs is the weight and structure. Under-the skin improvements make the Portofino’s body stiffer by 35 per cent, while overall mass falls by 80kg thanks to increased use of aluminium and magnesium components.

With the roof raised and its partition stowed (which prevents the closure of the folding hardtop), the Portofino’s boot offers up 292 litres of luggage capacity. Not bad for a two-door convertible sports car.

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SAFETY

The Portofino is equipped with dual front and side/head airbags for the front seats; however, there’s no head-level airbag protection for those in the back. There are, however, ISOFIX child seat anchorages in the rear seats. Electronic safety aids include ABS, EBD, brake assist, switchable stability and traction control.

COMFORT

Remember Maxell’s iconic advert from the 1980s? The one with the bloke sat low-slung in a Le Corbusier armchair, having the sheer sonic clarity of Maxell cassette tapes literally blow him away? A modern analogue would surely feature the Ferrari Portofino, with the car’s fantastically supportive and magnesium-framed driver’s seat standing in for the armchair, and a 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 taking the place of a JBL floor speaker and Ride of the Valkyries.

There’d be one crucial difference however – a surprising absence of tie-flicking, hair-rustling wind. Roof folded away and with windows down, the cabin is serene enough for easy conversation at speed.

It’s probably a different story for those in the back seats, but wind turbulence is the least of their troubles back there. A near total absence of legroom when the front seats are placed into what we feel is a normal position really curbs rear seat comfort, and the vertical backrests compound the issue even further. If a human being really must sit behind the front seats, we’d hope they’re in a child seat.

Otherwise, the Portofino is a very nice place to be. The interior is lovely to look at and touch, with soft leather, contrast hand-stitching and an infotainment system that’s surprisingly slick and intuitive – we just wish it wasn’t mounted so low in the dash.

Read next: Ferrari’s five year plan: ‘Purosangue’ 4x4 and hybrid 488 successor

ON THE ROAD

It might be the entry point to the Ferrari family, but there's nothing entry-level about a 441kW, 760Nm twin-turbo 3.9-litre V8. Shared with the GTC4 Lusso T but detuned slightly, the Portofino's engine provides masses of low-down torque that seamlessly transitions into screaming top-end power.

With a redline of 'only' 7500rpm it feels like the party ends a little earlier than it should for a Ferrari, but grab another gear from the rapid-shifting seven-speed dual clutch and thrust resumes smartly – with a flamboyant thunderclap from the exhaust as you do so.

It sounds excellent when you work it hard, too, perhaps even more so than the 488 GTB that uses a derivative of the same engine. Above 4000rpm with the accelerator flattened it emits a proper Maranello howl. Unfortunately at lower engine speeds and in Sport mode, the exhaust note doesn't have quite the same appeal, instead sounding flat and obnoxiously loud when the muffler bypass valves abruptly snap open.

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The steering is light, which may turn off handling purists but is actually ideal for threading the Portofino's long snout through traffic. However it's the ride that really makes a strong impression. The optional magnetic dampers that were fitted to our tester were magic in their ability to iron out rough roads, and even with the Manettino twisted to 'Sport' all it took was a prod of the 'Bumpy Road' button on the other side of the steering wheel to restore compliance. The fact the Portofino has such a supple ride despite rolling on 20-inch alloys is properly remarkable, even more so considering its bodyshell has no roof structure to help out.

The Manettino switch has fewer modes than other Ferraris, but winding down lap times isn’t the Portofino’s ethos. ‘Comfort’, ‘Sport’ and ‘ESC off’ should suffice, then. After all, with the flexibility of its power delivery, easy steering and impressive ride comfort, the Portofino delivers on Ferrari's claim of it being a truly daily-driveable proposition.

Read next: 2019 Ferrari 488 Pista Spider revealed at Pebble Beach

VERDICT

“Baby Ferrari”? How dare you. The Portofino doesn't just feel, drive and sound like a Ferrari, should, but its highly-finished cabin also has a mature feel that makes it feel properly high-end. Ferrari Australia's supply of the model is sold out until mid-2020, but if you ever dreamed of ticking the 'Ferrari ownership' box off your bucket list, the Portofino is an excellent way to do it.