2019 Ferrari Portofino First Review
- Retractable Hard Top Convertible
- 591-Horsepower Twin-Turbo V8
- 199 MPH Top Speed
- “Entry-Level” Ferrari
- Pricing Starts at $214,533 Including Destination
As a sleep-deprived father/introvert, the concept of meeting other humans for a pre-dawn drive sounds absolutely awful. And yet, on a recent Sunday, I heeded my alarm clock’s shriek, rose from bed into darkness, showered, and departed northbound for an automotive rendezvous…in a Ferrari Portofino.
Did you catch it? That last detail was a critical one. If a lesser vehicle had been sitting in my driveway the snooze button might’ve triumphed. But the Portofino demands special attention. First, it’s a Ferrari. You can’t underestimate the weight that name carries. People gather, gawk, and comment when a Ferrari is nearby. I’m not an attention seeker but for those who are those Ferrari badges work wonders.
Second, the Ferrari Portofino is a boundless reservoir of fun waiting to be unleashed. It features a retractable hardtop that magically motors downward while driving at slow speeds, exposing the cabin to sun and just the right amount of wind. Trading sleep for seat time in an open-air Ferrari struck me as a proactive bulwark against deathbed regrets.
Then there’s the performance. How do 199 miles per hour and 3.5-second zero-to-60 sprints sound? Actually, that’s a brilliant segue. Those acceleration and speed metrics place Ferrari’s most accessibly-priced offering in an elite performance stratum. But, in familiar Ferrari fashion, the Portofino’s accelerative thrills are further heightened by sound. As revs rise, its V8 roar morphs into a siren song seducing its entranced captain to select the next higher gear.
And so I did, time and time again. Shuttling power from the front-mounted 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 engine is a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. In motion gear changes are swift. Switch the Manettino drive selector from comfort to sport and those gear changes are conducted with intensified urgency and a sharp crack from the exhaust. Those assertive shifts (plus gallons of coffee) helped focus my mind enroute to our early-morning meetup.
Speaking of, our early morning club consisted of a classic Porsche 911, a Porsche Cayman GT4, and a McLaren 600LT. Amongst this crew I was happy to play Ferrari guy for the day. The designated meet point was a gas station located at the base of Angeles Crest highway, a sinewy 2-lane road that gyrates up over the rugged mountains of Angeles National Forest. It’s a legendary ribbon of tarmac beloved by drivers, motorcyclists, and, later in the day, bicyclists. Avoiding slow-moving hazards was our group’s goal. Hence the early start time. And in that regard, we succeeded.
Built for the open road
There are few joys greater than an unimpeded rip up Angeles Crest. The road is smooth and perpetually curved. The scenery evolves with elevation from suburbia, to forest, to rocky precipices, eventually unveiling a majestic expanse of humanity below. Whether by helicopter or Crest, LA always looks best with a bit of altitude.
Blasting up and down Angeles Crest I marveled at the Portofino’s competence. The steering wheel has a slight neutral space on center that I imagine would offer welcome stability at top speed. Turn slightly further off-center and the vehicle’s trajectory adjusts without delay. For some drivers the electrically-assisted wheel might feel overeager but with familiarity the Portofino’s quick steering becomes an asset.
Slight movements yield big results when steering. The same holds true for the brake pedal. When descending my driveway, it was easy to brake too abruptly. That same trait, applied to the endless curves of Angeles Crest, became an asset. When cliffside corners approach more quickly than expected, the immediacy and epic stopping power of standard carbon ceramic brakes are like a gift from the automotive gods.
Carry the Portofino’s easily-accessed speed into a corner and you’ll probably discover that said corner could’ve been rounded more speedily. In fact, in a street environment the true limiting factor when rounding bends is your personal risk philosophy. I’ve got a lot to live for so I preferred to stay well below the Portofino’s limits. Nonetheless, I found joy in stable, speedy, consistent arcs while attacking turns at a swift yet sane pace.
Plenty of torque
Perhaps my greatest joy came from the exceptional thrust achieved when departing those corners. If you need numbers validating my claim they are 591 horsepower and 561 pound-feet of torque. That V8 sure is a charmer. Partial credit for the Portofino’s revelatory propulsion goes to the E-Diff3 electronic differential. Monstrous power is swell but only if you can put it to the ground. E-Diff3 helps apportion the V8’s ample power between the left and right tires, yielding magnificent punch at corner exits.
Honestly, midway through Angeles Crest’s first turn I forgot all about fatigue, work, obligation, and the uncertainties of a world gone mad. The right car in the right context has a way of focusing one’s attention. Interestingly, ripping up the Crest isn’t the Portofino’s prime purpose. Sure, it makes speed with ease but its true purpose is grand touring. To that end, ride quality in our car was perfectly refined in light of the performance available. Facilitating that pleasant demeanor was our car’s $5,568.00 2-mode MagneRide suspension option. In comfort the car disguises the road’s worst attributes, making the Portofino a viable choice for long-distance journeys.
Like all of life’s pleasures the Ferrari Portofino has its drawbacks. As an entitled auto reviewer, I noted our Ferrari lacked some features that are now common across the automotive landscape. Smart key access that unlocks the vehicle when the driver’s hand touches the door handle is one. Another is blind spot warning. Among Ferraris the Portofino’s side and rearward visibility is actually quite good. Nevertheless, when piloting ¼ mill worth of Italy’s best, secondary lane-change guidance is appreciated.
Pricey option list
Then there’s the price tag. Using normal financial measures, the Portofino’s option sheet is outrageous. Apple CarPlay costs $4,219. In nearly all other cars it’s free. Colored stitching: $759. Auto-dimming rearview mirror: $1,350. Front and rear parking cameras: $6,075. A passenger side audio and vehicle performance display: $5,906. With all the options, our car’s asking price landed at a spicy $268,608. Skip the options and a “base” Portofino costs $214,533 including $3,750 in destination charges. On the other hand, do you really want an unadorned Portofino?
Adorned or not the Portofino exudes an appropriate air of exclusivity. The exterior has a racy, stylized vibe that while polarizing among my car meetup crew, certainly commands attention. Inside, the cabin is swathed in leather and technically features 4 seats though the rear posts are best reserved for handbags and speed-loving 3-year-olds.
Peak around the interior and you’ll find details that are exclusive to the world of Ferrari. Most conspicuous is the steering wheel, which houses the start button, headlight controls, wiper controls, the previously mentioned Manettino drive mode selector, an illuminated redline shift indicator, and a pair of thumb-actuated buttons for activating the turn signals. If you feel overwhelmed on first glance just know…you will adapt.
The bottom line
While it’s tempting to dwell on price and feature availability they’re essentially irrelevant to prospective buyers. If you’ve got Ferrari money, $4k for Apple CarPlay is a trifle. Any missing feature will no doubt be found on another vehicle in your fleet. The only question is whether the Portofino delivers a properly magnificent Ferrari experience. Is it fast? Does it sound brilliant? Does it attract attention like an air horn in a library? Yes, yes, yes.
And so, as I type these words wearing comfortable sweat pants by myself on my couch, I look back on last Sunday without a dash of regret. Trading sleep for a dreamlike blast through the mountains at the helm of a Ferrari Portofino surrounded by friends was the right move. I’m still a sleep-deprived introvert but my foggy, isolated brain has been enriched with beautiful, speedy memories. And who knows? Perhaps I’ll accept the next early morning invite with less reluctance. Though for best results, simply place a Ferrari in my driveway.