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Ferrari Portofino – Driven!

Ferrari Portofino, the new standard in super fast GT convertibles.

The best way to really try out a new car is to sample a variety of road conditions mixed in with variable weather conditions. Test driving a Ferrari in California does not usually provide one with a diverse range of climatic changes, however this road trip would be the exception that proves the rule. I got to experience rain, flooded roads, bumpy roads, smooth roads, sunshine, and overcast weather over 4 days while testing the new Ferrari Portofino. In short I had ideal test conditions to make or break the Ferrari Portofino.

The Portofino is an all new replacement for the Ferrari California. Ferrari produced 11,000 California’s between 2008 and 2017. The California will always hold a special place in my heart as this was first Ferrari I got to drive way back in 2011 while filming a video for an automated parking system. I can still remember bursting with nerves and excitement as I took my first solo drive in a Ferrari to go get some petrol.  Having driven all the California models I can say without a doubt 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.

My wife and I  picked up our Grigio Titanio metal Ferrari Portofino with cuoio interior from Ferrari and proceeded 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. Altering the handling of the Portofino is accomplished by a simple switch change on the manettino (Italian for: little lever) as you go from comfort to sport and you have transformed 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 so much 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 the passenger display screen which showed our 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 to Palmdale without any incident. The Portofino is in every way a superior car to that of its predecessor, the California.

The party piece of the Portofino is without doubt the ability to convert from a hard top coupe to an open top convertible. Conversation takes a mere 14 seconds and then my wife and I were able to sample fresh desert air in conjunction with the sonic warble of the twin turbocharged V8 engine. Ferrari first introduced this hard top 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 hard top 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. So I took the Portofino to visit the famous Lockheed Martin Skunk Works at Air Force Plant 42, then it was onto the Mojave Air and Space Port and finally out to the North gate of Edwards AFB.

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 have conveniently changed the wiper function from a small paddle to a rotary dial on the steering wheel. The old version was a bit hit and miss when trying to get the right setting, whereas the new version is an easy toggle between modes.

Palmdale has plenty of long and very straight back roads that provided a great many opportunities to sample the overtaking capabilities of the Portofino. I was blown away by how rapidly this car harnesses its power.  A car that has 591hp and a top speed of 199mph 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 150mph with plenty to spare. This Ferrari has plenty of get up and go.

Sadly we had to return to Los Angeles to return the Portofino. No Los Angeles Ferrari experience is complete without a visit to Rodeo drive. Thanks to my wife we got to take a new road on our way to Rodeo drive. I heartily recommend driving 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 Drive 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 that the California lacked. I personally love the styling of the Portofino. The rear hump from the California has been replaced with a smoother profile that gives the Portofino a handsome look. You can use this Ferrari as your daily driver, with the added bonus of having the option to transform from a handsome coupe 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.

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