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My story with the Ferrari Portofino began in November 2017 at the Dubai International Motor Show where I chose to make the Italian beauty part of our “Most Loved Cars at the Motor Show” based simply on the way it looks. Many times, I ponder how Ferrari designers manage to make every new car look better than its predecessor and I am yet to find an answer.
Move forward a couple of months and I get invited by Al Tayer Motors Ferrari in the UAE to a driving experience with the Ferrari Portofino all the way to the picturesque Hatta Dam. I won’t hide the fact that I was a little scared the Portofino won’t live up to my expectations but let me walk you through the day and tell you about how the Portofino holds up in person.
So, we arrive early morning to the magnificent Italian luxury brand Bulgari Resort in Dubai for a short briefing on the car and the day ahead. Ferrari was obviously marketing the Portofino as the most useable Ferrari they build and explained a lot of what sets it apart from the car it succeeds, the 10-year-old Ferrari California and California T.
The Portofino comes with more legroom for the back seats and a larger boot than its predecessors. Part of the product presentation also ran us through the naming of the car, highlighting it’s named after a fishing village on the Italian Riviera.
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While that would be the perfect place to drive this Italian convertible in the summer, let me snap back to reality and tell you about the day ahead. We were to drive the Portofino through Downtown Dubai and towards Hatta Dam where we can grab lunch and film the Portofino with the wallpaper-worthy Hatta Dam lending a splendid backdrop.
First, let me start with how the car looks, the Ferrari Portofino is a two-door 2+2 hard top convertible. Usually these types of cars look better with the top down, however, the designers and engineers at Ferrari have managed to make the Portofino look equally good both with the roof up or down.
They achieved this by opting for a fastback design with body lines that follow the roof and taper at the boot. Adding to the beauty of this machine is a very wide stance that it gets from a horizontal grille flanked by full LED headlights, a long bonnet, sleek body lines and a very wide rear with a sculpted wing and taillights that have been positioned at the extremities of the car.
Inside, you get a high-quality leather and carbon fiber finish, along with the traditional Ferrari-style steering wheel and large carbon fiber paddle shifters mounted to the steering column. The benefit being the shifters don’t move with the steering but are still large enough to reach whenever need be.
On the other hand, and to make this a better daily driver, the Ferrari Portofino 2018 comes fitted with a 10.25-inch infotainment screen with navigation and Apple CarPlay, a new air-conditioning system, and a separate 8.8-inch display for the passenger to carry out tasks such as shuffling through audio tracks. What you can’t do with this though, is hide how fast you are going, as your passenger will always have a clear sight of the mechanical settings, the rev meter and speed you’re travelling at.
Now, it’s time to set off for the drive and the moment I press the bright red engine starter button mounted on the steering wheel, I’m greeted by a loud, sonorous Ferrari exhaust note. There’s something about the exhaust note of a Ferrari, it isn’t as violent as a Lamborghini, instead it’s more musical and pleasing to the ear, and I’m glad to report that the Portofino has just that!
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We start driving through the streets of Dubai and to my surprise, in both city and highway driving, when set in Comfort drive mode, the engine is silent, the suspension is soft, and the steering is light enough to make me imagine driving this Italian masterpiece daily. Roof down, taking in the burbling exhaust and it’s almost feels like a dream.
Once we get closer to our destination (Hatta Dam), the roads start to get a little tighter and a lot more fun. With the highway bits done, I change the drive mode to Sport and the Portofino instantly adopts an all-new personality. The real Ferrari comes out and I’ve got to say, this is where you begin appreciating the craftsmanship that has gone into this build.
The Ferrari Portofino uses a revised version of the powerplant that powered the California T. With some Ferrari magic and plenty of new components, the revised 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 engine that was nominated for International Engine of the Year in 2016 and 2017, produces a tarmac rippling 591-horsepower and 760 Nm of torque.
Standing 80kg lighter than the model it replaces, the Portofino when pushed to its limits, will accelerate from 0 – 100 km/h in 3.5-seconds and hit 200 km/h in an astonishing 10.8-seconds. Helping the Portofino achieve these numbers is a lightning-quick 7-speed dual-clutch transmission that channels grunt to the rear hoops.
The chassis, steering and suspension are tuned to make the car as capable as possible without the need for extensive amounts of skill as needed to drive other models in the Ferrari line-up. Making me look like a driving legend in the tight bends leading up to Hatta Dam, the Portofino delivers excitement without the need for extra adrenaline in your bloodstream.
The drive ends with the Ferrari Portofino adding to the beauty of the backdrop of the mountains and the waters of Hatta Dam. Of course, as with any Ferrari, all this beauty and exhilaration comes with a small price tag, for the Portofino starts at AED 850,000.
To many, the Ferrari Portofino might not be the perfect Ferrari, but I genuinely do feel those are the folks who’ve lost the plot. In my opinion, Ferrari has built the perfect Grand Tourer with the Portofino and that’s what they set out to build in the first place. So as far as I’m concerned, the Portofino does live up to the hype and I’m glad I selected it on my Motor Show list.