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Overall verdict

The Top Gear car review: Ferrari Portofino

Overall verdict
Out goes the California, in comes the lighter, faster 'entry-level' Portofino. Truly, a Ferrari for all seasons


Hellishly fast, ultra-stylish integration of coupe and convertible, beautifully designed and made


Dynamically still trying to find the sweet spot between comfy GT and full-blown Ferrari, manual shifts on dual-clutch ’box can be punchy


What is it?

Ferrari doesn’t do humble, but company insiders will admit, if pushed, that the California (and later T update) wandered too far from the authentic Ferrari template. Not so far for the convertible GT to be deemed a commercial failure – the opposite in fact, with 11,000-plus sold in a decade, 70 per cent of which were conquest sales – more that it lacked the pointy precision that’s characteristic of contemporary Ferraris.

The Portofino aims to redress the balance, literally and figuratively, adding a shot of adrenalised dynamism to the usability and versatility beloved of California clients – grintozo, Ferrari calls it, or grittiness – not to mention chiselling away at the old car’s, umm, lard-arsed profile. Ferrari’s Centro Stile has worked wonders here, crafting a form that has tension in coupe form, particularly in the way the retractable hard-top roof is now convincingly integrated, while still delivering the lissom elegance of a convertible and the trick aero a modern Ferrari needs. Unlike Aston Martin’s sublime new DB11 Volante and the next-gen Mercedes SL, Ferrari has stuck with the RHT over the trad canvas soft-top, and insists the weight penalty is negligible. Saving the kilos on a car as content-rich as the Portofino is a tall order, but it’s a task Ferrari technical director Philippe Krief and his team have set to with rigour and vigour.

There’s an all-new aluminium chassis, using 12 different alloys, key elements of which are now cleverly integrated. Take the A-pillar, for example: on the California it consisted of 21 separate components, now it’s a single piece. Hollow castings help improve structural rigidity: the new car is 35 per cent stiffer than the old one. Savings have also been made in the powertrain and electronics, while the seats, heating and ventilation system and dashboard structure are all lighter.

At 1664kg with fluids, the Portofino weighs 80kg less than the California T. The engine is a reworked wet-sump iteration of Ferrari’s award-winning 3.9-litre twin turbo V8, good for 591bhp in the Portofino and more significantly 561 torques from 3,000 to 5,250rpm. Changes to the hardware include a ten per cent increase in the maximum pressure of the combustion chamber, revised con rods and pistons, and a single cast exhaust manifold. There’s now more power at the top end of the rev range. Ferrari, understandably, is hell-bent on giving its new-age turbo engines the throttle response, savage sonic signature, and irresistible character of the atmospheric V8s many of us still lust after. As powertrain director Vittorio Dini told TG: “Extracting more power from a turbocharged engine isn’t just a matter of playing with the boost: you have to make it harmonious, robust, and driveable.” So is it?