Ferrari Portofino M Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Thursday 5th October
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

Your first question will no doubt be whether the extra power makes any difference. It’s not really the numbers that make the difference, though, more the whole package. The big news in terms of hardware comes with a slight uplift in power to 612bhp from the brilliant 3.9-litre turbo V8, as well as the adoption of the 8-speed paddleshift gearbox that features elsewhere in the Ferrari range. The modest power bump comes courtesy of new camshaft profiles, a new speed sensor in the turbo housing that allows better monitoring and an increase in turbine speed of 5,000rpm, and a new exhaust with a trick gasoline particulate filter (GDF), that allows the M to meet Euro-6D emissions standards, and also have a more tucked-in bottom. All good stuff. 

The ‘box itself is similar to the one in the SF90 Stradale, but comes with longer ratios and a mechanical reverse gear, and as well as being smaller than the old gearbox, it’s also lighter. Which all bodes well. Interestingly, it’s got a slight quirk in that it will happily try and pull 8th gear at 30mph sub-1,000rpm. It’ll do it, too - it just feels weird to have the engine barely above idle in top mooching through town. 

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As far as it being a fast car, it most certainly is. The sprint is handled in under 3.5 seconds, and that’s do-able in the dry. The gearbox absolutely launches changes at full throttle though, so you better be ready if the ESC is off and it’s even mildly damp. Wheelspin… yes. Up to fourth.

Top end is just under 200mph with the roof up, and the switchable exhaust gets louder/softer depending on mode. Though it never really reaches the spine-tingling abilities of some of Ferrari’s other products, it’s pleasing, if a little muffled. But the brakes are a very notable change, removing ten per cent of the travel from the pedal versus the standard car. Small change, big difference. 

Does it handle?

Like all front-engined Ferraris, the Portofino M has that pleasing trick of rotating around the middle of the car, rather than feeling like you’re turning the nose in before the rest of it. And it’s as flat and composed as you would expect. You now also get more chance to express yourself, with two extra positions from the Manettino drive-select dial on the right-hand side of the wheel. And it goes a little something like this: Wet (maximum stability and control), Comfort (Normal use on dry roads), Sport (sporty driving), Race (‘maximises driving pleasure’ according to Ferrari), ESC-Off (VDC and F1-TCS both deactivated, pray). 

And yes, the M gets a full suite of vehicle dynamics control systems from Side-Slip Control (SSC), an E-diff, F1-TCS, SCM-E Frs and the Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer or FDE. All of which seem keen to let you have fun, but prevent you from crashing. Basically they’re drifty modes of various states of paranoia, some of which make the car feel spookily four-wheel drive. It does, however, get a bit confusing at times, because you’re not absolutely sure whether its you making the correction, or the car helping you out. Excellent systems, but the purity and connection is slightly dialled out in line with the Portofino M’s usage profile, we suspect. 

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I want to cruise…

Stick it in Comfort mode, and the M scuttles down the road very nicely indeed. It’s not a magic carpet - no car with these kinds of performance figures really can be - and it’s not super-light, but the magnetorheological damping soothes away a road’s worst excesses ninety per. cent of the time. In Race, a British B-road will fox it, leading to some eye-widening stutters on badly surfaced tarmac, but that’s at speeds/braking events probably best not mentioned. It really ticks all of the boxes, without being outstanding in any. 

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