Review: Ferrari Portofino

A nice car and nowhere to go, Sean Foo drew inspiration from the Ferrari named after an Italian Riviera town and took it between two Ports, Klang and Dickson

I fully expected the guard at the Royal Selangor Yacht Club, Port Klang to lift the barrier. After all, we had arrived in a glistening, brand new Ferrari Portofino. The guard admired the Portofino’s lines while checking with his superior. A few minutes of chat later, however, entry was firmly refused. Perhaps my companion and I weren’t sporting the right sailing gear, perhaps we looked like we weren’t the right kind of people to be a Ferrari Portofino (as if!). Whatever it was, this must have been the first time in the history of Malaysia that a Ferrari was turned away. Luckily, there were plenty of other places to go: all we wanted was a location to shoot the car. Maybe we’d find somewhere on the way to Port Dickson, our other port of call.

Can a Ferrari be white? Aren’t Ferraris supposed to be red? Was that why we were turned away by the Yacht Club? To my eyes, the exquisite black and tan interior complemented the white, the contrast between the outside and in: yin and yang applies to Ferraris too. Apart from the 5 pairs-of -‘chopstick’-style wheels, this Portofino would have a prime position in my imaginary ten car garage.

The Portofino’s quirky and cocooning cabin was created by Italian craftsmen using splendid materials (only the plastic AC controls grated). The controls drew me into Ferrari’s eclectic universe. The indicator rocker switches worked in 2 directions; you could switch on or cancel by pulling or pushing. The touchscreen passenger display, the feature-laden steering wheel, the drive controls on the elegant carbon-fibre arch and the extended fixed paddle shifters do not give up their secrets easily. Invest some time and effort, do not expect instant familiarity and ease of use. The payback was a hugely entertaining, unique and fun experience, which never got tiresome.

The seven-speed F1 DCT transmission was ultra modern, effective and efficient, yet, with an old-school mechanical feel. There was a slight thump accompanying the change in engine and exhaust note as the car acknowledged my commands. The prominence of the acknowledgement varied in concert with throttle inputs. Drive hard, clear salute. Drive gently, a discreet nod. It was delightful. However, smooth low speed manoeuvring required some practice and sensitivity but it was worth it.

The lights on the steering wheel seemed a touch Playstation-ish and oddly compulsive. They seemed to goad me… make the V8 sing. A red light started at 5600rpm and ended with seven reds and two blues at 7500rpm. Utterly intoxicating. The V8 was roarty with a light burble until the lights came on, when the tone went up a few keys and the V8 shrieked and screamed like a naturally-aspirated Ferrari V8. The Portofino’s V8 may not have been the full-fat diary ice cream version; but, in the eco age, the health conscious version was still very satisfying.

The front mid–mounted, dry-sumped, twin turbo V8 was unmistakably Ferrari. I revelled in its linear, responsive and explosive, seamlessly modulated, seemingly endless power. It was expertly delivered, never threatening and near instantaneously accessible. The rev limiter had some work to do. An F8 Tributo’s engine must be stupendous if this detuned version is already this fantastic. It was clear to see that the numerous International Engine of the Year Awards heaped on to Ferrari’s V8 engine family were richly deserved because absolutely no one builds a V8 like Ferrari.

As we headed southwards on to Port Dickson, it was apparent, this Ferrari was talented and multi-faceted, a “Multi Purpose Vehicle”. It is many cars in one, and there is nothing else like it, irrespective of price. The Portofino is a “proper” Ferrari. The steering was quick and precise with weighting that complemented the Portofino’s sporting and GT credentials. It wasn’t especially talkative or feel-some, but it suited the Ferrari Portofino’s easy-going character. Damping was superb, the bumpy road setting provided compliance, comfort and control over the long sections of lightly rippled – speed hump embryos – roads on the way from Klang to Sepang, a slight detour in homage to the Portofino’s motorsports pedigree.

With its low slung V8 mounted behind the front axle and lightweight engineering, it steered, handled and cornered with the agility, finesse and athleticism of an authentic sports car. Lowering the roof lowered the centre of gravity, shifting weight distribution rearwards, and the Portofino became noticeably more track focussed. Just don’t expect it to behave like a dedicated track day toy.

We reached PD, a town which still has some rustic charm underneath the relentless industrialisation and modernity, without noticing the time. The Portofino had covered the journey in absolute comfort, the benefit of having shapely, sculpted, supportive and comfortable seats and compliant ride, abundant power and little wind noise. The noise suppression was excellent.

Some might dismiss the retractable roof as pointless and irrelevant. But consider this, with the roof down, windows up, AC on full, you could head out into the evening or take advantage of the cooler weather of the highlands to experience unlimited headroom and the smells and sounds of the tropics. Alternatively, drop all 4 windows for the pillar-less coupe effect, and imagine yourself on the California coast.

The Portofino is the universal Ferrari. It is stylish and contemporary with Italian flair. A masterpiece of engineering and design, the roof structure flows elegantly front to rear. It appeals to committed drivers and sedate Sunday drivers. With imaginative colour combinations, attention seekers and self-effacing folk can create their perfect Portofino. If you enjoy driving, appreciate distinctiveness, quality or engineering, or just need a runaround, the Ferrari Portofino could be just the ticket.

If you like the sound of the Ferrari Portofino, check out these Ferrari listings

Ferrari Portofino

Malaysia Price
Singapore Price POA
Engine 8-cyl, 3855cc, twin turbocharged, petrol
Power 600hp at 7500rpm
Torque 760Nm from 3000 – 5250rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch transmission
Kerb weight 1664kg
0-100km/h 3.5sec
Top speed 320km/h
Economy 8.5km/L