It’s not often we get a new non-numerical name for a Ferrari. As far as names go, the California was one of the best (and most appropriate) in the business, but the nine-year-old hard-top convertible was beginning to show its age, despite a refresh. The Ferrari Portofino is here to pick up where the California left off, refining the entry-level Ferrari slot with a new face, engine, and name. We’ve seen this car already when it debuted earlier this month, but Frankfurt was the first time we saw the new drop-top in the flesh.
Love it or hate it, the original Ferrari California was a landmark car for Maranello. It ushered in a stunning number of brand firsts, and set a stylistic and technological standard. Most notably, it was the first Ferrari with a V8 in the front, as well as the first Ferrari with a dual-clutch automatic transmission, a retractable metal roof, multilink rear suspension, and direct injection. When the refreshed California T made its debut in 2014, it was the first turbocharged Ferrari since the F40, a supercar last sold in 1992.
The Portofino isn’t nearly as revolutionary as the California, but it’s desperately pretty, something that couldn’t be said about its predecessor. It’s visually similar, but is tighter, lithe, and sports a gloriously reduced rear rump when compared to the big-butt California. The Portofino’s got quite the handsome profile, especially in the front, where it pulls design influence from the current 812 Superfast, aping the bigger V-12 car’s front fascia and side cuts.
The Portofino is built on a new chassis that Ferrari claims is 35 percent stiffer than the California’s, overall weight is down 80 kg to its predecessor and there’s also the big switch to an electro-mechanical steering from a hydraulic unit. Far back under the long bonnet sits a 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8. Sounds familiar? It’s the engine from the California T but it’s been completely reworked and punches out 600hp (up 40hp). An entry point to the Ferrari range this may be, but it’s still a red-blooded Ferrari.
Power still comes from a 3.9-liter twin-turbocharged V8, but output is now up to 591 hp and 561 lb-ft of torque, a 38-hp and 4 lb-ft improvement. Power is shipped to the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission hooked up to Ferrari’s third-gen E-Diff, a setup that returns much-improved performance.
Thanks to a 162-pound deficit over the older car and a refined, more powerful drivetrain, the Portofino rips from 0-60 mph in just 3.5 seconds, and onto a top speed of “over 199 mph.” It’s not as fast as the mid-engine 488 GTS, but still rapid enough to ruin your $300 haircut.
It’s an entry-level Ferrari, but that doesn’t mean it shares market space with the new Honda Civic. Prices begin at around $211,000, and only climb stratospherically from there. Look for landfall in the U.S. around next summer.