Don’t be mistaken for the addition of the M in the Ferrari Portofino, it’s not the M badge of BMW which denotes more power and performance, though the Portofino never lacked it, but the M here stands for Modificata, which means the Portofino has gone through a substantial transformation. It also had to meet the Euro 6 emission norms but calling it a facelift would be an insult; it’s much more than just a facelift. I had flown to the desert city, Dubai, and munched more than 400 km in the 2021 Ferrari Portofino M, and it has left me mighty impressed.
Dubai is a city that has been turbocharged and has been on a super acceleration mode, even the mighty virus which brought the world from semi to complete lockdowns, could not stop it. Now it’s the party destination of the world, and the Portofino M brings loud roaring music to the party somehow, it gives the feeling of making music even while standing still.
The moment I stepped inside, I felt teleported to a completely different world. Your perception of the world outside might start changing the longer you’re seated. Everything looks and feels so true to the Ferrari Legacy. Even with all the tech inside, the large analogue tachometer dial gives a sense of raw power every time you push the metal and redline it. Even though it’s a four-year-old interior, it doesn’t look that tad obsolete at all, and it is like that black suit in your wardrobe that always looks good. The dash is properly laid out with a little inclination towards the driver. The steering wheel has real, solid buttons and switches rather than haptic ones. I love that the AC vents are the beautiful, round, jet-turbine funnels that can be focussed directly on your face and that clear, simple buttons operate the gearbox, not a gimmicky faux gated ‘shifter.’
The Portofino has been around for quite a while now, but the Portofino M has gone through a midlife makeover which isn’t that common for the Ferrari line-up. Yes, there have been a lot many functional visual updates too. There are larger air intakes in the front bumper to squeeze in more O2 so that it breathes purer, which makes it aggressive-looking yet with a smiling face. New vents in the bonnet and a larger, more aggressive diffuser at the rear makes the back a lot more admirable. That last bit was a performance function because to meet new emissions regulations, and so the Portofino had to be fit with Gasoline Particulate Filters (GPFs), which tends to dull the noise the car makes. Ferrari has also reprofiled the exhaust and simply deleted the silencers to counter this problem, so now it’s louder than ever. Once you have the roof down and you accelerate, that’s when you really enjoy the howl of the V8; and with its roof buttoned up, it’s rather more gentlemanly.
The showstopper point has to be the 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8, which puts out 620 HP and 760 Nm torque, which was achieved by the new cam profiles and a new speed sensor for the turbochargers. The power has been beefed up, and now you have an entry-level hardtop convertible Ferrari with mind-numbing numbers to justify its seven-digit figures on your cheque. The 7-speed dual-clutch auto has been ditched for an 8-speed unit like the Roma, and while the eighth ratio is taller to boost highway efficiency, it’s allowed Ferrari to shorten gears one through seven and stack them tighter for more aggressive acceleration.
The biggest clue to the M’s new-found sporty intent is the Mannetino switch on the steering wheel, which now has five modes, including Race – previously deemed too severe for the rather subtle Portofino. And now Race means – ‘maximum driving pleasure’; ESC-Off and VDC and F1-TCS both deactivated – if you throttle it completely, you need to pray silently. The sound, acceleration, and chassis all come together like a tightly orchestrated symphony phenomenally presented. As I ‘clicked’ up to the tighter gear ratios of the gearbox, the needle redlines almost instantly. There’s a certain kind of rawness that just wasn’t present in the Portofino before. The shifts themselves are some of the quickest in the business, and the soulful V8 under the hood that accompanies every pull of the left paddle will go down as one of the most extraordinary noises to ever come out of a machine and in the silent desert was only more intoxicating.
The Portofino M’s engine sits ahead of the driver, so it makes room for a pair of hilariously small back seats and a rear trunk that’s only useful if the folding hardtop isn’t folded. But what’s lost in the boot space is more than gained in the ecstasy when the top is dropped, and the Portofino M is being raced along a desert, sunny coast, or mountain pass. Portofino M’s fuel economy is devastating, and all popular driver assists will cost extra, but those are likely plebeian concerns to those who can afford one of these magnificent machines. And since we were in a country where fuel prices are comparable to that of water, the word “fuel economy” is not really heard of.
The steering of a Ferrari is a piece of art, and has almost all controls of the car in it. Ferrari does not now want you to lose grip of the steering and you would not also. Driving modes, indicator switches, and a semi-circle light strip glow from the engine start-stop every time you press the engine start button. While its electrically assisted steering delivered satisfying feedback, the setup isn’t as engaging as what a Porsche can provide. Every Portofino also features carbon-ceramic brakes that ensure this flying beast can quickly be hauled to a stop, yes speaking of flying beast it competes in price and brag factor very close to the Bentley flying spur.
Let’s sum it up.
Ferrari Portofino is a gorgeous looking hardtop convertible with 2 bucket seats. It’s like a brisk entry to the Ferrari world and it’s the entry to the dream world club which most of us have grown up in different colours and specs. It’s an impractical car if your definition of practicality is that of the masses. It’s something that you buy for self-indulgence and to speed against time and clock 0-100 in 3.3 seconds, to have something in your garage which can make you instantly loved. This aspect can never be looked at from practicality, VFM and all the mass market terms. It’s an escape vehicle from the standardization of life and that, it does well!
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