Ferrari Portofino a

recipe for success

Ferrari Portofino, front, action
Ferrari Portofino, front, static
Ferrari Portofino, rear, action
Ferrari Portofino, side
Ferrari Portofino, interior with Mike Torpey

THE sun's beating down and you're cruising with the top dropped on a long, seemingly endless road amid some of nature's most spectacular landscapes - in a Ferrari.

For good measure a pin-sharp rendition of Hotel California by the Eagles is blasting from multiple high-end speakers.

Sounds rather like motoring paradise, the stuff of technicolour dreams or more realistically perhaps, delusions of grandeur.

It needn't be.

The Portofino, named after one of the most charming villages on the Italian Riviera, starts at a few coppers above £168,000 and is entry point to the Ferrari experience.

It's sleek, sexy, oozes Italian elegance and perhaps unusually for the Prancing Horse is an everyday luxury supercar.

This, Ferrari believes, is part of a recipe for success.

Unlike some of the brand's mid-engined models, which can be a bit on the ‘selfish' side in that they are completely focused towards the driver, the Portofino is versatile, extremely comfortable and aimed more towards a shared experience.

You can just jump into the car and drive, simple as that, even if you've never been in a Ferrari before.

It's no surprise then that 70 per cent of buyers are new to the brand and that it isn't just the owner, but also their partner, who gets behind the wheel.

And what they are piloting is something exceptional.

The Portofino is a V8 GT that's designed to be driven regularly. It is the most powerful convertible to combine the advantages of a retractable hard top, a roomy-ish boot and generous cockpit space with two rear seats for kids or short trips.

Beneath the bonnet is a 3.9-litre turbo petrol engine capable of unleashing a volcanic 600bhp. It can scorch to 62mph in just 3.5 seconds, hit 125mph in 10.8 seconds and has the ultimate potential to reach 199mph.

Astounding figures - even the official average fuel figure is 26.4 miles per gallon, though if driven passionately you're more likely to return somewhere in the mid to high teens.

Enthusiastic driving was certainly order of the day on a Portofino test route starting from ‘the home of golf' St Andrews, and stretching past rushing rivers and through bleak moorlands until greeted by rugged mountains at the entrance to the Highlands.

The menacing snarl of the Ferrari soundtrack echoed through the glens and as a breeze threatened to whip up a mini storm we deployed the new wind deflector which cuts air flow in the cabin by a third and also reduces aerodynamic noise.

Should the heavens open you can pick one of two options - slow down to 30mph and raise the hard top, which takes 14 seconds, or drive faster!

Choose the latter and the Portofino responds with remarkable alacrity. It's new chassis features a significant weight saving over the California T model it has replaced but its body flex and torsional rigidity are massively improved.

The upshot is a car that delivers the poise, performance and dynamic precision you would expect from a Ferrari.

In this model more than any other the focus has been on occupant comfort, so there are 18-way electrically adjustable seats with a new back rest design that boosts legroom for rear seat passengers, a new air-con system that improves comfort both with the top up or down, a new flat-bottomed F1-style steering wheel and an infotainment set-up with 10.2-inch touchscreen.

Significantly, there's also a horizontal full HD touch display on the passenger side that's linked to the main screen and in addition provides info relating to speed, rpm and gear status.

It's all impressive stuff and, you might feel, reserved for those bon vivants who never need to ask the price of anything.

Well at £168,390 - and to be fair most buyers will whack on another £50k or so of extras - we're still talking serious lucre.

But Ferrari is at pains to emphasise that owning one of these magnificent machines can actually be quite an affordable enterprise.

Running costs can be the scourge of the car owner, let alone someone in possession of a supercar.

And while all new Ferraris boast a four-year warranty, buyers also get what could be the ultimate customer care package in the shape of seven years free servicing regardless of mileage.

Those who reach the service intervals by mileage - every 12,500 miles - will be able to have their car serviced more than once a year, so it certainly takes the sting out of the running costs.

Ferrari ownership is a big deal in the UK, which is the brand's second largest market worldwide after the US, and a third of those sales are accounted for by the Portofino.

It's a model with a mission and one that personifies the ideal combination of outright performance and driving pleasure.

Even celebrated Korean musician Shin Ji Ho was inspired to create a piano composition - To Portofino and Beyond - such were the emotions he felt when driving the car.

But then there are supercars, and there are Ferraris.

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