New 2021 Ferrari Portofino M review: Goodwood Festival of Speed special

Nick Francis

30 Jun 2021

1/7
Ferrari’s ‘entry level’ convertible has had some notable updates and will appear in public at the 2021 Goodwood Festival of Speed. YesAuto has driven it ahead of the show, here’s how we got on.

PROS:

+ Crazy fast

+ Looks beautiful

+ Sounds even better


CONS:

- Not the most relaxed grand tourer

- Infotainment system a little dated

- You probably can’t afford it 


Verdict: The fact a car this beautiful and capable is one of Ferrari’s entry level models tells you everything you need to know about the high standards of the brand. It’s perhaps not the most relaxing grand tourer to drive, but it feels and sounds just like a Ferrari should. 



Using the words ‘entry level’ when referring to a Ferrari is a bit like describing Bill Gates as ‘the poor one’ out of him, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. It feels like a contradiction in terms, but technically, along with the Roma, the Portofino is the cheapest way to own a new Maranello car. 


In very simple terms the difference between the Roma and Portofino is the fact the Portofino has a retractable roof – it’s much better for showing off your trophy mistress. While the Roma has only been around a matter of months the original Portofino arrived in 2017, so now it’s time for a new version. That’s what the M stands for: modificata, Ferrari speak for update. 


Ferrari says the message coming back from Portofino buyers was it could do with a little more edge and rawness, which is why the Portofino M’s 3.9-litre twin turbocharged V8 now packs 612bhp and 760Nm of torque, an increase of 20bhp. 



A new eight-speed automatic ‘box offers shorter ratio gearing than before, making acceleration more urgent. The eighth cog has been left deliberately longer for a more relaxed cruising experience, because even with all the changes the Portofino M is still first and foremost a grand tourer that competes with cars like the Aston Martin DB11 and Bentley Continental GT.


Even so, Ferrari has added a Race Mode, which should broaden the Portofino’s appeal somewhat. It no longer sells itself as the least intimidating Ferrari money can buy, it’s become more of an all-rounder. 


Externally there’s less to mention. The exhaust system has been redesigned, as has the grille and front air intakes. These tweaks are subtle, and many done in the name of improving aero, but that’s fine by us because the Portofino was always one of the best-looking cars on the market. 



The roof peels back in 14-seconds revealing a lightly revised interior. Heated seats featuring an ‘air scarf’ neck warmer are an option, which is handy for UK buyers who want the roof down as much as possible.


The dash is dominated by a 10.25-inch infotainment screen encased in excessive bulges of carbon fibre trim. The screen is bright and clear and the response time is okay, but it’s not the best infotainment system on the market. 


Interior build quality is of an excellent standard, although so it should be on a £175,000 car, but it does all look a little busy, a little ostentatious. If you prefer things more parred back and understated, then an Aston Martin DB11 might suit better. 



Another area where the Portofino M loses to many of its competitors is rear space. Yes, there are what look like two seats in the back, but only the smallest of children will fit their legs in, unless the front passenger seat is raked forward, which would then impede on the person in front. And it won’t look so cool cruising around Monaco with your passengers’ knees underneath their chin.


The back seats do offer some extra storage space though, which is handy as the boot is only 292-litres. You could certainly pack enough for a week away, so long as it is just the two of you. 


But a Ferrari shouldn’t be judged on its practicality, in the same way as a supermodel isn’t judged on her book-keeping abilities. The Portofino M looks stunning and begs to be driven hard.


Out on the road and the changes to the drivetrain and powertrain are immediately noticeable. Critics might say it has lost some of its grand tourer character because it’s just do damn fast, less relaxed than before, but actually the Portofino M only goes bonkers when you ask it to.



The gearbox feels confident and relaxed at slower speeds, in fact you’ll notice it’s in sixth and seventh gear sometimes around town, it’s not trying to rip your arms off. But when you want to get a move on? Oh boy.


The 0-62mph sprint is over in just 3.5-seconds but power builds in a similarly gradual way to a naturally aspirated engine, despite the presence of those two turbochargers. It’s not mind-scrambling like the Porsche 911 Turbo S, but by the time the needle is ticking 6,000rpm things are getting very giddy indeed. 


And it will wheelspin like a hooligan should you wish, just be careful not to turn the stability aids off because the back will happily overtake the front on a sixpence.


Then there’s the noise. The old car wasn’t exactly shy and retiring, but this model no longer has silencers on the exhaust system thanks to the need to fit a petrol particulate filter to meet emissions regulations. The result is a howling soundtrack capable of waking the dead. In China. From the UK. 



For such a big and heavy car the Portofino M feels agile and offers plenty of grip in corners. It’s still a very easy car to control, and to really find out where its limitations are would require a racetrack. The only difficulty on the road is its width: it can be nerve-wracking to encounter an Ocado van driver who is running late barrelling towards you on a country lane. 


If you want the ultimate mileage-munching grand tourer then a Bentley Continental GT will fit the bill better, but the Portofino M is a capable wafter all the same. Its rawer edge might lead to some fatigue, but it would take hours and hours of driving to become a problem.


And you know what? This is Ferrari, it’s supposed to stand the driver to attention. As well as everyone you drive past. And the Portofino M certainly does that. 


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Nick Francis

30 Jun 2021