In today’s hypercar-loaded world, with only 612bhp and a relatively affordable price tag, the Ferrari Portofino M seems almost underpowered, and dare I say ‘economical’, for a prancing horse. But, once again, I ask the question that I asked when I drove the earlier Portofino – do you really need more?
‘Affordable’ is a relative term. But when the word is mentioned with a Ferrari, which happens very rarely, it becomes more relative than usual. Still, in today’s world of rising inflation, the Portofino M’s pricing, which starts at just under ₹4 crore, doesn’t sound too bad, especially if you look at the prices of the other products in Ferrari’s portfolio. But I digress; coming back to the point, way back in 2018 – when we could still travel without fear – I found myself in a tony boathouse in Dubai, staring at a fleet of Portofinos, which we were just about to drive.
The all-round Ferrari
Since it was Ferrari, and Dubai, we had a police escort with us, who politely told us that we could push our cars only on certain sections of the highway – above the strictly enforced speed limit – and the lead car would tell us when we could do that. And having spent that day with the Portofino, I came back marvelling at the car’s abilities. At least on Dubai’s well-paved roads, the ride was very comfortable. It was a spacious two-seater, with all the toys you need, and more than that, it was a hardtop convertible. This meant that you could close the top during the day to enjoy the excellent air-conditioning, and you could open the top and enjoy the convertible experience in the evening. Pair all this with more performance than you need, a top speed of over 300km/h, a beautiful design, and an engine that not only loved to sing but also rev, and you’d know why I was left wondering if you’d ever need anything more than the Portofino, especially in a country like India. After all, it was a usable Ferrari, with the advantages of a convertible and the sweet pitch of a sonorous V8. Not to mention the excellent value for money, relatively speaking, of course.
So, when Ferrari New Delhi called to ask if we would like to drive the updated Portofino M, I naturally jumped at the opportunity.
If you’re a Tifosi, you’ll know it already, but I’ll mention it anyway. The ‘M’ in the Portofino M stands for ‘Modificata’. Is it just me or do even mundane words sound fantastic in the Italian language? I mean Jaguar XK ‘Modified’ simply doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? Coming to the actual modifications, visually, the update is rather mild. There are some changes to the front bumper, with more aggressive air dams and aerodynamic enhancements, featuring new vents, which now flow into the side vents on the Portofino’s front fenders. The rear of the car also gets a new bumper, and the rear diffuser has been completely redesigned – it can now also be had in carbon fibre. Personalisation, of course, is a big part of owning a Ferrari – customers often actively spend considerable time and money in customising their cars. Ferrari’s merchandise sales are also a huge part of their business, but that’s a story for another day.
Most of the changes in the Portofino focus on the engine and the driving dynamics of the car. Now, I, for one, wasn’t able to think of many ways to improve the older Portofino, but if the boffins at Ferrari wanted to improve it further, who am I to complain? The biggest change, of course, is an all-new 8-speed gearbox, which replaces the older 7-speed unit. It is an oil-bathed dual-clutch unit, capable of handling the extra power and torque of the updated engine. Now, coming to the engine – and oh, what an engine it is! – debuting in the 488, it has won the ‘International Engine of the Year’ award four times consecutively.
The 3.9-litre twin-turbocharged V8 of the Portofino is one of the finest engines being manufactured today. And with its crackling red finish, it looks drop-dead gorgeous too.
No need to mention, then, that it’s no slouch – it produces 612bhp and a sizable 760Nm of torque and maintains a redline of 7,500rpm. The moment you fire the engine, you can feel its aggressive nature, not to mention the sweet pitch of its beautiful V8 sound. But the true amazement lies in the dual nature of the engine and its power delivery. With the manettino dialled to comfort, you can use this car every day for your regular commute – it cruises with just a slight rumble and has no problems in terms of handling urban traffic or low-speed cruising. But when you flex your right foot, the engine really changes character. Revs rise like there is no tomorrow, and the power delivery is simply mind-blowing. In fact, having driven many turbocharged cars over the years, my first remark after driving both Portofino’s was regarding the fact that they have zero turbo lag and almost feel naturally aspirated. And that’s because Ferrari has made an active effort to make sure that turbo lag doesn’t exist in its engines, and it shows.
Now, in terms of performance, the stats speak for themselves – it can dismiss the 0 – 100km/h sprint in under 3.5 seconds and has a top speed of over 320km/h. That said, to understand or even get an idea of what this car is all about, you really have to experience it first-hand. That explosive acceleration, that evocative soundtrack, and that luxurious feeling of being wrapped around in the finest Italian leather – well, life rarely gets better than that. And, coming to the usability, you can certainly drive the Portofino in India’s heat, the air-conditioning and engine cooling systems are more than up to the mark to handle our conditions, and even the suspension, despite the 20-inch wheels, is reasonably comfortable. And without the hyperactive nature of some of its bigger siblings, the Portofino seems better suited to Indian conditions.
Do you need more?
On a side note, while growing up, the Ferrari 575M Maranello was like a holy grail for me. It featured a 533bhp V12 and was the Cavallino brand’s flagship of regular road cars. And just 20 years later, an entry-level car of the range now has more power than that. Besides, the current flagship has nearly twice as much power. So, when a Luddite tells you that cars haven’t progressed over the years, show them these stats. Moreover, today, Ferrari’s line-up comes with a 7-year maintenance plan – now, that’s called having confidence in your products.
Of course, I am a firm believer of the age-old adage that ‘there’s no such thing as too much power,’ but the Portofino M really does beg the question – do you really need its bigger siblings? I understand the appeal of the SF90 or even the sublime figures of the 296, but to be honest, given its convertible appeal, cruising nature, and sublime performance, the Portofino M is more than enough for most of those who can afford it.
- Ferrari Portofino M
Engine: 3,855cc / V8 / Twin-Turbocharged
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic / Dual-Clutch / Rear-Wheel Drive
Power: 612bhp @ 5,750 – 7,500rpm
Torque: 760Nm @ 3,000 – 5,750rpm
Price: ₹3.93 Crore (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: Ferrari’s entry-level supercar is everything you need and more!
Ferrari Portofino M debuts with 611bhp on tap
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