It’s about 9,500 miles between the Golden State and a swanky former fishing village on the Italian Riviera known as Portofino, where pastel-painted cottages mix it with celebs and super yachts. For Ferrari, however, it’s a gap of 10 years between the launch of the California, its first front-engined V8 sports car and this, the Mk. II version, the Ferrari Portofino.
“California is such an iconic name,” says Nicola Boari, head of Ferrari product marketing. “Trying to stay close wasn’t a good thing. Portofino is discreet, it’s not as splashy as Monte Carlo.”
The California was aimed at a new breed of Ferrari customer: younger, with a family, women. In one sense it’s done that job well, in another it’s failed. Boari admits with a shrug that not many women have actually bought a California, but for a car launched just as Lehmann Brothers was gasping its last, the car has attracted a new sort of customer just the same and attracted 35 percent of Ferrari’s total sales. Last year, that numbered 8,398 vehicles.
The 2+2 Pinifarina-designed aluminium body has been completely redesigned, but retains the same basic dimensions as the outgoing California. Dealers reported that the size was just about right, so the Portofino has grown by only 0.62 inch in length and 1.1 inches in width. It’s lighter by 176.4 pounds, thanks mainly to a lighter body construction and interior, and stiffer thanks to more integral parts and aluminum pans under the floors.
The interior is heavily redesigned with a busy but attractive dashboard. Those rear seats are still only suitable for shopping bags, or children no bigger than shopping bags, but it frees up enough space in the trunk to admit three airline carry-ons with the roof up. The driver’s binnacle is a strange mix of an analogue tachometer flanked by a digital speedometer and ancillary instruments.
The dual clutch has well-spaced ratios and changes cogs as fast as you’d ever want, especially with Sport dialed in on the manettino selector. Most impressive is the chassis’ stability, which is partly to do with the electronic stability control and rear diff that are constantly working to keep the car tracking straight and true, even at speeds where they’d throw away the key if they could catch you.
The Portofino is as good a car as ever carried the Scuderia Ferrari Cavallino, which is as fine a compliment as you can pay to the California’s successor.