Review of the new Ferrari Portofino M 2021
Thanks to the latest round of updates, Ferrari’s latest open-top option offers a wider range of capabilities than ever before. The Portofino M is even more exciting when you’re driving briskly and more relaxing when you’re not. Considered a GT car, it can be a bit cramped compared to some rivals, but from an enthusiast’s point of view, it’s an extremely impressive machine.
While the Ferrari Portofino M’s name is familiar, this newly added M suffix is key to the appeal of this latest open-top GT car. M stands for Modificata, a term the Prancing Horse has used on its previous mid-life facelifts, including the flat-12 512M and the magnificent front-engine GT, the 456M. Each of these cars has received various refinement and styling tweaks, and the Modificata treatment here means the same for the brand’s current entry point into the lineup.
The Portofino has undergone numerous improvements, many of which have been applied following the experience gained with the brand’s Roma – a car that under the skin is mechanically similar. Its main feature remains, however. The retractable aluminum hardtop is identical to the old one, offering coupe-like safety and refinement when raised, and folds up in just 14 seconds to transform the car into an open-top “Spider”.
But while part of its mechanical makeup could be closely tied to Roma, Ferrari opted to keep completely separate cosmetic designs for the pair. The styling changes between the original Portofino and the M are subtle; the front bumper has larger vents on the sides and additional vents higher up in the arch to improve airflow. At the rear there is a revised diffuser, partly made possible by a new exhaust system (more on which later).
Inside, the cabin remains essentially the same as before. It’s a shame that the Roma’s vertical dashboard layout, with a portrait touchscreen, wasn’t incorporated here, but a whole new interior architecture would have been a bit too much of a stretch. There are, however, some equipment improvements.
Those who live in cooler climates will be happy to see the addition of heated seats, and seat ventilation is available for warmer days. A variety of advanced safety systems, including adaptive cruise control with stop and go, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition, are all available.
Under the hood, the 3.9-liter V8 received the same tweaks as the Roma unit. Revised cam profiles have helped increase output, as has a new turbo speed sensor, which allows the turbine to spin 5,000 rpm faster than before.
While the emission exhaust particulate filters brought things back slightly, the removal of the rear-most mufflers contributes to an overall horsepower boost of 20bhp. The total power now corresponds to the Roma; there are 612 hp at 7,500 rpm, and the maximum torque remains the same 760 Nm as before.
Press the steering wheel-mounted start button and the engine barks, settling into a bubbling idle that almost makes you stab at the throttle at the first opportunity. Pull up on the steering wheel-mounted paddle to engage first gear, and light pressure on the throttle makes the Portofino roll smoothly. Impressive as well, for a dual-clutch gearbox, which can often be jerky at low revs.
There’s a new transmission here – the old seven-speed unit is gone, replaced with a lighter, more compact gearbox that has an extra gear. The new highest gear is set for longer for better cruising, while the first seven are all shorter than before to increase acceleration.
On the go, one of the first things that strikes you about the Portofino M is how well it rolls. Even with the adaptive shocks in the firmer of their two settings, the ride is on par with many hot sedans. However, press the Bumpy Road mode button on the steering wheel and the whole system relaxes a bit more, to the point where the Portofino becomes a true smooth cruiser.
Combined with the new, longer eighth gear, which sees engine revs comfortably below 2,000 rpm at 70 mph and, although it may not quite match the long haul credentials of a Bentley Continental GT , it fulfills its grand tourism mandate better than ever.
But the supercar side of his personality has also become more pronounced now. While not as crisp to drive as the Roma – its responses were ultimately dulled slightly by that roof mechanism which carries a weight penalty of 94kg – compared to its British rivals, the Ferrari feels agile and eager to turn on bends. In addition to well-controlled driving, it gives the driver great confidence, whatever the conditions.
With new, shorter lower gears and more power, the acceleration is really wild. The 0-62mph time of “3.45 seconds” is impressive in itself, but perhaps more telling is the 0-124mph time of 9.8 seconds – a second faster than the previous Portofino. Top speed is cited as “over 199 mph”.
Yet it is the onslaught of the senses that accompanies each press of the pedal against the partition that excites the most. The furious, throaty roar towards the red line; the flashing of the gear change lights on the upper edge of the steering wheel; the slamming of the eight-speed gearbox when the next gear is engaged and the wiggling of the rear tires as they barely contain the Maranello-built V8 in mid-talk. It might just be the ‘baby’ of the Ferrari lineup, but it’s just as exciting as you could hope for.
The power output is very different from that of a Bentley V8 or V12 – where the Continental delivers a huge boost of torque at low revs, the Ferrari V8 offers a real incentive to run the car in a very low-turbo fashion. It is also a deliberate choice of Ferrari engineers. The torque curve is cropped on the first six gears to provide more linear power. Extra torque isn’t needed in these early gears either – in wet and torrential weather during our time with the car, just over half of the throttle applications in second and third gear would light up the rear axle.
This is in Sport mode, where the car’s stability control system allows a reasonable amount of slip. Now, however, the F1-style manettino switch on the steering wheel offers a fifth mode: Race. Here, Ferrari has equipped the Portofino with the latest version of its Slide Slip Control.
By using the various on-board stability control systems, SSC allows the driver to play quite freely with the balance of the car. The system will make all slides as natural – yet predictable – as possible, but there is also a safety net to help you out. He inspires a lot of confidence.
Prices for the Portofino M start from £ 175,345, but that’s long before we dive into the wonderful but alarming world of the Ferrari options list. Carbon fiber dashboard inserts add £ 2,496 to that total price, while a panoramic camera – a useful feature, but hardly reserved for ultra-luxury vehicles – costs £ 3,456. It won’t be a stretch to assume that most Portofino Ms you’ll see on the road will cost well over £ 200,000.
Are there any drawbacks then? Well, strictly speaking, the Portofino has rear seats, but they’re not suited for human use – maybe baggage on the fly. The infotainment system is also a bit clunky, with those new heated seats buried in submenus, while load times and on-screen graphics are starting to show their age.
Those little baffles aside, it’s a round brilliant. The same can be said for the alternatives, so with no wrong answer at this price point, the choice will depend on your personal preferences.
If you need unparalleled long-distance comfort and a luxurious interior, then the Continental GT could be the car for you. If a retractable roof isn’t a priority and a slightly sharper drive matters, then get a Ferrari Roma. However, thanks to its modifications and updates, the Portofino M covers a lot of basics.
|Model:||Ferrari Portofino M|
|Engine:||3.9-liter twin-turbo petrol V8|
|Power:||612 hp / 760 Nm|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive|
|0-62 mph:||3.5 seconds|
|Top speed:||199 mph +|
|Economy / CO2:||28.5mpg / 224g / km|