Looks are subjective, but we reckon the less bulbous Portofino is also much prettier than its predecessor. The bottom-feeding front bumper may ape, a little gormlessly, that of the Mantis-esque 812 Superfast, but the overall proportions could draw crowds. We said so on the car’s launch in Italy last year, but even on a horribly soggy day in Surrey, there’s no denying that Ferrari has condensed the classic silhouette of its V12 flagship into a muscular fastback.
Since parting ways with Pininfarina after the F12 Berlinetta, the firm hasn’t achieved the same level of elegance it once did, but the Portofino’s deliciously crisp trailing edge subtle buttresses atop the rear deck show improvement. Let’s put it like this: Ferrari says the Portofino is inspired by the 1968 Daytona, and with the roof up, you can just about see that. If you squint.
So, how well, once you’re inside, does the everyday Ferrari work on a particularly everyday kind of day? Perhaps today is even too everyday. It’s wet, but not to the extent that one dare not drive with any conviction. In line with Ferrari policy at this time of (an unseasonably warm) year, this car’s forged 20in alloys also wear Michelin’s Pilot Alpin winter tyres. Moreover, we have a fair bit of photography gear to bring along from Autocar’s road test base in South-West London. In any other Ferrari (okay, perhaps in the £240,000 GTC4 Lusso) we probably wouldn’t bother. It would be easier and, given the more occasional pattern of use, more relevant to wait for a nicer day.
But this is the whole point of the Portofino, so let’s get on with it. The first thing to note is that while a Daytona may attract more amorous glances from the kerbside, it wouldn’t see which way the Portofino went. It might hear it, though. This engine now makes 592bhp and 561lb ft, the latter daubed generously across the midpoint of its 7500rpm span, and it’s a masterclass in tuning. Ferrari doesn’t mount the IHI turbochargers inside the valley of the cylinders, but you’d swear there’s less lag here than for many engines that do.
In Sport mode, the response and full bellowing breadth is staggering, and the delivery is progressive enough for one to explore, when the chance arises, its upper reaches and fully exercise the long throttle travel. In Comfort, the show quietens down to the extent that remaining incognito isn’t as difficult as you would expect.
Ferrari says it applied the damping characteristics from the 488 GTB to the Portofino, and once you really get going on British roads, there are sporadic traces of the mid-engined car’s brilliance. Through sharp troughs and over unexpected crests in particular, the transition from bump to rebound plays out with the grace of a perfectly executed baton exchange between two sprinters. Body control is uncanny, even at the extremities of the suspension’s travel (which, to be fair, isn't exactly generous), and with steering this quick, it helps dart the Portofino into corners with ravenous hunger.
It's truly impressive, but it's harder to appreciate when the bulk of the car’s genetic make-up is supposedly grand tourer. It is, if you want to use the versatile Portofino to its fullest, Ferrari's mistake. Even on a motorway, rarely is there moment where you aren't consciously repositioning the car between the white lines, so sensitive is the steering only a degree or two off-centre. Neither does the car’s rear axle cope so deftly as the front does with the twitchy, quick-fire direction changes that steering elicits. Upping the ratio of the rack would hide the effect to an extent, but the raised mass of the roof mechanism generates a nervous oscillation that has you questioning the rear contact patch (this is nought to do with the winter tyres).