Ferrari Portofino review

Category: Convertible

It might not be the most cosseting cruiser, but stonking performance and agile handling more than make up for it.

Ferrari Portofino 2019 front left cornering shot
  • Ferrari Portofino 2019 front left cornering shot
  • Ferrari Portofino 2019 rear tracking shot
  • Ferrari Portofino 2019 RHD instruments
  • Ferrari Portofino 2019 RHD front seats
  • Ferrari Portofino 2019 infotainment
  • Ferrari Portofino 2019 side tracking shot
  • Ferrari Portofino 2019 left front detail shot
  • Ferrari Portofino 2019 rear, boot open
  • Ferrari Portofino 2019 front left cornering shot
  • Ferrari Portofino 2019 rear tracking shot
  • Ferrari Portofino 2019 RHD instruments
  • Ferrari Portofino 2019 RHD front seats
  • Ferrari Portofino 2019 infotainment
  • Ferrari Portofino 2019 side tracking shot
  • Ferrari Portofino 2019 left front detail shot
  • Ferrari Portofino 2019 rear, boot open


What Car? says...

As a rule of thumb, most cars that can be described as ‘entry-level’ feel a little low-rent compared to plusher models in the range. It’s fair to say, though, that the usual rules don’t apply where a certain Italian brand associated with a prancing horse is concerned. Indeed, the Ferrari Portofino is better thought of as an à la carte meal; intended to tempt customers new to the brand to return, picking something more expensive from the menu next time.

It’s also supposed to be a Ferrari that you can use every day, come rain or shine. Yes, the GTC4 Lusso fills that job description, too, but the Portofino is more compact, more economical (as if that really matters) and has a metal roof that can be lowered in a scant 14sec. There’s even a pair of rear seats and a boot that’s big enough for a couple of carry-on suitcases.

Under the heavily vented bonnet is a 3.9-litre twin-turbocharged V8 that produces a mighty 592bhp; that’s enough to give the Portofino a 0-62mph time of just 3.5sec and a toupee-destroying top speed of 199mph. Those are numbers that could embarrass many of Ferrari’s most expensive supercars just a few short years ago.

Of course, being a Ferrari, the asking price is rather stiff, and the Portofino faces stiff competition from the Aston Martin DB11 Volante, Bentley Continental GT and faster versions of the Porsche 911 Cabriolet. Should you be interested in any of these, or just need to buy your nanny a new runaround for dropping the kids off at school, don’t forget to check our New Car Buying service after you’ve perused our extensive review.


Ferrari's 'everyday' convertible might not be the most cosseting cruiser, but stonking performance and agile handling more than make up for it.

  • Ferocious pace
  • Handling prowess
  • Fast-acting roof works at up to 30mph
  • Jerky in stop start traffic and when manoeuvring
  • Arguably a bit firmly sprung for a grand tourer
  • Significant reduction in boot capacity with the roof down

Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Let’s get one thing straight, the Portofino may be nowhere near the fastest Ferrari you can buy, but you’ll still rarely come anywhere near using all its performance on the road. Even if you do find a straight bit of lightly trafficked road – a real rarity in most of the UK – you can only enjoy a few short seconds of pedal to the metal driving before your driving licence begins to sweat profusely. For all but the most adrenaline-fuelled speed junkie, the Portofino is honestly quite fast enough.

Even more impressive than its ability to double, or even triple, your speed before you can say ‘I’m awfully sorry officer, please don't put me in the back of your car’, is how much traction the Portofino finds in the dry. Unlike the Continental GT and 911 Cabrio, there’s no four-wheel drive system standard or optional, yet the Portofino requires very little help from its traction control when deploying a big slug of horsepower to the rear tyres. That’s even the case when exiting a corner briskly, for which we can thank its clever electronically controlled limited slip differential.

Ferrari Portofino image
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As a result, the Portofino feel surprisingly unintimidating to drive fast, even with the electronic aids slackened in Sport mode. The most committed cornering reveals that it’ll wash wide at the front first, but follow through with aggressive application of the accelerator and you’re back on your line in an instant, ready to fire the Ferrari out of the bend. Just remember; with all that power, a clumsy right foot will make the Portofino wag its tail abruptly, especially on moist roads.

Thankfully the steering is fast, precise and provides a great sense of connection to the front tyres. The only downside is that you have to be very gentle with it on the motorway – even small steering inputs have the nose darting from white line to white line, making it tricky to stay in lane if you don’t keep things in check.

That leads us nicely onto what really separates it from the competition. While you can settle back in a DB11, Continental GT and even a 911, the Portofino always feels like it wants to go fast and is quick to remind you of that, with a sporty, uneven idle that pulses through the car as soon as you thumb the steering wheel-mounted starter button.

Such excitable behaviour isn’t always what you want, though; yes, the engine smoothes out on the move, but you’ll find slow-speed manoeuvring more fraught than it should be, due to the gearbox’s unwillingness to engage a gear without a surprising amount of pressure on the accelerator pedal. That’s not much fun when you’re trying to delicately parallel park your six-figure car between a couple of other vehicles.

Our test car had optional adaptive dampers fitted, but, even in their softest setting, you feel far more of the road’s surface than you would in most rivals. Still, progress never feels truly uncomfortable thanks to excellent body control and enough engineered-in suppleness to take the edge off nasty ruts and bumps. We’d certainly have no objection to hot-footing it down to the South of France in one given the opportunity, and besides; who wants or expects a Ferrari to ride like a luxury limo?

Ferrari Portofino 2019 rear tracking shot


The interior layout, fit and finish

Even if somebody removed that rearing stallion from its steering wheel, there’s an exceedingly good chance you’d still recognise that you were sitting in a Ferrari. For a start, there are no stalks for the lights or wipers; instead, the controls for the indicators, main beam and wiper speed can be found on the face of the steering wheel.

You’ll also find the starter button, damper control, and ‘Manettino’ dial (this selects the drive modes) there, while the gear shift paddles, a volume control for the stereo and a scroll wheel for the driver’s display are mounted behind the wheel. It might sound like a confusing mess, but after an hour or two’s familiarisation, you’ll be able to navigate all the controls with confidence.

However, you might not be quite so confident when placing the Portofino on the road if you’re under a certain height. Its steering might offer great accuracy but, even with the driver’s seat in its highest position, the high window line, long bonnet and tall rear haunches make judging its width tricky if you’re short in stature. It can mean that, even when you feel like you’re in danger of curbing one of the wheels when parking, you might still need a gangplank to bridge the chasm between car and footpath. Mercifully, front and rear parking sensors are standard, with front and rear cameras on the options list. While a 360 degree camera would be jolly handy, there isn’t one available.

We’ve no complaints regarding the clarity of its instrumentation, though. The driver faces a large central rev counter that’s flanked by two smaller screens that can show a variety of information with the twist of a dial. If you’re a particularly keen driver, you can add a Formula 1-style steering wheel with shift lights at the top to augment the rev counter.

Look around and you’ll find plenty of rich leather and tactile metal trims, but there are areas where the material quality disappoints. It might feel like natural hide conceals everything that’s plastic, but the knobs and buttons below the infotainment screen feel more Fiat than Ferrari. The air vents, too, feel a bit lightweight and cheap when you adjust them.

And, seeing as we mentioned infotainment, there’s good and bad news for tech fans. The good is that you get a sharp-looking 10.2in touchscreen with sat nav as standard. The bad is that it’s mounted distractingly low in the dashboard and that Apple CarPlay costs around ten times more than it does in any other car. Considering this is standard on many sub-£20,000 cars these days, that seems more than a little extortionate.

Ferrari Portofino 2019 RHD instruments

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

The Portofino might be rather practical as Ferraris go, but it’s still a car better suited to a couple than a foursome. Small windows and low roof might make it feel rather cosy for those in the front, but the seats slide back a long way to accommodate long legs, and there’s a reasonable amount of roof-up head room too. Oddment storage isn’t lacking, either, with a cubby under the central armrest (complete with a pair of USB sockets), a tray under the gear selector buttons and a couple of slender door pockets.

Those in the back will either have to be children or exceedingly short; there’s precious little head or leg room, even with the front seats a little way forwards on their runners. Indeed, these “+2” seats are really better treated as a secondary luggage area.

The boot itself scores for having a very large aperture with no loading lip, but its luggage capacity varies somewhat. With the roof up it grants you 292 litres of space – exactly the same amount as the Ford Fiesta, on paper, anyway. Ferrari actually claims you can squeeze three carry-on suitcases back there, but fold the roof down and you’ll have to leave one of those cases by the side of the road. The solid roof and its folding mechanism takes up a big chunk of the boot, unlike fabric-topped cars like the DB11 Volante.

Ferrari Portofino 2019 RHD front seats

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Predictably, the Portofino doesn’t come cheap, costing significantly more than the Porsche 911 Cabriolet and Mercedes-AMG SL63, but undercutting the Bentley Continental GT Convertible. Of course, the Portofino’s options list is somewhat tantalising, but ask yourself this: would you rather have some lightweight wheels and fancy paint or a brand new Audi A3 Cabriolet? We ask because both cost very nearly £30,000.

Even a few basics, such as Apple CarPlay, adaptive dampers, front and rear parking cameras and an upgraded stereo adds up to over £10,000. You do get a fair amount of kit as standard, though; including heated electric leather seats, climate control and cruise control.

Of course, the expense doesn’t stop with the purchase price; 267g/km CO2 emissions place the Portofino in the top 37% BIK company car tax bracket. Private buyers will pay the highest level of road tax, too, with a purchase price some way beyond £40,000. To be fair, though, all of its competitors are in the same boat.

Unsurprisingly, Euro NCAP hasn’t crash tested the Portofino, and you don’t get a great deal of safety kit, either. You can’t have automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance or blind spot monitoring. Best drive carefully, then.

Ferrari Portofino 2019 infotainment