The distance between the coast of California — let’s say, Del Mar — and the drop-dead, dripping wealth of Portofino on the Italian coast is 9885km.
They’re both on the water and attract tourists like flies to pies on a hot summer’s day but they are worlds apart.
When Ferrari decided to upgrade its popular, low-priced (for a Ferrari) California T convertible after just three years on the job, it went back home to find answers.
It found those in Portofino and the change in names is equally as dramatic, despite the latest Ferrari roadster ostensibly doing the same job.
Intentionally the Portofino Ferrari welcomed last week to Australia is comparatively lithe and trim, looking more beautiful and yet hinting more aggression than its American- badged predecessor.
The Portofino enters the market at $398,888 plus on-road costs to be the cheapest Ferrari available and one the company estimates will welcome 70 per cent of first-time customers to the brand.
From then on, Ferrari Australasia chief executive Herbert Appleroth says few will leave the Ferrari stable as they progress through the models and, in many cases, up the price scale.
Price may not be an issue for people who yearn for a Ferrari, though it can be a speed hump and one exacerbated by anyone in a hurry to get one in the garage.
The price does not include many items buyers would consider inclusive: reverse camera (add $6950), Apple CarPlay ($6793), Formula One steering wheel ($8300) and the Magneride adaptive dampers that make the car so flexible and comfortable ($8970).
So with those extras, the price is now a cool $429,901 — plus on-road costs.
Still interested? Order now and delivery will be in 2021, such is the demand for the car and the production schedule in the Maranello factory.
Is it worth waiting for?
Absolutely. The Portofino is a substantial step up on the California T — Ferrari’s first turbocharged production car for 25 years — with engineers pulling apart the basic structure and replacing materials and designs to chop an impressive 80kg off the weight, then adding more power to the 3.9-litre bi-turbo V8, enhancing the shift quality and speed of the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and tweaking ride and handling.
No longer plump in appearance and weight, the Portofino boosts its appeal with a hardtop that folds down in 14 seconds — at up to 45km/h — and can seat two small children in the scalloped rear seats.
With the roof up it has a 292-litre boot — more than the latest Corolla hatch’s 217 litres — so overnight trips are certainly possible and extra space is available in the rear seats (delete small children).
Parked by the side of the street or beneath a hotel portico, the Portofino is beautifully proportioned and elegant in a way unusual for a metal folding-roof car. Rivals tend to be lumpy, especially in the boot area storing the roof.
There are the typical Ferrari feminine lines of curves and scallops, short overhangs and a long bonnet illustrating the historic pen of Pininfarina, yet are all now crafted in-house by Ferrari’s own team.
In pictures the convertible looks small and low, almost delicate.
In the flesh it is 4.6m long and 1.95m wide with each corner invisible to the driver, a don’t-mess-with-me grille and broad, abrupt tail inset with circular lights pushed to the edge of the body to maximise the effect of the boot spoiler.
Inside it’s clearly inspired by the size of the owner’s wallet, with superb leather and stitching, hexagonal trim, and — depending on the buyer’s fancy — an enormous variety of trim from carbon fibre to Alcantara suede to metal finishes.
Cleverly, the Portofino is as involving for the passenger as it is for the driver thanks to the LCD touch screen (a $9501 option) embedded in the stitched leather dash above the glove box and able to scroll through data including vehicle speed, location and entertainment.
Storage space is sparse — a couple of cup holders, decent glove box and some slivers alongside the console for mobile phones and wallets — but occupant room is plentiful, even with the roof up, with liberal footwell volume.
It is not a car in which people feel claustrophobic and, as such, fits the bill perfectly as a GT car rather than a sports coupe.
Getting the roof up and down quickly suited the inclement weather around Melbourne which raged from storms to floods, windy to still and humid.
The rain clogged Melbourne’s city roads, prohibiting the kerbside lane because of the deluge, allowing little of the Portofino’s features to spring to attention.
It was only through the Mornington Peninsula, with the sometimes narrow and roughened roads allowing higher speeds, that the greatly improved body rigidity and the benefits of the Magneride suspension — firm at one end of the scale and supple at the other — came to the fore.
The engine is as expected, though it thrives on the upper reaches of the tachometer, barking at the lower end where 4500rpm marks the end of the peak torque and the engine changes to roars as it approaches its peak 441kW at 7500rpm.
It is an incredibly fast and engaging machine if allowed to live in this engine range. The reward is scintillating performance and an audio of a bellowing exhaust — complete with crackles on the downshifts — that will make any occupant smile.
The final smile may be the ownership experience. Ferrari offers the Portofino with free scheduled maintenance for seven years. There is an optional 15-year maintenance program covering everything that costs about $5000 and reflects not only the confidence Ferrari has in the product but the reason why resale values are so high and why used cars are so hard to find.
Engine 3.9-litre V8 bi-turbo petrol
Transmission Seven-speed automatic, RWD
0-100km/h 3.5 seconds