North East Connected

Galloping off on the prancing horse

Motoring Writer IAN LAMMING revels in the splendour of the new Ferrari Portofino

‘TELL me it’s as good to drive as it looks,’ begs the young lady, her face full of anticipation, bottom lip quivering with anticipation.

‘Well? The things is…’ Her face starts to crumble, her eyes wide as dinner plates as the prospect dawns that I might be about to diss her favourite car. But I can continue the pretence no longer, firstly, because I can’t be so cruel, secondly, because I’m starting to snigger.

I’d love to be the cool, cynical motoring hack who pronounces that Ferraris aren’t all they are cracked up to be, that I’d driven better, that they are not worth the money. How British would that be? But I can’t because they are all they are cracked up to be, I haven’t driven better and they are worth the money – if you have the necessary readies, of course.

Nothing can match the sheer presence of a car sporting the badge of the prancing horse so imagine the combined impact of eight Portofinos (or should that be Portofini?) parked jauntily outside the front entrance of Old Course Hotel, St Andrews, where we’ve been invited to test them. It’s the nearest I’ve come to feeling like a celebrity as rich American golfers, staff and passers-by gawp, dribble and long their way by. In truth, I would have hated us too, so why not enjoy the moment, and I do.

Portofino is the new GT from Ferrari and let’s not mess about any further, young lady, it is exquisite. Roof up, it is a stunning Berlinetta coupe but 14 seconds after pressing the roof button to lower the retractable hardtop, squirreling it away in the boot, it transforms into a staggeringly beautiful convertible. Never has a car lit up my social media as quickly and prolifically.

It takes time to take it all in and while I’m chomping at the bit to drive the prancing horse I first need to stare in a kind of leering, creepy way, from every angle, before getting behind the wheel.

Portofino is already in sport and has the roof down when I press the starter button on the steering wheel. “Roar! Burble, burble, burble.” That’ll do me. I did wonder whether I would ever tire of that noise or become self-conscious of the decibel levels emitted in the company of irate neighbours. Would I ever take it out of ‘sport’ where clever valves in the exhaust mute the cacophony? Nah! Not a chance. Sue me or move house.

The growl could intimidate the driver but the second the Portofino turns a wheel all is well. It fits like your favourite suit, controls falling intuitively to hand, seating position perfect, the power flowing smoothly from a superbly weighted throttle – easy.

It’s only when driven in earnest that the Portofino’s true sporting credentials come to light, the roar of the turbocharged V8 bellowing through the quartet of exhausts, the world becoming a blur as the 600PS stirs into life.

Engineers have honed the Portofino to perfection. It is lighter, stiffer, more aerodynamic, quicker, more powerful and faster than the California T. It is a glorious drive in every way with a ride which is both comfortable but beautifully controlled (there’s that word again, beautiful). It goes, it stops, it handles. The roof is down the sun is up and the world wants to be me, and who can blame them?

I don’t want to stop but a lunch break takes the brace of Portofinos to a hotel where a wedding is taking place. The cars become the centre of attention. Even the blushing bride doesn’t mind the switch of attention from her dress to the Ferraris as she poses for selfies.

How they would love to slip into the fantastic 2+2 interior, to be in awe of the embossed leather sport seats, the traditional sportscar cockpit and the latest infotainment technology, including a second digital display for the passenger – but they can’t as I’m not in the mood for sharing and we are off.

Like its sibling the GTC4 Lusso, the tactile sports steering wheel offers all operations, including indicators, windscreen wipers and lights, without resorting to stalks. The only appendages are the metal paddles with which you play F1, shifting down or up just for fun.

And it is fun, all of it, so fear not young lady, when your lottery numbers come up, or you find yourself a good job, the Portofino is definitely the car for you.

Fact File
Ferrari Portofino
Engine: 3.9 litre V8
Power: 600PS
0-62mph: 3.5 secs
Top speed: 200mph
Combined MPG: 26.4
Transmission: seven-speed auto
CO2 g/km: 245
Price: £166,296

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