An entry-level Ferrari is still an eight-fifty, nine-hundred grand Ferrari. (What’s a couple of options here and there?)
For the last, wow, nearing on 10 years now, that’s been the Ferrari California.
It started out in 2008 with a nice, naturally aspirated 4.3-litre V8 and 454bhp. That made the California the first Ferrari two-seater roadster with a front-mounted V8 and folding hardtop. All the others that went before were V12s, making the Cali a step into the unknown for Maranello. Well, there were knowns too — with this more attainable, fourth model in the range, the company was assured lots of moneyed first time Ferrari buyers flocking to the California, including women. For the sake of this homogeny the California, on an emotional scale, was on a level with something like a Mercedes SL. To drive at least.
To look at, its bulbous curves, in my opinion (calm down now), made it seem like a really well executed Ferrari replica. Maranello didn’t mess up the 2014 update — a facelifted California looked a bit better but went a lot better. A new 3.9-litre twin-turbocharged engine replaced the 4.3-litre, and put any SL comparisons to rest with an increase of 100 horsepower. Now the California delivered 552bhp and 755Nm of torque and just as we started to like it, it’s gone.
This week, Maranello announced an all-new front-engined V8 drop-top to take its place as the entry level model. The new name, Portofino, is another exotic locale befitting this car, especially the Italian Riviera’s cobbled streets lined with Louis Vuitton and Gucci boutiques.
If you do make it away from the crowds and all the attention, the Portofino’s specs suggest you’d be impressed. This convertible comes with a carried-over 3.9-litre V8 but featuring new pistons and con-rods, and new intake and exhaust systems. The combo is good for a spike to 600 horsepower and 760Nm of torque from 3,000rpm. This will get the Portofino from zero to 100kph in 3.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 320kph.
Ferrari doesn’t reveal specifically how much the car weighs, but claims the “all-new chassis features a significant weight saving over the California T.”
Set to make its official public premiere at the Frankfurt motor show in a couple of weeks, the Portofino’s in-house design team strived for aerodynamic improvements over the California, particularly with a larger grille and full-LED headlights with leading edges that double up as air intakes exiting behind the wheel arches.
Compared to the tiered, visually heavy rear end of the California, the new car is much better resolved with a lower overall look thanks to emphasis on width, by simply placing the round taillights further apart. Interior updates include a new 10.2in infotainment touchscreen and 18-way electrically adjustable seats, plus a new steering wheel design and other little features.
On the handling front the big highlight is Ferrari’s inclusion of the company’s trick third-generation E-Diff (electronic limited slip differential) which makes drifting a doddle. So, you know, don’t be tempted by the roundabout at the end of the boulevard.