When the gentlemen at Maranello use an M in a car’s moniker they mean that the original design has been modified to such an extent as to significantly boost its performance. The 2021 Portofino M is no different and boasts subtle but noteworthy enhancements that lift the car’s performance.
The exterior of the Portofino M doesn’t immediately give itself away. Apart from larger air intakes at the front, they have added smaller notches at wheel arch height on either side that compliments the signature Portofino sidelines. At the rear, a new exhaust system means that the silencers have now been removed and a more streamlined and compact shape rounds the back of the car.
We really can’t talk about the Portofino M without mentioning her predecessors. When Ferrari first revealed the California at the 2008 Paris Motor Show with its hard-top convertible folding metal roof, critics had a field day.
The California was a car of many firsts for a company that had very narrow parameters when designing speed machines. The addition of a hardtop alone was so far from anything Ferrari had ever produced that it led to many believing the California would sell very few units and be forgotten soon after.
On the contrary, customers took the California quite well. In the first four years, a total of 8’000 units left the new purpose-built plant adjacent to the Maranello factory. Updates came in 2012 and in 2014 with the California 30 and California T respectively. Across all variants, more than 17’300 units rolled out of the production line until 2017 when the model was discontinued. In 2018 the name of the most populous U.S. state was swapped out for the most-picturesque Italian village but the design language stayed consistent. The Portofino was born.
A Whole Raft of Changes
Let’s face it. Most potential buyers of the Portofino M are going to be comparing it with the Roma. Which is not a bad thing as these cars have numerous similarities especially under the hood. The Portofino M is essentially application of the knowledge gained from the Roma with the added exterior styling and the ability to turn the car into a ‘spider’ in 14 seconds. The M features an aggressive intake modification on the front bumper and a new drag-reducing notch vent on the top at wheel arches. The introduction of exhaust particulate filters has eliminated the need for silencers which has meant a smaller better-rounded rear.
In the engine department, the 3.9-liter V8 has benefitted from the same tweaks as the Roma. You have a zero to 100 km/h speed of 3.45 seconds and a top speed of 320 km/h. A 612 hp @ 5,750 rpm (456 kW) power output. Like all the other turbo cars in the range and in line with the “zero turbo lag” concept, the Ferrari Portofino M delivers instantaneous throttle response throughout the rev range. One significant modification however is the introduction of the turbo speed sensor. Now the turbocharger assembly can measure and manage turbine revolutions more efficiently allowing for the maximum revolutions per minute of the turbine to be increased by 5,000 rpm.
Another welcome modification is the new eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox borrowed from the SF90 Stradale but with altered ratios. The lower gears are closer together for quicker pick-up and higher gears a little longer to help keep fuel consumption and emissions down. Paired with the Variable Boost Management that adopts a steeper torque curve through the rev range in the lower gears for smooth and powerful acceleration.
On the inside there may not be too many improvements, however, you certainly have everything you would expect from a prancing horse car interior. Fine leather seats, detailed stitching, and a general fusing of form, function, and style. One major improvement which might be a minuscule addition to the Manettino is the addition of ‘Race Mode’. Nestled neatly between ESC-off and Sport mode is potentially what could make this Ferrari fun to drive without risking too much. A major difference between the Roma and the Portofino M is the lack of haptic controls. The steering wheel of the sister car was ram-packed with haptic switches that welcomed inadvertent touches a little too much. I’m glad to say the M is adorned with classic controls throughout which should come as wonderful news to the change-averse.
There is no doubt that the modifications made to the M make a difference in the driving experience and spread the ability of the car more than ever before. The Portofino M is aimed at potential first-time owners of a Ferrari. As hard at it might be to call any purchase “entry-level” after forking out AED 861,100, you are after all buying a Ferrari. And that’s exactly what you’ll get. All the power and luxury of a supercar but with the option of a convertible everyday drive.
This Portofino M certainly packs enough punch for even the keenest of drivers but with certain reins to tame that prance if needed.