“Ferrari Red” is what everyone calls it, but the retina-searing scarlet so strongly associated with Italy’s most famous four-wheeled exports does have an actual name, and it’s not “Ferrari Red.” It’s “Rosso Corsa”, which means “Racing Red” to Italians. Spoken in Italian, the name oozes sexiness. Go ahead, try it—Rosso Corsa. You’re forgiven if you’ve involuntarily added an arm gesture and an air kiss.
Ferrari does colors other than Rosso Corsa, of course, including a shimmery new take on Rosso Corsa called Rosso Portofino, which the brand created for its new 2019 Portofino hardtop convertible that supplanted the California T as Ferrari’s “entry-level” model last year. And after spending a few days with one so rendered, I dare say that Ferrari’s luxurious new grand tourer looks even better in this color than it would in Rosso Corsa.
Heresy? Hardly. Among Ferraris, the Portofino is less of a corsa kind of car than a boulevardier. With a staggering 591 horsepower on tap, it’s certainly very fast, but complex folding roof mechanisms, rear seats and all render it far from ideally configured for track day dominance. However, that silent, folding roof and rear window assembly, which tucks back into the trunk in 14 seconds even while moving at up to 25 mph, is pure gold to the see-and-be-seen set. As for the back seat, it’s as laughable as that of the California T, yet it’s another boon to customers that might more readily imagine using their Ferraris to pick up a couple of pals for a last-minute lunch or an afternoon of shopping than to shred a set of tires at Homestead. And should that shopping trip become a shopping binge, the Portofino can fit many wares in its large trunk, especially with the roof raised, and features pass-throughs to the aforementioned rear seating area.
Lifestyle concessions and “starter-Ferrari” status aside, the Portofino never lets you forget it’s a Ferrari. Burl walnut? Gathered leather armrests? Lamb’s wool carpets? No such frippery here. The cabin is an intense space, each component clearly designed with intention, and where there’s leather, there’s precious little padding beneath it. Everything not covered in buttery hides is trimmed in carbon fiber, metal, or is an information screen of some sort. It’s eminently comfortable and ergonomically sound, but there’s a certain firmness to even the most padded surfaces that makes it feel that much more Italian. And then there’s the inebriating scent: If you’re at all on the fence about purchasing a Ferrari, once you sit inside one, it’s over.
The dashboard and steering wheel—the latter covered with all manner of buttons—can be a bit intimidating, but once learned, work well. Small screens flanking the traditional round tachometer convey all manner of data the driver ought to know while Ferrari’s best-ever infotainment system now sits between the front occupants. Interestingly, an optional slim touchscreen on the passenger side allows him or her to modify navigation inputs, monitor road speed, engine revs, or even cornering g forces, and more; it’s a nifty feature that’s also available on several other Ferrari models that effectively gets passengers off their phones and more involved in the driving experience. Bravo, Ferrari!
And what a driving experience it is. The twin-turbo V-8 is a masterpiece ready to fill your ears with glorious sounds as it pins them to your head under full throttle, and thanks to the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic’s lightning-fast gearchanges, there’s no reprieve until the driver loses his or her nerve. Were it not for the Portofino’s launch control system—which makes perfect launches so easy, my grandmother could be knocking out 3.5-second 0–60 launches with five minutes of instruction—I’d probably have reduced the rear tires of my tester into pools of molten rubber by the second day.
Adjustable drive settings on the steering wheel’s “Mannetino” dial can make the Portofino as alert and nimble as a cheetah by livening up the powertrain and tightening up the suspension or as docile as a housecat for moments that you might not want to drive like, you know, you’re in a Ferrari. I found winding interstates with high-speed sweepers to be this car’s happy place, but really, every place is this car’s happy place.
Much of the above could fairly describe the Portofino’s predecessor, the California T, but where the Portofino positively supersedes the Cali T is in the area of sheet beauty. Seriously, it is drop-dead gorgeous, from its mischievous grinning grille to its tidy new tush. Moreover, with the Portofino, Ferrari has pulled off what few carmakers ever have by designing a hardtop convertible that looks as good with the top up as with it down. Top up, it retains a sleek fastback profile with large windows for excellent sightlines and one mere cut line across the roof. Top down, the rear remains in proper proportion to the front, not awkwardly tall, à la the California. One can’t help but think that if this car was offered as a fixed-roof hardtop it would look exactly the same. And that’s probably why it’s not offered as one.
At about $215K to start, the Portofino has the dubious distinction of being Ferrari’s “entry level” product, though make no mistake, countless bespoke options may be added through Ferrari’s Tailor Made program. Money matters aside, the Portofino is one of the most multitalented Ferraris ever—a vastly improved, eminently livable and deliciously fast grand touring convertible that looks and feels like a proper Ferrari. Even if it’s not wearing Rosso Corsa.
2019 Ferrari Portofino
Base price: $214,533
Body style: 2-door, 4-passenger hardtop convertible
Power: 591-hp turbocharged 3.9-liter V-8
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drive wheels: rear
EPA fuel economy, MPG (city/highway): 16/22