Susan Skelly road tests the new Ferrari Portofino V8 GT in 2018

What’s hot about the new Ferrari | luxury on wheels | Portofino playground

Brainy and cheeky. Witty and inventive. Always smoking hot.

Hey, hit the highway in a sporty car with both muscle and manners

The new Ferrari is named after Excess All Area’s favourite playground: Portofino, near Genoa, in Italy. And there’s synchronicity – both of them hot, cliff-hugging and heaven on a stick. And, like a Paraggi Beach concierge, so good looking!

portofino genoa italy paradise susan skelly

Homes hugging the cliffs in Italy’s picturesque Portofino

The curvy Old Pacific Highway heading north out of Sydney, after breakfast canapés at Bondi Beach’s glam new Pacific Club, might not be the coastline of Santa Margherita Ligure but it puts this  California T model replacement through its paces nicely.

What’s new are a punchier turbo-charged V8 engine, electric power steering, a fully retractable hard top that can open and close while you’re on the move (but foot off the accelerator, please!), 18-way electronically adjustable seats (under-thigh cushion settings for taller drivers, for example), boot space with a nifty passage for skis or golf clubs, and a wind deflector when in top-down or “spider” mode.

ferrari portofino retractable hardtop in action skelly

The hardtop, which tucks cleverly into the upper luggage bay, can be operated on the move

Rev heads will no doubt thrill to the presence of a magnetorheological damping system with dual cell technology. Me? I have no idea what that is. But my motoring writer friend tries to convince me it’s really interesting. Suspension dampers, he explains, are filled with oil, which pushes through valves to “dampen” and control the oscillation of the suspension’s springs. Works very much like a coffee plunger, actually. In a mag-thingy damper, tiny steel fibres are suspended in the oil. Zapping them with an electro-magnet sees all the fibres align, which has the effect of making the oil thicker (for firmer damping, more sporty control) or thinner (less damping, plusher ride – the “comfort” setting) as it passes through the valves.

But, hey, this one’s red and everyone knows a red Ferrari sounds better than any other colour. Works back nicely with caramel leather seats.

Open the door to get in and the seat automatically moves back to make room for you. After you, m’am. Now that’s classy.

Everything’s on the steering wheel at your fingertips. The paddles either side allow you to gear down or gear up like a manual, while you bite in and out of hairpin turns like an F1 daredevil.

ferrari portofini pitstop saddles mount white nsw central coast susan skelly

Espresso pitstop at Saddles, Mount White, north of Sydney

First pitstop for the day is Saddles, a new restaurant owned by John Singleton, on 11 hectares at Mount White, north of Brooklyn, serving great fuel like beef cheek pies and pork and fennel sausage rolls. There’s a nursery next door for green-fingered Ferrari drivers.

But what is Sydney’s version of Hotel Splendido, that magnificent, fragrant, very European terraced hotel and restaurant that sits high above the Portofino coast on “the Ligurian Riviera”?

Today, it’s Pretty Beach House on the NSW Central Coast, a luxurious bush hideaway whose recent guests have included Bill and Melinda Gates, Venus Williams and Robert Plant.

Now a member of the Luxury Lodges of Australia portfolio, it reopened in 2014 after a fire at the property in 2012. The guesthouse, in Bouddi National Park, offers elegant food and just four accommodation options: three private pavilions and a penthouse retreat. (Insider tip: up here the kookaburras are faster than a Ferrari when there’s pizza in their line of sight.)

pretty beach house boddhi national park nsw central coast

Pretty Beach House, the epitome of Australian bush magic

On the road again, there’s time to consider that part of the reason this model of Ferrari looks so sleek is that designers looked at the way the car’s flanks catch the light, creating a chiaroscuro effect. Its curves and lines give it a slender profile but one with a suggestion of muscle.  It looks as fit as an ironman. Indeed, the Portofino has been working out and is 80kg lighter than its predecessor.

How fast can it go? Well only 40 km/h in a school zone obviously. And, boy, are there a lot on the Central Coast. The trade-off is that every school kid is looking at you with jaw-dropping glee. Where speed limits are no object it can go from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.5 seconds. On a racetrack, its top speed is north of 320km/h. Its twin-turbo 3.9 litre V8 won International Engine of the Year in 2016 and 2017.

They call the Ferrari Portofino V8 GT the “entry point” model. Like the Chanel lipstick that seduces you onto expensive gilded pots of creamy longevity. At $399,888 plus on-road costs, that’s some lipstick.

ferrari portofino designer planes curves muscle skelly

Ferrari Portofino, all designer planes and curves


Photos Susan Skelly






Editor. Writer. Traveller. Keeping tabs on all things fab.

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