Imagine you’re an editor for Floral Magazine, invited on a deluxe junket to Paris to experience a new species of water lily. You arrive only to discover your “experience” involves a dark room full of giant paintings of the flowers done by a mostly blind guy. All you can smell is linseed oil, and they all look blurry. The flowers themselves are just 45 miles away in Giverny, but it’s impossible to visit them. How will you accurately describe these Nymphéas to your readers?
That’s the conundrum our first drive of the 2022 Ferrari Portofino M presents. Ferrari’s pandemic product-launch workaround was to invite journalists, one at a time with a guest, to Miami and allow them to freely drive the 2022 Ferrari Portofino M unchaperoned for 48 hours with two nights pre-paid at a lovely resort in Key Largo. We were eager to go anywhere and drive anything, but the opportunity to sample the M’s myriad dynamic and sybaritic enhancements was particularly enticing.
Turns out, that wouldn’t be possible. Statistically, Florida is the flattest state in the union, and its roads must also rank as the least curvy and most traffic-choked (at least down in the Keys). The nearest great driving roads are way farther away than time and a mileage allowance permitted, and road circuits like the infield at Miami-Homestead Speedway posed a budgetary restraint at about $8,500/day. Hence, we were mostly constrained to trundling along in thick traffic on the heavily policed Overseas Highway.
So this review can’t describe how the manettino’s new Race mode setting and Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer collaborate to transform any schmo driver into Ayrton Senna. There can be no gushing hyperbole about how the turbochargers feel and sound spinning 5,000 rpm faster than they used to or how the higher-lift camshaft profiles and hollow valve stems boost responsiveness and extend the torque peak by 500 revs to 5,750 rpm. Those two changes help add 42 hp to the engine, 22 of which are then gobbled up by the new gasoline particulate filter, leaving a net gain of 20 horses.
It was similarly tough to assess how the new eight-speed twin-clutch transmission’s tighter gear spacing alters the way the Portofino M attacks a tight series of esses. There’ll be nothing about how its new three-shaft design (down from four), faster-filling clutches, and upgraded controller feel as they combine to shrink shift times by as much as 21 percent, nor will digital ink be spilled discussing whether the 13–15 percent torque reduction applied in the first six gears is discernible. It’s not even possible to comment on the fuel economy achieved in this slow-going (aided by the new gearbox’s 23 percent decrease in energy consumption) because the onboard trip computer doesn’t report fuel economy, and doing math on less than a tank of fuel is inconclusive.
It seems incredibly safe to assume these spiffs make the Portofino drive very nearly as well as its fixed-roof sibling, the mechanically equivalent 2021 Ferrari Roma, which was experienced in Italy, as God intends, and where we no doubt would have experienced it if international travel were as conceivable as it was in 2019.
There was ample opportunity to evaluate the new advanced driver assist systems added this year, which include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, high-beam assist, 360-degree surround-view cameras, blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert, plus automated emergency braking. Sure, Toyotas have offered these technologies for years, but Ferrari just introduced them on the 2019 GTC4Lusso. They remain optional to placate inveterate DIY drivers and those who refuse to mar their Ferrari’s styling with sensors and camera lenses.
The adaptive cruise deserves special commendation for how gently it brakes when encountering slower traffic. This was especially challenging given the Portofino’s giant brakes optimized for erasing three-digit speeds when entering Turn 1 at Fiorano. Sadly, the zillion buttons on the front and back of this steering wheel leave no room for cruise control buttons, which are relegated to a pod at the left. Of course, engaging Race mode turns ACC off, so you could use that as a steering wheel-mounted cancel switch. The surround-view camera proved invaluable at preventing damage to the restyled front and rear fascias and the new forged wheels when parallel parking to visit Hemingway’s polydactyl cats.
Mastering the Ferrari’s user interface consumed much of the time spent droning along at the double-nickel. The touchscreen-and-knob system is more obtuse than those of most mainstream vehicles nowadays, but among its exotic peers it’s downright comprehensible, and it affords considerable customization of what information the occupants can monitor. Yes, the passenger gets a separate screen that can display speedometer/tach readings, audio selections, or a list of the current powertrain and chassis settings.
Early summer in the tropics afforded no opportunity to sample the new Air Scarf neck warmer, but the easily installed wind blocker helped corral some air conditioning in the cockpit with the top down and windows up. This configuration also improved the sound of the JBL Professional audio system when running topless.
Less pleasing—top up or down—was the exhaust note. For 2022, the resonator/muffler units formerly positioned at the very back of the exhaust system are replaced by a new oval-shaped bypass flap and those power-robbing particle filters. In top gear at 60 mph, the engine was often loafing along at 1,800 rpm producing an unpleasant drone. This Ferrari V-8 uses a flat-plane crankshaft design that makes it sound like a pair of four-bangers. Ferrari V-8s used to sound great until they started having to shout through turbos, catalysts, and particle filters.
On the last day, a detour to Everglades National Park presented a section of highway with no vehicles or buildings in sight, and a long-awaited opportunity to perform three banzai blasts through the gears—one each in Comfort, Sport, and Race modes. Sure enough, each clockwise click of the manettino delivers more wheelspin and quicker shift times, but the exhaust sound remains the same. This exercise wasn’t terribly instructive, but it certainly soothed the soul.
As the wheels retracted on the flight away from this blurry, impressionistic drive impression, we realized that Ferrari’s entry-level convertible (just $226,000 to start!), when driven at one-tenth its capability, seems to serve about as well as a commuter car as those blurry Nymphéas do as wall coverings.
|2022 Ferrari Portofino M Specifications|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 4-pass, 2-door convertible|
|ENGINE||3.9L/611-hp/561-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,700 lb (mfr)|
|L x W x H||180.9 x 76.3 x 54.9 in|
|0-62 MPH||3.4 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA FUEL ECON||16/23/19 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||153/102 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.75 lb/mile|
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