The Ferrari Portofino and 812 Superfast put through their paces across the UAE by Hugh Haskell-Thomas
Once or twice a year, motoring journalists receive ‘that call’, totally unexpected, but ever wished for. It is Thursday morning, the phone rings “We would like to invite you to fly to Dubai next Tuesday to spend a day and 350km each with a Ferrari Portofino and a Ferrari 812 Superfast…..” before the phone call ends, the passport and licence have been sent, the calendar has been cleared, the flight selected and the adrenaline level has doubled!
To have the opportunity to spend 48 hours with both ends of the current Ferrari line-up is exceptional and quite rare.
The first day delivers the Portofino. This car is the long term money maker in the range, replacing the California and California T. As the entry level to their range it is designed to be many lucky people’s first Ferrari and deliver the company its largest selling model over the next 4-5 years. As I write this, the success is already assured, the order books are full for almost 2 years ahead; quite an achievement straight out of the blocks. The Portofino is powered by a 3.9-litre, twin-turbo V8 that produces 591 BHP @ 7,500 rpm and peak torque of 760 Nm @ 3,000-5,250 rpm. The engine is paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and weighs in at 1650kg, around 5% less than the California.
Being delivered the car in central Dubai, I decide to head up into the hills of Hatta, down onto the coast of Kalba and back into town for the grind of the evening traffic, allowing the car to reveal its behavior in most aspects of day-to-day motoring. It excelled. As the summer has not reached its peak, the roof had to come down, which happens in 14 seconds after pushing the button, transforming both its looks and the smile on my face.
After an hour pushing through traffic, it has the chance to reveal its heritage, 0 to 100kph arrives in 3.5 seconds with 200kph arriving 7 seconds later; it’s quick, exhilarating to drive and the noise from the exhaust belies the twin turbos that provide the propulsion.
It is certainly a step up from the California that it replaces, more aggressive and angular in its styling and certainly sharper on the road. The electronics of the car, on or off, ensure that you don’t kill yourself, but for me, the only negative that I walked away with is that the steering feels a little ‘disconnected’ from the reality of what is happening underneath. However, it’s fun, it’s fast, it’s noisy and, with the 2+2 configuration and room for 3 flight cases, it’s practical; Great work from the Maranello team.
The second day delivers the other extreme, from the cheapest Ferrari in the range to the most expensive, the Ferrari 812 Superfast (around 60% more than the Portefino), in a beautiful Red and Gold trim. No turbos, no soft-top, less weight, but more luggage space, four more cylinders and, most importantly, 200 more horsepower! There can be only one place to go in UAE with a car like this, Jebel Jais mountain. 120 bends in 12km with a 2,000m climb, in a car with almost 800 brake horsepower, performance delivering 0-100kph in 2.8 seconds, 200kph in 7.9 and over 90 decibels of glorious soundtrack from the exhaust at almost 9,000rpm from 12 naturally aspirated cylinders; the stuff of dreams!
The editor asked me for 400 words on each car, on the Portefino, I could easily have written double that, on the 812 Superfast, it’s hard to get beyond two “Simply, Amazing”! The naturally aspirated engine is the most powerful of any production car ever built, delivering smiles and thrills all day long, whether in traffic or drifting the tail out on a mountain pass, it is perfection. The antithesis of the Portefino, this car is raucous, brutal and sometimes unnerving; it’s not a car for the faint hearted, it just never stops pulling… and howling [grin].
It’s not a car for the faint hearted, it just never stops pulling… and howling
With most (not all) systems off, it tore up the road in the mountains! With the 812 the Ferrari engineers have taken the outgoing F12 and produced, in this writers opinion, a better car, maybe even the best, noisiest, fastest and possibly, with all the restrictions clamping down on the motoring industry, the last (we hope not) of this segment of the car market. Now I’ve started writing, I could go on…. but the red pen will be out, so we have to leave it there and wait for a track day (please Ferrari!) for the chance to write more. The only thing I would change on this car, would be its name, Superfast… come on marketing team, how about 812 VEF, Veloce e Forte; Fast and Loud!
So, two days covering over 700km in these two stallions from the Maranello stable, provided two extremes of motoring, from a great city and touring car, to a continent crossing, racetrack demolishing GT; a privilege. Which would you choose? If it is the Portefino, get your order in quickly, as it’s already the fastest selling Ferrari, ever. My choice, I think you can guess!
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