Desert Storm: Ferrari Portofino drive in Rajasthan

It’s a beautiful day with clear blue skies, a refreshing nip within the air and the highway forward is clean and completely empty for miles. These are excellent circumstances to drive a quick convertible and that’s precisely what Rajasthan presents within the wintry months.

I’m on the outskirts of Jaisalmer and the scarlet purple Ferrari Portofino appears surreal towards the barren panorama I’m scything via. Is it a quick fish out of water on this arid land? Little doubt, the pure habitat for this drop-top Ferrari – named after the touristy fishing village in Italy – is mild, Mediterranean climes. And it’s for this identical cause its predecessor was referred to as the California. However proper right here, proper now, the Portofino feels remarkably at house within the desert. Can we hope for a Ferrari Jaisalmer someday sooner or later? Nicely, the title definitely has a pleasant ring to it!

GETTING REAL

So how straightforward is it to reside with the Portofino in an surroundings that’s usually outdoors a supercar’s consolation zone? It’s to reply that query that I’m spending three days on this far-flung desert outpost.

The factor is that the Portofino is essentially the most useable Ferrari you should buy at this time, with a sure versatility and comfort you received’t discover in its hard-edged and high-strung stablemates just like the 488 and 812. However is it too namby-pamby like its predecessor was? The California, which the Portofino replaces, offered in good numbers (primarily as a result of it was the most-affordable Ferrari) but it surely received’t go down in historical past as an excellent Ferrari. It was a bit too mushy and uninvolving, even when it was up to date with turbocharging to the California T.

The Portofino is a totally new mannequin and has been designed to be a extra genuine Ferrari expertise than the California, but it surely’s nonetheless the entry-level mannequin and the carmaker has been promoting a number of them by luring first-time patrons. In India, the Portofino, which begins at Rs three.5 crore earlier than any choices, is the model’s bestselling mannequin and that’s not simply due to its worth but in addition because of the much-needed practicality it presents within the Indian surroundings.

It retains the California’s 2+2 seating and, in contrast to different Ferraris, you don’t need to tumble down right into a pair of low seats; what you get listed below are high-set, comfortable buckets which might be surprisingly straightforward to get out and in of.

The tiny rear seats, nonetheless, are higher used for carrying a couple of mushy baggage moderately than individuals. You get the identical folding metallic roof, which neatly glides into the boot in a scant 14sec on the press of a button; it’s a comfort we take a lot as a right lately.

Not way back, Ferrari by no means bothered about something past how its automobiles drove, so their cabins had been usually as stark as a cave. However the model has come a good distance since, as a result of house owners lately demand to be pampered on all fronts, and the Portofino has all of it.

You get cooled and heated seats, a large 10.2-inch infotainment display (unprecedented in a Ferrari) and a dashboard wrapped in high-quality leather-based. The steering wheel, lifted from the 488, has too many buttons on it, which is ok in a automotive that immerses you in a laser-focused driving surroundings – like on a race observe the place you don’t wish to take your arms off the wheel – however for a automotive with touring credentials, you need the switchgear and buttons to be extra unfold out.

A cool function is the passenger-side touchscreen show – a hefty Rs 7 lakh choice however one which’s value it. It sits above the glovebox and straight in entrance of the passenger and shows knowledge like RPM, navigation and velocity. Your associate received’t need to guess or crane his neck to know the way quick you’re going!

CROWD CONTROL

Our base for this drive is the Marriott Resort and Spa in Jaisalmer. It’s an excellent property that’s fantastically situated simply off the Jaisalmer-Jodhpur freeway, a mere 2.3km from the well-known 800-year-old Jaisalmer Fort – one of many few ‘residing’ forts on the earth. Coming all the best way right here, it could be a disgrace to not see it. However sightseeing within the Portofino? That turned out to be a very unhealthy concept. Driving it within the congested lanes across the fort was the straightforward bit; it was parking that induced chaos.

A Ferrari in Jaisalmer is as uncommon as a camel in Maranello, and each time I finished, the Portofino was surrounded by hordes of selfie-savvy vacationers throwing themselves in entrance of the automotive to get a shot. There was simply no place to park the automotive safely and I rapidly retreated to the safety of the Marriott. The following day I did handle to go to the fort and took the best means there – in an autorickshaw! 

With the automotive’s high down, you get that essential further little bit of visibility and the Portofino is kind of straightforward to manoeuvre via the city centre so long as I maintain one eye on the lengthy bonnet and the opposite on bikers and autorickshaws that dart in entrance of me. The dual-clutch gearbox in ‘auto’ mode feels a bit hesitant at low speeds – and there’s no creep operate, so it’s important to modulate the throttle and brakes in start-stop driving. This clearly isn’t the surroundings the Portofino was designed for and it was time to unleash these horses – 600 of them to be exact.

WHERE CAMELS DARE

Heading to the Sam Dunes on NH53, the Portofino feels mores of a ballistic missile than grand tourer and it’s genuinely onerous to drive it slowly. It helps that the roads are merely superior on this pocket of the nation, near the Pakistan border, and that is due to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) which retains the roads in very good form, all 12 months spherical. It has to. Having an unfriendly neighbour, our border safety forces are at all times on excessive alert they usually want clean (and pothole-free) roads for fast deployment of army automobiles. And it’s the type of roads that the Portofino wants, too.

Visitors thins inside 20km of leaving Jaisalmer, and heading west, the highway is a easily paved ribbon of tarmac chopping via the Thar. There’s nothing however sand on either side of the highway and you’ll see an oncoming automotive for miles away. Good for maxing out the Portofino.

The three.9-litre V8 is shared with the 488 however right here it’s in a decrease state of tune producing ‘solely’ 600hp. Given its grand tourer credentials, the main focus right here is on torque and driveability, not manic energy supply. However with a claimed Zero-100kph time of three.5sec and a high velocity of 320kph, efficiency is nothing wanting staggering. Flip the ‘Manettino’ swap to Sport mode, squeeze the long-travel throttle pedal, tug the appropriate paddle for rapid-fire upshifts and the Portofino rockets to the horizon hitting speeds you can’t consider. The huge expanse of the desert shrinks and your focus is fastened on the shimmering highway far forward.

Driving with the roof down is an epic wind-in-your-hair expertise that has the depth of a hurricane on the speeds the Portofino is able to. The roar of the gorgeous-sounding V8, which revs to 7,500rpm, thunders via the stillness of the desert, scaring away no matter little wildlife there’s. The exhaust observe is loudest in Sport mode; it sounds extra dramatic than every other V8 turbo and may be very Ferrari in character.

The large shock is how pliant and supple the Portofino’s journey is on a bumpy floor and the aplomb
with which it rounds off sharp edges with no more than a agency thud. There’s a ‘Bumpy Street’ setting that softens the dampersto make the journey removed from bone-jarring, in contrast to different supercars,however you do really feel it shudder and shimmy over sharp ruts.

What makes it eminently useable, although, is its potential to deal with velocity breakers – and there have been some nastily massive ones positioned simply earlier than and after the few villages that line the highway. And in case you’re asking, there’s no carry system to boost the entrance of the automotive like within the 488 GTB; however you don’t really want it as there’s ample floor clearance right here.

However has an excessive amount of floor clearance compromised the dealing with? The Portofino doesn’t hug the tarmac or dart from nook to nook like a mid-engined automotive but it surely offers an enormous quantity of confidence to carry severe speeds via the handful of lengthy sweepers I encountered. In actual fact, the steering is much more responsive than I anticipated and a tad too fast off-centre for a automotive meant for long-distance cruising. I needed to maintain making fixed corrections and a teeny little bit of slack round straight-ahead place would have made me work much less onerous. The upside of that, although, is the accuracy with which you’ll be able to place the Portofino via bends and the convenience with which you’ll be able to stability it with throttle. There’s a tendency for the rear wheels to interrupt traction and shimmy underneath energy, however the dealing with is so predictable that the general expertise is extra enjoyable than scary.

Parked on the Sam Dunes, the Portofino that day was an even bigger vacationer attraction than the dunes themselves. The automotive’s beautiful form, which contrasted properly towards the sand, is true Ferrari
and worthy of the Prancing Horse badge. The lengthy bonnet, sensuous curves and plenty of bulges within the proper locations make it one of many best-looking convertibles round. Can’t consider a greater means to absorb the solar.

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