Driving a Ferrari in Jaisalmer is about as rare as a camel in Maranello
This supercar is quite usable in the deep hinterland because of its ability to tackle speed breakers.brunch Updated: Jan 27, 2019 11:23 IST
It’s a lovely day with clear blue skies, there’s a refreshing nip in the air and the road ahead is smooth and empty for miles and miles. Here are perfect conditions to drive a fast convertible, which is exactly what Rajasthan offers in these wintry months.
I’m on the outskirts of Jaisalmer and the scarlet red Ferrari Portofino looks surreal against the barren desert landscape I’m scything through. Everywhere and every time I stop for a photo op in this supposedly remote part of the country, selfie-savvy locals emerge from nowhere and mob the car. A Ferrari in Jaisalmer is about as rare as a camel in Maranello (Ferrari’s hometown) and parked at the famous Sam Sand Dunes, the Portofino is more of a tourist attraction than the dunes themselves that day.
The main reason I’m here in this desert outpost is to see how easy it is to live with the Portofino in an environment, which is typically outside a supercar’s comfort zone. The thing is that the Portofino is the most usable Ferrari you can buy today, offering a certain versatility and convenience you won’t find in its hard-edged and high-strung stable mates. Purists may dismiss the Portofino as being a bit too docile to be a genuine Ferrari, but on this ribbon of tarmac that slashes through the Thar, this 600hp grand tourer is anything but docile.
In fact, the Portofino is more of a ballistic missile than a grand tourer to cruise in, and it’s genuinely hard to drive it slowly!
Also, the only way to drive the Portofino is with the roof down, which neatly glides into the rear trunk in 14 seconds flat with the press of a button. It is an epic wind-in-your-hair experience that has the intensity of a typhoon at the speeds the Portofino is capable of. The roar of the gorgeous sounding V8 thunders through the stillness of the desert, scaring away whatever little wildlife there is.
Comfort is king
But the Portofino is not about darting from corner to corner with the engine pushed to max revs. It’s been conceived to make long distance travel effortless and hence comfort has been given top priority. Unlike other Ferraris, you don’t have to tumble down into a pair of low seats and what you get instead are high set and comfy buckets that are surprisingly easy to get in and out of.
Not long ago, Ferrari never bothered about anything beyond how its cars drove, so their cabins were as stark as a cave. But the brand has come a long way since because owners today demand to be pampered on all fronts and the Portofino has it all.
You get cooled and heated seats, a massive 10.2-inch infotainment screen (unheard of in Ferrari) and a dashboard wrapped in high-quality leather. The steering wheel, lifted from the 488, has too many buttons on it, which is fine in a car that immerses you in a laser-focused driving environment like a race track where you don’t want to take your hands off the wheel. But for a car with touring credentials, you want the switchgear and buttons to be more spread out.
The big surprise is how pliant and supple the Portofino’s ride is on a bumpy surface and the aplomb with which it rounds off sharp edges with little more than a firm thud. The Portofino’s ride is far from bone jarring unlike other supercars, but what makes it eminently usable in the deep hinterland is its ability to tackle speed breakers.
It’s not every day that you get to a drive a Ferrari, but for the privileged rich few who can, the Portofino is the best every day Ferrari you can buy. What better way to soak up the winter sun?
Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India
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From HT Brunch, January 27, 2019
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First Published: Jan 26, 2019 23:05 IST