The Ferrari California has been one of the most popular Ferrari’s of recent years. It’s just recently been replaced by the Ferrari Portofino, so today we are going to look at both cars and explore the key differences between them.
We’ll start off with the most obvious change and that’s the name. So the name California; although despite being in America, it does have some weight with Ferrari’s past mainly because of the 250 GT California Spyder which is one of the most expensive and valuable convertibles of all time. What Ferrari was really trying to do with the name was to think of that California lifestyle, the laid-back beautiful scenery coastal drives and it’s a real fun factor for the car. What Ferrari have done is a similar thing with the Portofino. Anyone that’s been to Portofino will know Portofino is one of the most exclusive high-end places in Italy, its full of celebrities, it’s amazing scenery, beautiful coastal drives and Ferrari again are trying to put that into your head with this name. The California had been around for 10 years, so it was definitely due a refresh and we think it’s a welcome change.
The next key difference for us is the exterior styling. It’s obviously a brand-new car from Ferrari and they definitely made it a better-looking car as it’s more aggressive. You have a brand-new front bumper which is much sharper, new front grille, more extended front splitter and the bonnet is more muscular with longer bonnet vents. But the key trademark is the brand-new headlights which has a cool feature of having an air intake which allows the air to pass through to the wheel arch and out again at the side air intake. You’ll notice the side air intakes are much more pronounced than they are in the California, you have brand new style of alloys which are much more modern, brand new mirrors which now come from the window triangle rather than on the door in the California and it’s much more angular and more modern.
Look down on the door you’ll notice it’s much more sculpted and curved again improving the lines of the car. When you have the top up, you’ll notice the fastback style design is flatter than the California and if you come to the rear of the car again you’ll see its much more muscular. You’ll notice the new rear lights from the 488, sharper rear lip and brand new bulkier rear diffuser, so there’s no denying this is a much more masculine and aggressive car than the California.
The Portofino is 80 kg lighter than the California and most of it is done on the interior. One of the main reasons is because of these big chunky seats on the California T which are made of aluminium. On the Portofino the seats are made of magnesium so they’re much stronger, thinner and slender. This means you get two inches more knee room in the back although the rear passenger seats are still very much for kids. The Portofino also features a whole new dashboard structure which is a lot lighter than it was in the California. Following this you also get a much more modern and brand-new ventilation system which is quieter, more efficient and a lot lighter.
Despite having the same 3.9 litre V8 Twin-Turbocharged engine, the Portofino is the quicker car because it has 40 bhp more, more torque and Ferrari have managed to make it more efficient. The California was sometimes seen as a soft Ferrari, but you won’t get the same complaints with the Portofino.
Our next key difference is the steering wheel setup. The first thing you notice when you enter the Portofino’s cabin is the brand-new steering wheel which is similar to the steering wheel in the GTC4 Lusso. It’s slightly more oval shaped with a few new buttons. The biggest change with regards to the steering is they now use electromechanical steering instead of the hydraulic steering as the California T. What it does is that it makes it much more direct, it’s actually the same setup as the Ferrari 812 Superfast but they have made it lighter and more manageable so it’s better for everyday use. It improves the grip and handling of the car and it’s a big improvement over the California T.
Starting off with the California T, in the instrument cluster you’ll find a digital display on the left, an analogue speedometer on the right and various buttons on the central system. Overall, it’s telling that the California T could probably do with an update.
Step inside the Portofino and you can see the plethora of updates. Firstly, in the instrument cluster you’ve now got the digital display on the left and on the right. In the centre, you’ve now got a brand-new HD touchscreen like a tablet, but it integrates nicely into the dashboard. The screen also features new settings where you can set the heating and lumbar support straight from the infotainment screen.
The California T comes with a conventional old-school simple Ferrari key with 3 buttons and an actual blade where you must put the key in the ignition, turn it and press the start button. The Portofino comes with a new updated high-tech key. It’s bulkier and much more advanced but it does mean you get keyless start so you can leave the key in your pocket and start the engine.
The final key difference is the roofs. Both have metal hard top folding roofs but the key difference with the Portofino is that the roof can retract whilst you are driving at speeds of up to 25 mph whereas with the California, you have to stop and retract the roof.
After our quick test, we actually noticed that the California T’s roof goes down quicker than the Portofino. According to Ferrari, they are meant to be exactly the same, but the California T is definitely a bit quicker and we did try it twice.
Whilst, we are on the subject of the roofs, let’s quickly talk about the rear boot space. Though you can fit a set of golf clubs when the roof is up on the California T, you cannot fit a set of golf clubs whilst the roof is down. On the other hand, in the Portofino, you’ve got 52 litres of extra boot space so whilst the roof is down, you can fit a set of golf clubs. However, you do have to take the driver out of the golf bag though, but it definitely does fit.
That’s it. Those are the key differences between the Portofino and the California T. Check out the full video on the what’s changed between the New 2019 Ferrari Portofino and Ferrari California T here: