2021 Ferrari Portofino M first drive review: M stands for magnificent

Ferrari's drop-top 2+2 gets some small yet significant updates for 2021. We head to Miami for a run in the sun.

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
4 min read

When you're a brand like Ferrari, every change has a certain significance to it. In the case of the 2021 Ferrari Portofino M, even the addition of a single letter. The M stands for "modificata," which in Italian just means "modified." But really it means something else: more performance.

For this year, the Portofino wholesale adopts the drivetrain from its lovely coupe cousin, the Ferrari Roma. The twin-turbo, 3.9-liter V8 is a superb engine, offering about 20 more ponies than the outgoing lump. It's now paired with a new, eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission, again just like the Roma -- and also like the SF90 Stradale. That's good company to be in.

2021 Ferrari Portofino M has more power, less roof

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In a car like this, the extra power isn't really such a huge deal, but the increased responsiveness of the engine, aided by the modified gear ratios, makes it an incredibly pleasant thing to drive. The Portofino M is meant to be on the more relaxed side of Ferrari's offerings, but once I finally find my way out of the Miami doldrums for my test drive, finally onto some open roads, it's quite clear this is not exclusively a relaxed tourer.

Even with the wheel-mounted drive selector set to Wet mode, something I use quite a bit during the frequent Floridian showers, the car barks and spins its tires readily, kicking out its tail like a thoroughbred that wants to play. Dial things up to Sport or, new for this year, Race, and things predictably get wilder.

The addition of Race might seem like an odd thing for a very street-oriented convertible, but it's a welcome change. I generally find Ferrari's Sport modes to be too sedate and Race to be a little too wild for casually spirited driving. The Portofino M augments those with Comfort mode, too, giving enough of a spread to match my every mood.

2021 Ferrari Portofino M
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2021 Ferrari Portofino M

The updated looks are much better.

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I'm happy to report that's the only major change with the Portofino's steering wheel. It has not received the touch-sensitive mess that I hated in the Roma. Every input here is delightfully tactile and, while finding the right turn signal when the wheel is turned over is as confusing as ever, that's small price to pay for being able to toggle lights, wipers and just about everything else you need with just a twitch of a finger.

The car receives some serious tech upgrades, though, including adaptive cruise that's a godsend for Florida's consistently miserable traffic and a surround-view camera system makes slotting this long-nosed machine into parking spots a breeze. The most surprising update for me is something I thought might never happen: Android Auto. Yes, Ferrari has finally opened the door to Google, and thank goodness, because the built-in navigation experience here is... basic.

But you probably don't care much about that. How does it drive? Superbly. As I mentioned above, the engine is a willing partner and, while the transmission in auto is occasionally a bit overly smooth and sluggish, a quick reach for the pronounced shift paddles solves that issue very well. Blasting through the gears creates a glorious noise, all the easier to appreciate with the top down.

The power-operated hardtop rises or drops in about 15 seconds at up to about 30 mph, but I advise caution before using it at speed. While the top is operating the trunk is wide open, meaning anything loose in there can and will blow away. (Ask me how I know.) Pack carefully.

2021 Ferrari Portofino M

Just leave the top down. It looks better that way. 

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

The top tucks beneath a sculpted tonneau that flows nicely into the trunk and, if you squint, you can just make out the two rear seats Ferrari has provided here. They're perfect for any legless companions you feel like taking for a ride.

While I love the performance of the Portofino M, I'm really surprised at how good a cruiser it is. The car isn't punishing over separation joints on Florida's highways, the seats are plenty comfortable and, while the engine has a bit of a drone to it, that's easily forgiven when there's 612 horses worth of payoff. Buffeting is of little concern with the top down and, with the top up, you'd almost never know you're in a convertible.

And now for the part where I tell you how much you'll pay for this pleasure. The starting price of the 2021 Ferrari Portofino M is $226,000 including $3,950 destination, an increase of a little more than $20,000 over the previous model. The Rosso Portofino-colored car you see here features a whopping $141,356 in options, ranging from the decorative ($1,266 for the embroidered prancing horses on the headrests) to the connective ($4,219 for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay).

Pricey, of course, but then it really is a superb all-rounder, now with sharpened looks and freshened tech. It's a true driver's car that won't punish you for actually driving it long and far.

Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.