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The beauty and the beast: New Ferrari Portofino unveiled

Of all the launches at the Frankfurt Motor Show last week, the biggest and glitziest was the new Ferrari Portofino.

Why? Because Ferrari has lodged itself in the imaginations of car lovers the world over.

There's just something about the outrageous snarl of the engine on ignition, about the fiery red colour, about the prancing horse logo and the whole super-aspirational image.

Yes, there are faster cars, more expensive ones and maybe even some that drive better.

But if you've ever seen a Ferrari parked on a street anywhere in the world, chances are someone will be taking a photo of it.

Nowhere is this more true than in Italy. I remember being in Sienna circa 2005 and noticing a crowd gathered round a car.

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Ferrari Portofino

Of course, it was a Ferrari - a limited-edition Enzo, if memory serves me right.

The particular model was at that time brand new, hence the fuss (well, that and because people take their Ferraris VERY seriously in Italy).

So when Ferrari recently announced a new model to replace the 'entry-level' California, it was big news.

Since then, there have been the usual teaser photos and media reveals, but Frankfurt was the first opportunity for the world to see the car in the metal. And it didn't disappoint.

In Ferrari-land, there would appear to be little point in changing a car unless its successor has more power. And that is the case with the Portofino.

It has 592bhp - 40bhp more than the California - and is more lightweight and aerodynamic. It also looks more aggressive and muscular.

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Ferrari Portofino

Although the same 3.9-litre turbocharged V8 engine lurks under the bonnet, new pistons, con rods and engine management software mean that it is more capable than its predecessor.

The extra grunt might not seem like much on paper, but it lops a tenth of a second off the 0-62mph time, which now stands at 3.5 seconds.

Top speed is said to be in excess of 199mph, although this is electronically limited.

Vehicle dynamics benefit from the introduction, for the first time on this model, of electric power steering, the third generation electronic differential and the latest evolution of the electronic suspension control system, integrated with Premium 9.1 ESP.

Yet, the new car consumes less fuel thanks to weight-saving and other changes.

The Portofino is 80kg lighter than the California T. This was achieved by a whole range of redesigns, including not just the chassis but pretty much all major components.

The new retractable hard top has also been redesigned, including the movement mechanism, with a reduction in weight compared to the California T's.

Also redesigned with weight in mind was the structure of the seats and the air con system. Externally, however, you wouldn't notice this shedding of weight.

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Ferrari Portofino interior

Ferrari boasts that the Portofino is designed to be driven every day, so it "effortlessly" converts from an authentic 'berlinetta' coupe to a drop-top in just 14 seconds on the move at lower speeds.

It is aggressively styled, with a two-box fastback configuration featuring at the front, a large central radiator grille with two side air intakes for the intercoolers, and larger vents in the bonnet to evacuate heat from the engine compartment.

A noticeable crease line runs from the edge of the bonnet along the front wheel arch and across the door, lending a slender but well-defined belt-line.

There isn't room to mention all the interior improvements, but Ferrari seems particularly proud of the way the cockpit and dash merge, the new 18-way adjustable seats and the quality of the materials and trims.

There's no word on UK price or spec yet, although, as a guide, the basic California starts from around £154,000. I wouldn't expect too much of a difference.

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