Ferrari's Portofino is the marque's most serious new beginner model
New beginner Ferrari Portofina is a serious starter The Ferrari Portofino boasts electric power steering, which provides assistance for various driving situations and resulting in a sharper, more responsive car. PHOTO: FERRARI, LORENZO MARCINNO

It has been 10 years since Ferrari launched its California "entry-level" hard-top convertible.

The car started with a 460hp 4,297cc V8 engine. In 2014, the California T was launched with a 560hp 3,855cc bi-turbo V8.

Its successor, the Portofino, sports the same bi-turbo V8, but is tuned up to make 600hp.

The car has a completely new chassis and body, a fastback-like styling which has a hint of the F12.

Vents galore and a clean underside improve aerodynamics.

The body itself has been lightened by a considerable 80kg. Despite that, rigidity has supposedly increased by 35 per cent.

The Portofino still has 2+2 seating, but driving enjoyment has been dramatically improved. And all because of an unlikely new feature - electric power steering. Fine mapping of steering assistance for various driving situations has made it a sharper, more responsive car.

The suspension has been stiffened by 15 per cent in front and 19 per cent at the rear. The stiffened suspension uses Magnaride dampers.

The lighter Portofino rockets to 100kmh in just 3.5 seconds and reaches a maximum speed of 320kmh, putting it on an equal footing with the GTC4 Lusso T.

Although not as low-slung, the Portofino is nearly as involving as the previous generation mid-engine Ferraris. Yet, it has the comfort of a grand tourer, with the Magnaride dampers delivering superb body control even over poorly surfaced roads around the Apuglia region in Italy's south.

The car's torque delivery is cleverly tailored. In the first three gears, the car feels completely lag-free, giving the impression of a normally aspirated car.

Electronic aids help make the Portofino more readily accessible to a wider field of drivers.

Last but not least, the Portofino communicates more driving nuances, allowing the driver to feel the road better and to enjoy the car's performance in a less abstract way.

The car is slated to arrive in Singapore in the third quarter.