Some offers in life are simply too good to turn down: a discount at Chanel in Paris, an all-expenses paid trip to Fiji and the chance to drive a Ferrari through Sydney. But not just any old Ferrari (if there even is such a thing), but a deep red V8 GT drop-top Portofino. Here’s what that was like.
I arrive at Ferrari Sydney in Waterloo on an overcast Friday morning as part of a small gathering of business owners and journalists (aka, those who can and can’t afford a supercar) for the Ferrari Grand Tour Experience.
As we mingle, sipping coffee and chatting quietly in the showroom, there’s a ripple of excitement – and just a hint of a tint of fear – in the air. After all, for the majority of us, this will be our first time behind the wheel of a car worth in excess of half a million dollars. Sweet. Baby. Jesus.
After a short introduction from the incredibly charming Herbert Appleroth, CEO of Ferrari Australasia and hardcore lover of the Prancing Horse, we discover the itinerary includes a drive through the city and across the Harbour Bridge towards Pilu at Freshwater, followed by a pit stop at Palm Beach, before arriving at the delightful Bert’s in Newport for lunch. Yes, I know, it’s a tough gig.
Briefing over (“don’t speed, don’t crash”, got it) we’re soon allocated our travelling partners and our cars, and included in the jaw-dropping, heart-stopping, eye-popping convoy are two Portofinos, a GTC4Lusso V12 and a GTC4Lusso T V8.
As I sink into the (surprisingly comfortable) bucket-like leather seat and shut the door behind me with a sexy-as-hell thud, I get an instant glimpse into the life of a Ferrari owner.
First impressions? Not bad. I’m kidding – it feels utterly effortless and luxurious. From the silky-smooth hide beneath my own, to the high-tech, carbon-fibre components at my fingertips, every touchpoint is like a beautiful Italian work of art that’s a feast for the eyes.
As for what it does to your ears when you hit the big red start/stop button? Well, here’s the surprising bit. Unlike the spine-tingling wail you expect from, say, the F8 Tributo, the sound the Portofino emits is gentler, graceful even, making it the definition of understated elegance and luxury.
It’s the same with the way it drives – it’s surprisingly easy and smooth. Now, don’t get me wrong – this car can perform and is capable of unleashing a massive 600cv of power and sprinting from 0 to 200km/h in just 10.8 seconds; just not today, dear. We’re all keeping it under the speed limit, in Sydney traffic no less, and after a while you forget you’re driving a Ferrari. Well, you would if it wasn’t for all the toots, honks, beeps, whistles and shouts a beautiful car like this attracts.
All too quickly, we arrive at Pilu in Freshwater for some sea air and strong coffee before we’re off again. This time I’m with Herbert in his Ferrari 488 Pista – aka, the most powerful V8 in Ferrari history – which he handles as expertly as he does my questions (read his interview in the July issue of The CEO Magazine).
We wind our way through the Northern Beaches before a quick car-swap pit stop at Palm Beach where I find myself in the beautiful GTC4Lusso T for the last leg of the journey. Big and bold, at nearly two metres wide, it’s Ferrari’s first four-seater – yes, four seats – powered by a 3.9-litre V8 turbo engine. Raising the performance bar, it punches out a maximum of 610cv at 7,500 rpm so is ludicrously quick and fun to drive.
Best bit of all? It’s about as comfortable as a supercar gets – there’s even enough room in the back for the kids’ car seats – making it the perfect daily driver for the school drop-off or for that long cruise to the Hunter Valley for a weekend filled with good food and great wine.
Speaking of which, our amazing #FerrariFriday ends (please don’t let it ever end!) with a long lunch at Bert’s in Newport, where the ultimate in Australian food is the order of the day. Plate after delightful plate arrives – from the oysters on the half shell in chardonnay mignonette to Brooklyn Valley tenderloin, the ravioli with buffalo ricotta and the crushed Dutch cream potatoes – all beautifully paired with wines selected by oenophile Herbert. Could this day get any better? Maybe if there was a seaplane to fly everyone home…
And what do you know. As the afternoon sun begins to set and the day starts to slowly wind down, Justin Hemmes' private plane is fired up to fly us back to Rose Bay. It really does pay to have friends in high places with light aircraft and shiny supercars. The only question now is, how the hell am I going to top this next Friday?!