Is it easy to drive a Ferrari in Mumbai?
I’d stick my neck out and say that it is every petrolhead’s dream to drive a Ferrari, on the open road or perhaps even better, a racetrack. And I am no different. Just as 2020 was drawing to a close, I got a chance to achieve that dream, to drive not one, but two beautiful red prancing horses on the same day! But instead of getting to hoon them at Fiorano, I was getting the keys to the two Ferraris — the Portofino and the F8 Tributo — in the financial capital, Mumbai. And I wasn’t complaining. But if I’m honest, I was equal parts excited and nervous — ‘Will it be hard to drive?’ ‘Is a slight flex of the throttle going to send me into the wall?’. All those hilarious videos of Ferrari test drives gone wrong were haunting me the night before. To make matters worse, Mumbai’s morning rush hour was just ticking on. But then again, how hard could it be? As it turns out, not too hard actually.
Before I got a chance at the F8, I tried my hand at the Portofino, the ‘baby Ferrari’, although with 591bhp and 760Nm oozing from its 3.9-litre V8, it is still a f***ing Ferrari. But I’m not here to tell you how fast these cars are, because they are wickedly fast. Because while you could stretch their legs, in bursts, on the Bandra-Worli Sealink, you’d never get to push either of these cars to their dynamic limits. Not even close. So, instead, let's find out whether that guy saying ‘you cannot drive supercars in India’ is correct.
Well, for starters, the driving position is spot on, in both the cars. Your legs fall naturally to the pedals, you’re sat low, though not intimidatingly so, and there’s enough adjustability with the steering so you aren’t craning your neck to get a look at the road ahead. The Portofino also has quite good visibility all around. A comfortable driving position goes a long way in making the drive easy, and while the F8 has a more committed position, it isn’t as alien as you might think and in fact, feels even better as you settle in. And then all that’s left is to press that big red starter button and the V8 barks into life. As you pull on the right paddle to get into first gear and get rolling, you’ll realise that either of these cars are actually very smooth at city speeds — there aren’t any shudders or jerk and the seven-speed DCT on both the Portofino and the F8 is fuss-free, even at low speeds, which helps driveability in the city. While the shifts are smooth when left in auto, the tenacity of the shifts get dialled up as you move the Mannetino to Race in the F8.
And sticking it into Race is exactly what I did, I saw a clear patch, floored it and I was pinned to my seat. The F8 accelerates like a rocketship, my peripheral vision is just filled with black and yellow as we rip past Mumbai’s rickshaws and taxis. Putting the hammer down on the F8 is visceral experience. It packs the most powerful V8 ever plonked into a Ferrari road car yet, with 710bhp and 770Nm and it hits 100kmph in just 2.9 seconds — almost hypercar fast. But the opportunities to exploit all of that power come far and few in between, what you can feel though is the torque. Neither of the two cars need to aggressively downshift for overtakes and sudden changes in pace, there’s vast reserves for you to be faster than general traffic without even shifting down. The throttle is progressive too, you can modulate it quite easily when crawling in traffic. Comfort, if that matters in a Ferrari, is great too and surprisingly, the F8 feels more plush in its ‘Bumpy Road’ setting than the Portofino does, although the latter is better at tackling speed breakers owing to its slightly higher ground clearance.
So indeed, these two Ferraris are easy to drive. But perhaps more imporantly, is it special to drive a Ferrari in Mumbai, amongst all the hustle and bustle? Well, you can spend much less money on cars that could be almost as fast on our roads and easier to drive, right? But they wouldn’t be Ferraris. Painted in Rosso Corsa, these two snapped more than a few necks in Mumbai that morning. Everyone, old or young, interested in cars or not, instantly knows that this is a Ferrari and they’re all ogling at the car. Just that attention is worth the money, no, not so that you feel important. But because when you drive these cars out onto the road, it makes other people happy. The smiles on people’s faces, the rush to take their cameras out just to get a picture, it is unbelievably cool. No one even batted an eyelid as I drove the Nissan Magnite from Pune to Mumbai. But these cars are poetry in motion and as a kid, whenever I saw a Ferrari I would urge my dad to go chase it. On a mundane Monday morning, pulling up next to a Ferrari at the lights can be the highlight of your day! Of course, this leads to some less than ideal situations as other road users turn their attention away from the road ahead to get a peek at the V8 under the glass (Lexan in the F8) cover, I would too. And every single time a bus comes alongside, you realise just how low you’re sitting — it is almost claustrophobic! But at the end of the day, nothing else matters because you’re in a Ferrari. No matter who you are or how many cars you’ve driven, the experience of being in a Ferrari is special, be it at Fiorano or Bandra.