Johannesburg - Ferrari calls its new Portofino convertible hardtop, released in South Africa at a private preview on Friday morning, a V8 GT. We call it sex on wheels.

With the top up the Portofino is a sleek fastback, rather than a coupé - a first for a folding hard-top, says Ferrari. With the Z-folded top and rear window tucked away under the bootlid (which takes just 14 seconds) the cockpit curves gently up and around the +2 rear seats; it’s more akin to a Porsche 911 convertible than a true ‘barchetta’ (little boat) silhouette - but way prettier than anything penned in Zuffenhausen, with styling cues neatly linking the interior and exterior of the car.

Under that sensuously curved bonnet, with its echoes of 1960’s 250 GTO and 1970’s Daytona styling, is Ferrari’s 3855cc turbopetrol V8 - winner of the overall International Engine of the Year Award in 2016 and 2017 - making this the most powerful folding tintop Ferrari yet made.

The 90-degree short-stroke V8 (it’s slightly oversquare at 86.5 x 85mm) is tuned in this iteration for 441kW at a howling 7500 revs and 760Nm from 3000-5250rpm, driving the rear wheels through a seven-speed F1 dual-clutch transmission and a new, third-generation E-Diff3 electronic differential.

The Portofino also has variable boost management, an ECU protocol that adjusts torque delivery depending on which gear you’re in, for quicker acceleration through the gears and reduced fuel consumption.

Ferrari quotes 0-100 in 3.5 seconds, 0-200 in 10.8 seconds, and more than 320km/h flat out - and notes that the flat-plane crankshaft engine’s distinctive sound-track has been ‘enhanced’ (that means the exhaust system has been tuned so that it sounds louder but still passes EU noise tests).

It’s also the first Ferrari GT car to be fitted with electric power steering, enabling the steering ratio to be shortened by seven percent for catlike turn-in without any loss of stability in a straight line.

OK, you had to ask: Local distributor Scuderia South Africa quotes R4.5 million. The first units will arrive here in September or October.

IOL Motoring