Emma Murray takes New Zealand's first Portofino for a scenic road trip, heading from Auckland to the Tasman Sea coastline
Auckland lays between two harbours. To the east are golden beaches. To the west an alluring landscape of black volcanic hills. It is a primaeval environment formed by offshore volcanoes active 20 million years ago. Aeons of weather created stark cliffs and plateau, cut deep by the rushing streams of semi-tropical forests. Untouched until thirteenth century Pacific canoes brought the forebears of the Maori tribes, the arrival of the first European ships saw the area become heavily logged for over a century. Now a regional park, it embraces the remnants of the giant kauri tree in 30,000 hectares of regenerated forest.
This is a wild landscape, even in the summer months.The narrow roads that cut through it to the sea have a drama of their own, a drama that rewards an agile car. And a keen driver, such as Emma Murray, owner of the very first Ferrari Portofino in New Zealand. When she fires the 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 engine she points its nose west. After rumbling through the city fringes she then climbs the surrounding hills, before changing down and releasing an automotive orchestra of sound that is as primaeval as the surrounding landscape.
Variable boost management improves acceleration in any gear, a real boon given how tight the roads are in these parts. Emma has always loved this wild coastline. “I used to come out here every weekend,” she says. “I love the black sands, the storms. It’s relatively empty, especially in winter when the hills are shrouded in mist.” Her interest in cars began as a teenage Formula One fan.
These days she loves visiting the Singapore event – and divides her year between New Zealand and West Sussex, near to the historic track at Goodwood where she’s a longtime GRRC member. Emma bought her first Ferrari six years ago – a 355 from 1997, since adding a 458 Speciale, a 458 Spider, a 488 and now this Portofino.
Two more models are on order. Most are garaged elsewhere, but the Portofino lives at home. “I like that it’s an everyday driving car,” she enthuses. “It’s a four-seater – admittedly rear passengers have to be small – and it’s exceptionally comfortable to drive.”
She turns off the Piha Road and down toward Karekare’s famous beach, a wild sweep of glittering iron-sand nestled into the cliffs. Such roads restrict the full 600hp of the Portofino. Instead the traction control technology – F1-Trac – intervenes when damp leaves dapple the tarmac, the carbon-ceramic performance brakes are poised for action, and the magna-ride suspension absorbs the bumps of this little-travelled backwater.
After a short break at the grassy beach car park, it’s back up the steep hill to continue on to Piha, famous for its surfing competitions, where a tiny café offers simple home-made organic fare, followed by an espresso at the village store. Leaning on the outdoor verandah, admiring the Portofino’s sculpted flanks, Emma opines, “It’s like an artwork.
There’s no point buying it unless you love it. “The noise is the best bit,” she says: “I was devastated when they made the F1 cars sound like lawnmowers. And I love the soundtrack of this car – it makes you feel…” she’s lost for words, but there’s the flashing grin that comes when this otherwise elegant woman talks animatedly of track days and such. But at that moment come the first spots of warm evening rain. It’s time to put the Portofino roof up. And to pour a glass of red, New Zealand, wine, and relax as she watches the bobbing heads of solitary surfers in the bay.