The reveals are rolling in at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, and two of them showcase what’s happening at the top of the luxury game.
Ferrari pulled the cover off its Portofino, the replacement for the entry-level California T.
“The new car, which takes its name, Portofino, from one of the most charming villages on the Italian Riviera, an eponym for stylish elegance, is the most versatile model in the range,” the automaker said in a statement.
“A Ferrari designed to be driven every day that also effortlessly converts from an authentic ‘berlinetta’ coupé to a drop-top capable of delivering a unique Ferrari soundtrack and superb driving pleasure even in day-to-day situations.”
Meanwhile, Bentley revealed the Continental GT, like the Portofino a two-door, but with a massive W12 engine.
“When Bentley launched the original Continental GT in 2003 it established an entirely new market segment – the modern luxury grand tourer,” Bentley CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer said in Frankfurt.
“Today, I’m convinced that we are redefining this segment again. It is an honour to replace a car that has – for 14 years – been the benchmark against which all other grand tourers are judged.”
Both cars look pretty sharp. I took the Cali T on a road trip a few years ago and was impressed. I’m looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the Portofino. In 2014, I also spent a weekend with the Continental GT, and it’s my favorite Bentley.
In autoland, however, both the Ferrari and the Bentley occupy a shrinking niche: as Dürheimer said, the “luxury grand tourer” — a big car with a nominal back seat and a big motor up front, designed to transport well-heeled couples from an urban enclave to a vacation escape.
Check out the Maserati Ghibli from the late 1960s and early ’70s. It has a long hood, sleek lines, and room for two people and their beautiful luggage.
There’s obviously something of a market for this type of car, and frankly, I’m a sucker for them. Ferrari certainly needs to keep on selling Portofinos, just as it had to move Cali T’s to get customers into the brand and increase sales toward 10,000 worldwide.
Bentley is a bit different in that all of its cars are quite over-the-top, so it can get away with selling a mega-motored two door that swaddles occupants in luxury.
But neither car is an SUV, and that’s where the global market is heading, especially in the luxury realm. Bentley introduced the Bentayga SUV last year, and there’s continual speculation that Ferrari will join former corporate sibling Maserati in creating an SUV (the Maserati Levante also arrived last year).
Are magnificent GT cars not long for the world? Maybe. But for now, we can enjoy two of the finest examples.