Ferrari Roma – The Daily Italian GT is Back!
With the Roma, the Italians at Ferrari have expanded their horizon and produced a stunning daily GT for enthusiasts, but what is it like to drive?
Shown to the world at the end of 2019 and now widely available, the Ferrari Roma brings back the Italians’ front-engined, grand touring tradition in a package that offers a fixed roof, a V8 engine and a newly designed interior cabin that allows Ferrari to return to the World of luxury GT sports cars. The architecture of the Roma is shared with its convertible sibling, the Portofino (M), but offers throughout the model more specific touches and features that make the 2+2 coupe stand out within Maranello’s family lineup.
Let’s first touch on the brilliance of its exterior design before jumping behind the wheel. The design team at Ferrari took the opportunity to come up with a classic, coupé-bodied design which breathes elegance and style. The lines of the vehicle connect to the ’50s and ’60s Italian lifestyle offering a resurgence of La Dolce Vita while connecting with models like the 250 GT Lusso and Berlinetta through for instance the shark-nose grille. However, don’t forget the 1954 Ferrari 735 S Monza Spider by Scaglietti or the Spider 375 MM, you will find those in the Roma’s design too.
The two-plus-two seating and fastback coupe is a progressive looking, beautifully proportioned car, and in my personal opinion, the most beautiful Ferrari on sale today. With the promise of being both a GT and a sports car, Ferrari’s headquarters in Germany landed a Roma on my drive way dressed in Blu Corsa and packed with all that it has on offer. Available for a multi-day drive, the prancing horse was here to show what it is capable of.
At first sight, the “everyday Ferrari” greets you with its impeccable grandeur, while still breathing an ability of being able to go under the radar. The car was designed without the Scuderia Ferrari side shields, reflecting the approach taken with the road cars of the 1950s. This also makes the Roma less ‘in your face’. Exactly what is required in a market where a flashy first impression is not the ingredient future owners are immediately looking for.
Opening the doors is done by pushing in a protective cover and then electronically releasing the door locks. The lovely flush handgrip fits to the elegance of its exterior design. Inside the cabin, you are greeted by a lavish interior, divided over two separate spaces or cells, one each for driver and passenger. The almost symmetrical structure produces a more organic distribution of both spaces and functional elements available for each passenger.
In a luxury GT World, where brands like Bentley, Aston Martin, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-AMG were often considered the first option by many, the new Roma is capable of leaving its mark. Especially when it comes to its luxury interior. Like its competitors, the back seats are only suitable for smaller adults and children. The boot has a decent space, capable of storing a couple of carry-on suitcases and a set of golf clubs. There is no abundance of space and the lower access of the boot doesn’t make your life a lot easier when you want to reach further into the boot to access its storage shelf.
The seating position is decent, but not suitable for really tall people due to the lower roof line, or smaller drivers since the seats can’t get high enough allowing smaller people to look over the steering wheel. The seats are rather flat, but soft and offer a range of adjustments via the fixed buttons on the seat base and the additional adjustments in the menu of the centrally-mounted multimedia system with its 8.4-inch touchscreen. This is also the place where you enable or disable the seat heating. Other noteworthy features are the phone holder, mounted on either side of the central tunnel between both front passenger and the buttons to open the doors. No more levers, but a button click that lets you exit the vehicle.
Starting up the Roma requires you to press the steering wheel, which comes with a series of buttons, levers and switches for all kinds of features, and at locations where you did not necessarily expect them. The most important part of the wheel is the haptic touch-based front section which curves itself around center airbag cover with its famous prancing horse emblem. The wheel has a range of touch areas including the starter button. One press enables the displays, a continued second press starts the V8 engine in the front, accompanied by a throbbing and thrumming sound track that is more GT-like than immediately screaming sporty.
The steering wheel is the tricky part of the cabin. The touchy buttons are more often a frustration than a blessing while scrolling through the menus. Selecting options requires a thought process while they should be an intuitive action. The buttons on the left side of the touchpad cover the voice control and cruise control. They are often disabled and require an enabling touch before they can be used. Also here it is unnecessarily complicated and more a question of design follows design and not immediately function, which of course - I have to acknowledge - has its own unique charm.
Same can be said of the information presented on the three different displays inside the cabin; the 16-inch curved HD screen for the driver, the 8.4-inch touchscreen in the middle and the smaller passenger touchscreen. The lovely colorful designed UIs often feel a touch cluttered and require you to search unnecessarily long for information and features. The intuitive nature of them, the ease of use and the amount of features can’t touch the designs coming from the Germans (Bentley included).
The star of the show lays under the bonnet and supports the Roma's wide range of abilities.
With these comments out of the way, it is time to touch on the driving dynamics and this is where the Ferrari shines in its full brightness. The Roma is easy to drive, even at elevated speeds hitting 300 km/h. The sheer capabilities across numerous road surfaces and type of roads showcase it’s mix of sportiness and being a grand tourer. The star of the show lays under the bonnet and supports this wide range of abilities.
The twin-turbo V8 produces a generous 612 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and is a masterpiece. The eight-cylinder offers in the Roma new cam profiles, a speed sensor which measures the turbine revolutions and allows the maximum revs per minute to be increased by 5,000 rpm. Shifting gears goes via an eight-speed dual-clutch transaxle gearbox derived from the one on the SF90 plug-in hybrid supercar. The automated box has a broader spread of ratios than the Portofino’s seven-speeder and sits lower in the rear of the car.
The gearbox is controlled by one of the coolest electronic shift gates in the automotive world. Sharing an old-school nod to classical open-gate manual shifter housings you can opt for reverse, manual, automatic and launch control. Shifts are selected by the two column-mounted paddle shifters. The box has the eager to up shift to higher gears to offer a more relaxed driving experience, while also maximizing economy and the lowest emissions possible. Quicker shifts are offered as soon as you move the Manettino mode selector to Sport and Race mode. For those who want to take control into their own hands, the manual option is easily enabled.
The Roma is capable of fearsome acceleration. The prancing horse goes from zero to 100 km/h in just 3.4 seconds and to 200km/h in 9.3 seconds, while the top speed is north of 320km/h. The overall performance delivery is impressive and a combination of an instantaneous throttle response, immensely quick shifts, brilliant mid-range and the Variable Boost Management, which is nothing other than a piece of control software developed by the Italians that adjusts torque delivery to suit the gear selected.
After the first kilometers, the Roma leaves you with an immensely positive impression. The light and direct steering ratio is familiar Ferrari and shines through corners. The handling of the Roma has a distinctive sporty angle which is showcased through the chassis response and its natural agility. The chassis balance is sublime. The overall gentle ride is a welcoming addition into a Ferrari package, which doesn’t come with a bumpy road button. Thanks to the introduction of the latest evolution of the Side Slip Control, the Ferrari Roma’s handling and grip are even more accessible, which together with the car’s basic mechanical set-up, makes the Roma extremely entertaining but also subtle to drive.
The brakes are 390mm ceramics up front and 360mm at the back. Under full-force braking the Ferrari doesn’t move around and the pedal feel is superb, making it very reassuring for everyone on board. If there is a point of note, then it is the absence of a more prominent exhaust note, but in a World of stricter emission and sound regulations, we should be happy with what we have and we are talking here about a GT.
All in all, nobody should make the mistake that the Roma is only the entry-level model in a lineup full of other V8 and V12 models or the fact that ‘this Ferrari was supposed to be a Maserati’. Instead, the Roma is a significant achievement and a model that is capable of offering a sporty-flavored character in a market space where luxury, refined and subtleness is often considered as key ingredients.
The Roma is for me a model that offers the complete deal, however it is not without flaws. Where it gets the hard stuff right, it sadly gets some of the easy stuff inside the interior wrong. Luckily some can easily be fixed with software upgrades, and I would suggest Ferrari to deal with them since they do impact the experience of the daily drive. The haptic touch controls and the sheer amount of bells and beeping noises inside the interior - like the overactive parking sensors - are a slight annoyance and need that touch of refinement you expect from a GT.
Clean, elegant and everything the Ferrari Roma stands for.
To conclude my experience with the Roma, the Italian 2+2 is for me first and foremost an eye-catching, luxurious, comfortable, fast, sublime handling, practical and an endlessly entertaining supercar. One that is capable of leaving its mark in the GT-market segment as the most sporty offering among thoroughbreds like the Continental GT, S-Class Coupe AMG, M8 Competition, and DB11. It is a feast for the eyes, a truly significant Ferrari GT in the history of the Italian brand and one which looks back with pride at its renowned family history.
Oh and before I forget; the leather-wrapped key fob. Buttons covered by leather on one end and the Cavallino on the other. Clean, elegant and everything the Ferrari Roma stands for.