The Ferrari Roma is a wild untamed stallion that is so efficiently bridled it delivers extraordinary performance with unmatched ease. A luxury ninja GT for the future.
We cruised in the Ferrari Roma for a 300-mile tour of the South in the glorious summer heat, passing Hove Lagoon for some windsurfing and wakeboarding.
This is the new "discreet" GT from Ferrari, an upgrade from the Portofino which we loved. Ferrari has changed 70% of the components and you feel that in the driving.
But first the specs. The Ferrari Roma is a mid-front engine 2 by 2 rear wheel drive with a 612 bhp twin turbo 3.9 L V8 engine that will get you to 62 mph (100 kph) from a standing start in 3.4 secs. It has a new 8-speed DCT gearbox that was introduced in the SF90 Stradale and boasts a class-leading weight-to-power ratio of 2.37 kg/cv. It's also 100 Kg higher than the Portofino. The combined mpg is 17.8 and you get three years commercial warranty thrown in.
The exterior harks back to "La Dolce Vita" of Rome in the 50s and 60s says the designer Flavio Manzoni. Essentially mimicking the simple lines of the early Ferrari GTs. This is a conscious reimagining of Ferrari forms for the future, a pure minimalist, aerodynamically clean shape with aesthetically pleasing fluid lines. Ferrari was aiming for timeless elegance but actually, it's quite futuristic.
The front wings rise neatly, precisely communicating your road position and a protruding central bonnet bump adds macho muscle car cachet. Well, it does have a big engine in that body and everyone should know that...
Ferrari fans are still debating the new front grille, a rectangular pattern diminishing in size from the centre, perhaps inspired by digital pixels. You will have to judge for yourself.
From the side, there is a distinct wasp aspect to the narrow body shape, still predatory but tamed down a tad. The rear haunches are wide and animalistic, whilst the rear tapers down into an automatic spoiler that activates at certain speeds or on a low drag, medium and high downforce setting.
The visual balance of this 4-seater (you can stuff two 20-year-olds in the back if they are very bendy) is superb. And those two extra seats come in very handy for short journeys, without spoiling the Roma's style.
Everything in the design smacks of structural minimalism. It is beautiful and refined, but I miss the extraneous flights of fancy. Definitely one for the form equals function aficionados and those that like a pared-down sleek design that eschews the superfluous. It's not a shark, perhaps more a dolphin, one of those that hunt Great Whites for fun.
On a more mundane note, the boot is small, holding two carry-on cases or one large case, possibly with a carry-on squeezed in.
This is a gorgeous car, utterly modern inside and out, but remove the badge and it blends in a little too much. The performance is a testament to Ferrari, a magnificent achievement, but could we let the Prancing Horse shake its mane out a bit more?
Step inside, or rather fall gracefully into the sports seats and everything is new. Haptic is the 'mot de jour' as the controls eschew knobs for touch-sensitive panels. Knobs are so last year! This is something that takes getting used to. Familiarise yourself with the various settings before you set off as they will not be easy to find while driving. The 16" screen appears to be removable, but it's not, though I presume this means it can be easily upgraded later, so kudos if true. Plus the passenger gets their own lateral screen which can terrify them with your speed, revs and musical choice. Please, not Rick Astley again.
The Start/Stop button at the bottom of the steering is touch-sensitive, so no satisfying click, just the roar of the engine, which is an absolute joy. I thought I'd heard the best, but this is the new benchmark by which to measure others. A long and complicated procedure involving valves and exhaust length apparently, but it is sublime. It must be somewhat akin to developing a saxophone, finding the exact spatial dimensions to create that gloating, throaty, bubbling roar. And the crackle and pop as you decelerate is sheer heaven.
Be warned that the drive controls resemble a sound engineer's deck, though they are a nod to the old 'gated manual' Ferrari gearboxes, so don't let passengers change the volume. It is a lovely touch and a welcome change from the usual drive buttons. Sport mode is still the cute red Manettino switch, thank heavens.
As you would expect the interior is plush with carbon fibre touches, leather and Alcantara, supremely soft to the touch. The interior vents are no longer rocket vents, but more streamlined and organic, perhaps Inspired by orchids. The steering wheel has every possible control you can imagine, everything is there and again take time to learn them, mixing actual switches with capacitive controls. For instance, the wing mirrors are a touch-sensitive black panel on the right. After three days you get used to it all.
Please note the key is a leather and steel cuboid that prominently displays the Prancing Horse and sits neatly in your hand. Most car manufacturers ignore the key design at their peril.
You are well supported in a bucket tub, with the passenger and driver individually isolated and divided by the centre console. The seats flex into every shape imaginable so everyone can find their ideal position. All in all the interior is refined, racing opulence, with comfort a priority. The quality of the materials is apparent and should last many decades.
The performance was the biggest surprise: this is the easiest, most refined sports car for everyday driving. I particularly loved the steering, which seemed a step forward in engineering, tuning or a combination of factors. It is pinpoint precise, tightening with your speed, yet retains a dexterous fluidity and granular feedback that enables you to drive like a racing pro.
Obviously, the suspension plays a major part in this, as it holds you to the road in the most ferocious and sharp turns. You can literally swing the wheel from side to side and the car responds. It feels sharper than the Portofino, yet more comfortable too. It is rear-wheel drive so deep potholes can knock a wheel off track, but they respond fast and slam back down to grab the road again with impressive alacrity. Ferrari traction control is the best in the world so you can abuse that rear wheel power with substantial leeway you would not risk in other cars.
Acceleration from 0-62 in 3.4 seconds is smooth but still pins you to your seat and the gearbox is so efficient it delivers power at the lowest revs so you command any situation. You barely need to move into the Sport setting as it is so powerful already. Track is strictly for the track, though the Wet setting does come in useful if you still want to accelerate out of corners in the rain. Use the paddles if you want more brutality, but the changes are super fast and clean.
In summary, this is the most practical everyday drive Ferrari ever made. In fact, forget buying this as a second car and just opt for the Roma. For short journeys, you can carry two people in the back. Their necks may never recover or be fully straight again, but a few miles won’t hurt.
That V8 power is so pleasurable to drive and that is where the Roma excels. Ferrari has focused on driver engagement and reaction, so the driver feels all, and controls everything, joining with the car. That sensation when you and the car are one, flowing and swooping in and out of corners, fluidly soaring forwards, then gently dropping back, like flying, is superbly delivered here in the Roma.
Ultimately, the Ferrari Roma will appeal to those who want Ferrari performance without the flash. Though Ferrari is"pizzaz".
To conclude, a grown-up Ferrari of extreme power and ability, a wild untamed stallion that is so efficiently bridled it delivers extraordinary performance with unmatched ease. A Ferrari for those that want to fly, but unnoticed, a luxury ninja.
As you can see from the images we photographed the car in the middle of Hove Lagoon while some of us went off wakeboarding. Hove Lagoon offers excellent windsurfing and wakeboarding lessons for all ages. I windsurfed with Rudy who gave me some excellent pointers on rapid turns whilst Gabriel and I wakeboarded with Toby. And yes, Gabriel wakeboarded me off the lagoon despite it being his first time. To be fair he is in peak condition and a gymnast coach, so I don't feel too bad.
Ferrari Tailor-Made will of course create the bespoke car of your dreams and all cars come with a four-year Ferrari Commercial Warranty in the UK, which is valid internationally and offers full coverage for replacement parts and labour.
Ferrari Roma base price including 4-year warranty in the UK: £150,333
Our Ferrari Roma with optional extras: £182,675
Hove Lagoon Wind Surfing and Wakeboarding