What is it?
This is Ferrari’s, erm, compact GT, variously described by the company’s marketing people as ‘an F1 car in evening attire’ and a 2020 reboot for that ineffably Italian idea of la dolce vita. To the rest of us who don’t speak ‘branding’, it’s a two-door, 2+2 seater coupe with a front-mid mounted twin-turbo V8 driving the rear wheels. Think of it as a baby 812 Superfast.
Now, you might surmise that Ferrari has been in the gran turismo business pretty much since day one, when Enzo Ferrari cottoned on to the fact that the world’s high-net worth individuals (they were plain rich back then) would pay handsomely for house-trained versions of his beloved racing cars.
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Ferrari’s GT cars are the foundations upon which the House of Enzo was built, but the template drifted with 1975’s mid-engined 308 GTB and no-one really fancied the louchely chiselled 365 GT4/400i.
So what does the Roma do?
The Roma represents a renaissance for a Ferrari that embodies understated luxury rather than shrieking its potential from terracotta-clad rooftops, that posits elegance ahead of razor-sharp handling smarts.
It’s supposedly the Ferrari for people who don’t really ‘get’ the Italian powerhouse, who wouldn’t describe themselves as keen drivers, and who prefer to fly under the radar. Given the state of the world right now, a less shouty Ferrari might be just the ticket.
Who’s going to buy the Roma then?
Maranello expects 70 per cent of Roma customers to be new to the brand, and the siren’s call is done via a body whose design espouses the modish idea of reductionism and purity.
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Ferrari’s design director Flavio Manzoni is quietly, astutely revolutionary in his thinking, and for all the call-backs to Fellini movies and Sophia Loren, the Roma is a progressive looking, beautifully proportioned car. The front wings crest emotively, and the sheet metal resolves in an ever more sharky front end.
The LED headlights and partly blanked off mesh grille are both controversial but vault the Ferrari ‘face’ into the 2020s. You’ll get used to it.
If you say so. What else?
The body sides have an aeronautical, fuselage feel, and the rear lights use new tech to minimise their size and presence. No signature round lights here. Note also the vortex generators upfront and deployable rear spoiler, which has a Low Drag, Medium Downforce and High Downforce setting but mainly stays out of the way (the Roma’s aero balance is superior to the Portofino’s).
This is also a car that suits sober colours. There was a time when every new Ferrari was launched exclusively in rosso corsa. This is a different Ferrari for a different era.
Whatever times we’re in though, a Ferrari still needs to drive like a Ferrari…
What’s the verdict?
“It might be a more ‘accessible’ Ferrari, but don’t be fooled – something of an assassin still lurks within”
On its current form, it was unlikely Ferrari was going to get the Roma wrong. There’s something seductive about a small(ish) Ferrari with a V8 engine mounted in the front, as opposed to the middle – just as they were in the company’s earliest days.
But don’t be fooled: something of an assassin still lurks within. This stunning gorgeous GT wants to be a full-blooded Ferrari fightstar when it grows up. We liked it more in its native Italy than on the best English and Welsh roads. If the surface isn’t warm and dry, the Roma can feel quite fraught if you’re really going for it. Most modern Ferraris are set up in with these stunt plane reflexes, but we thought the Roma might exploit that gap in the market for a slightly less highly strung Ferrari.
We’d also like the interior to calm down: more intuitive controls are badly needed for the HMI, and the touch-sensitive switchgear needs a rethink before it’s safe to use on the move. Even after days behind the wheel, we struggled to accomplish simple commands. And that’s not ideal when there’s well over 600bhp attacking the rear wheels.
Then again, is it a bad thing that the Roma always demands your attention? It’s not in Ferrari’s nature to make a car that’s as relaxed as a Bentley Continental. Perhaps Maserati will give that a go with the next GranTurismo. What we have here is possibly the best looking Ferrari on sale, and most of the thrills you’d get from the big bad 812.
Aston Martin DB11
£147,900 – £174,995
Bentley Continental GT
£151,800 – £215,580
Mercedes-Benz AMG GT
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Continue reading: Driving