Is there such a thing as a low-key Ferrari? Well, Ferrari seems to think so. What’s more, the Prancing Horse reckons its latest Roma GT coupe will appeal to both newcomers to the brand, as well as existing owners of its mid-engined V8 and front-engined V12 models.
But let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first: No, the Roma doesn’t look like an Aston Martin Vantage, nor an AMG GT for that matter, certainly not in the flesh — the other front-engined or rear-drive coupes in the market today should be so lucky.
The similarity in silhouette to the other fastback coupes in the segment conforms to the classic GT Coupe proportions of long bonnet and dynamic derriere, which are common to all in the genre. Naturally, it is the little elements that make (or break) each car.
Like the other current Ferraris, the elegantly styled Roma is designed in-house by the Ferrari Centro Stile, and is one of the most beautiful modern Ferraris we’ve seen to date. It convincingly combines elegant proportions with subtle modern elements (such as the “dashes” that serve as tail-lights), and it never comes across as an exercise in retro indulgence.
From its powerful stance, aggressive “shark nose” and muscular rear haunches, there’s a sense of sporty purpose to the Roma that belies its GT credentials. However, compared to the look-at-me styling of its rival contemporaries, the 1960s design inspiration for the Roma is more beauty than beast, which is a welcome return to a time when style was effortlessly chic instead of contrived.
With the Roma, Ferrari has reinterpreted the philosophy of la dolce vita for our times, and the digital cockpit provides an intriguing juxtaposition of modern with a classical design.
It’s the second model in the line-up to feature the same high-tech cabin as its hybrid petrol-electric SF90 big brother, with capacitive controls that boast proper haptic feedback, vivid digital instruments and a centre touchscreen to control the secondary functions, such as navigation, climate control and in-car entertainment.
If you’re familiar with modern Ferraris, you’ll know that the mission critical controls to the task of driving are positioned within easy reach of the driver on the steering wheel, and it’s no different for the Roma.
Why not? It’s great not to have to take your hands off the steering wheel, since it lets you focus on driving. This means the indicator, wipers, horn, bumpy-road mode and everything else related to driving can be accessed with your hands on the steering wheel. It’s odd at the start but quickly becomes second nature; besides, this is the way … and it has been ever since the time of the 458 Italia.
Start/stop duties are no longer handled by a physical red starter button — it’s soft-touch now, as you put your thumb over the haptic launchpad to fire up the V8. Like its big brother models, the Roma now features a five-stage manettino to toggle between the different drive modes, which includes Wet, Comfort, Sport, Race and ESC Off — the first of the GT models to do so.
Think “soft” when it comes to GT models and you’re in for a rude awakening with the Roma. It is mellow enough to potter around town in, but when the red mist descends, you’ll realise it isn’t the sort of car you want to be on the bad side of, because it has a decidedly mean streak that lets you back up any trash talking.
It may be the cheapest Ferrari yet, but it is by no means lacking where it matters: the fun-to-drive stakes. As driving enthusiasts can appreciate, fast doesn’t equate to fun; it is how the complete package of steering, engine and chassis acquits itself on the winding roads that makes the difference — you want to be engaged and not enraged by the lack of involvement. And the Roma is a veritable driver’s car.
The steering is perfectly weighted and wonderfully fluid, with a natural feel and constant stream of communication from tyres to driver, so you’re always aware of where you’re at as you’re pushing the limits of the traction circle.
The V8’s fast and furious 620hp/760Nm translates to stupendous real-world performance (and 3.4 seconds from zero to 100kmh, if that matters to you), and you’re never left wanting for an outright punch. More importantly, we were blown away by the agile, playful chassis that responded so well to our ministrations. It’s as languid or as lairy as your sensibilities (and talent) can handle, and it’ll happily waggle its tail at the slightest provocation, which is just the way we like it.
The Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer (FDE) system made its debut in the 488 Pista works in the Roma’s Race mode (with its reduced electronic stability control intervention). FDE helps manage the drift, so less experienced drivers will be able to look heroic with some effort. FDE isn’t a fail-safe to get you out of trouble though — it only makes the slide more progressive — so you’ll still have to work at correcting it.
Where does a car like the Roma sit? At about S$900,000 before COE and options, it’s possible to high-spec a Roma to within spitting distance of a low-spec F8 Tributo, but that would be missing the point. The mid-engined/rear-drive F8 is a frenetic, blisteringly fast bundle of raw energy that requires a more incisive style of driving to exploit…and looks it, to boot.
On the other hand, the Roma is a welcome return to simpler times with its flash-free, effortlessly stylish design and best of all, never pretends to be a hardcore track-car for the road, thanks to an engaging and fabulously feelsome drive.
- Engine 3,855cc, V8, turbocharged
- Power@rpm 620hp@5750-7500rpm
- Torque@rpm 760Nm@3000-5750rpm
- Gearbox 8spd F1 dual-clutch
- 0-100km/h 3.4secs
- Top Speed >320km/h
- Fuel Economy 11.2l/100km
- CO2 255g/km