Why Ferrari’s new Roma is sublime (and infuriating)

Entry level? The Roma feels nothing of the sort

At £170,984, the Roma sits at the more affordable end of Ferrari’s range. And, like the hugely popular 550 Maranello of the late-1990s, it represents a more usable and accessible kind of Ferrari, one that’s less intimidating and extreme than mid-engined machines like the F8 Tributo.

All of which is welcome news, but potentially misleading. Don’t be tempted to write the Roma off as somehow compromised or soft – this would be a mistake. Its 611bhp twin-turbo V8 is a thing of wonder; flexible, musical and ferociously fast. Its driver-assist electronics are Ferrari’s best, and Ferrari’s are the benchmark. And its chassis is brilliantly judged; responsive, agile and playful, yet accessible and all-day comfortable.

A truly beautiful contemporary Ferrari

Ferrari’s mid-engined supercars tend to be brutal and brooding rather than truly beautiful. By contrast the front-engined Roma is, like the Alps on a fine summer’s day, achingly pretty.

Design boss Flavio Manzoni is a master of plucking design details from Ferrari’s past and working them into its current cars (the LaFerrari’s front air intakes were inspired by the ‘Sharknose’ 156 Grand Prix car of the 1960s, for example). With the Roma, Manzoni’s taken that methodology the next level, creating a car that echoes past masterpieces like the 250 GT Lusso without feeling retro.

Sensational to drive

If to look upon the Roma is to start to fall in love, to drive the thing is to seal the deal. Turn-in is keen, despite the engine mounted ahead of you, and the front axle’s resistance to understeer impressive. Mid-corner grip is equally strong and reassuringly telegraphed, and the steering – fast, but a shade less hyperactive than the mid-engined F8’s – works with your brain to make all those tiny, almost imperceptible tweaks of line and attitude entirely subconscious. You’re aware only that you’re having an absolute blast.

Neither is the Roma a one-dimensional thrasher. You can go hard, of course. But, as befits the car’s grand touring remit, you can also relax, work the engine and excellent new paddleshift gearbox a little less often, go easier on the powerful brakes (the pedal is short of travel and sweetly calibrated) and use the car’s easy corner speed and slinky momentum to shrink cross-country distances.

It’s not perfect

The not-so-good news includes rear seats so small as to be almost entirely useless, more exhaust noise than some will consider acceptable in a GT and the uncomfortable truth that the more practical Porsche 911 Turbo S offers more performance for less money

The Roma also ‘enjoys’ Ferrari’s latest infotainment system, which debuted on the hybrid SF90 Stradale supercar. Though visually striking and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatible, it frustrates with its hit-and-miss touch sensitivity and lack of useful haptic feedback. To add insult to injury, the theatre of the old ‘Engine start’ button is gone, replaced with an infinitely less satisfying touch control on the steering wheel. This is not progress.

The Charles & Dean verdict

The Roma is the modern Ferrari we didn’t know we wanted, one that dials down the racetrack-focused aggression in favour of a more elegant and refined approach. Crucially, however, this remains a Ferrari through and through – searingly quick, thrilling to drive and hugely desirable.

Ferrari Roma: £170,984, 611bhp twin-turbo V8, 3.4sec 0-62mph, 199mph

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