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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 January 2021

Road testing the Ferrari Roma: the most affordable Ferrari on sale

The interior is all-new and offers a more luxurious feel

When you think of elegant, graceful GTs, names such as Bentley and Aston Martin spring to mind, but Ferrari? Not so much.

Ferrari has long been considered too bold and brash to take on the more graceful GT brigade, and while a few have warmed to the GTC4Lusso, it’s never been front of mind. But that’s about to change with the gorgeous new Roma.

Questionable styling of the grille aside, there’s more good news if you’re in the market – the Roma is also the most affordable Ferrari on sale, with prices starting at Dh898,000.

Modern styling

Designed in-house by Flavio Manzoni, the Roma shares its 2,670mm wheelbase with the Portofino convertible, but has a touch more overhang, so is 71mm longer, 36mm wider, 18mm lower and 103kg lighter.

While it has unmistakably classic lines that pay homage to Ferrari’s earliest front-engined production cars, such as the 250GT Berlinetta of 1956 and the 250GT 2+2 of 1960, Roma also introduces us to some modern styling cues we will see on future Ferraris.

New to the company’s design language, and seen for the first time here, are the slimline headlights and taillights, which break with tradition as the Roma is the first Ferrari since the 348 of 1989 to not have round taillights. Additionally, Manzoni’s desire to keep the Roma's tail low and devoid of fixed wings, required the development of an active spoiler that sits below the rear window.

Powerful output

It has settings comprising Low, Medium and High Downforce with Low sitting flush with the rear window while High has the wing at a 135-degree angle, generating 95kg of downforce at 250kph with a 4 per cent increase in drag. In the Mid setting, the spoiler develops 30 per cent of maximum downforce with a 1 per cent increase in drag.

Roma has a shark-like nose that’s aided by a lengthy front carbon-fibre splitter, which feeds air underneath through a pair of vortex generators along the floor so that it develops more downforce over the front axle than the Portofino.

The 3.9-litre, twin-turbo V8 from the Portofino has been tweaked thanks to the need to add particulate filters to the exhausts to meet future C02 regulations. Normally this saps power, but the Scuderia has snatched back 620hp – 21 more than the Portofino – at 7,500rpm, making it the most powerful engine in its segment.

Unfortunately, the filters rob the Roma of a fitting exhaust note under normal conditions as it softly slips about town, but it does include a set of bypass valves that open up to go around the silencers for the full aural effect on the open road and on cold starts.

It also uses a similar dual-clutch auto transmission, though the Roma has eight speeds to the Portofino’s seven and features a lighter clutch that’s 20 per cent smaller, yet can withstand 35 per cent more torque.

Luxury interiors

The interior is all-new and offers a more luxurious feel. A curved 16-inch high-definition instrument screen dominates the driver’s view, while the passenger gets an 8.8-inch screen in front of them above the glove box, and there’s also a centre-mounted, 8.4-inch portrait-format touchscreen that carries most of the ancillary functions.

Thankfully, the beautifully engineered Manettino rotary switch remains on the steering wheel to give a proper, weighted click between the car’s performance settings, but is one of the very few hard switches left inside.

Missed touches

Sadly the big red Start button on the wheel has made way for a capacitive touch switch that you press once for the ignition and again to start.

Firing up a Ferrari used to be such an emotional connection between human and machine, but now it’s no more involving than opening an app on your smartphone.

Additional touch control switches for lights and exterior mirror adjustment are located in a pod beside the steering wheel and the transmission is controlled by switches in the centre console that recalls the iconic Ferrari metal shift-gate.

Sporty spirit

Unlike the more sporting Ferraris, on the road the Roma doesn’t tempt you to chase and pass every other car; much like the Portofino, it’s a pleasant cruiser as the eight-speed box is so smooth it shifts almost seamlessly through the gears.

Plant the foot, though, and the turbos instantly spool up and the Roma changes persona on a dime. Revving out to 7500rpm, the gearbox now feels closer to one you’d imagine F1 drivers would recognise as it delivers a pop on each change.

It’s possibly easier to get into trouble with the Roma than other Ferraris as you don’t expect it to wind out like it does, whereas with the more focused sports cars, well, that’s what you’re there for.

It took until December, but Roma is the surprise package of 2020. It delivers all the hallmarks we except from Ferrari, but in a package that’s ready to take on the Aston Martin Vantage, Mercedes-Benz AMG GT and even the Porsche 911 Turbo.

Updated: December 16, 2020 11:46 PM

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