For the past decade or so, Ferrari has been grappling with the burgeoning sub-$1m GT market.
In 2008, they pressed the 460hp California into service, but it was shy off the mark – even as the California 30, which has a 30hp bump in power.
So, in 2014 Ferrari pushed the power up to 560hp with the California T.
To further fortify their position, Ferrari launched the “entry-level” Portofino, which has a 600hp V8, in 2017.
Little did we know that Ferrari was preparing an additional GT coupe with a 620hp V8 called the Roma, which debuted at the end of 2019.
FERRARI ROMA: SVELTE AND SWOOPY
The Ferrari Roma is the Prancing Horse’s contender in the GT (grand tourer) segment. With it, the marque hopes to attract an even wider base of customers, and stymie the onslaught of sporty GT coupes from rivals such as Bentley, Porsche or BMW.
Ferrari may have had front-engine V12-powered coupes before, but they never had a proper front-engine V8 coupe.
Style-wise, the Ferrari Roma is a return to the svelte, swoopy Ferraris of the 1960s.
The Roma is a design masterstroke by Flavio Manzoni, for it looks sophisticated, fresh, and elegant. It is devoid of garish aerodynamic aids, yet generates up to 95 kilograms more downforce than the Portofino at 250km/h.
Ferrari aerodynamicists designed the flat-bottomed underbody with advanced vortex generators and rear diffusers to develop impressive downforce.
The only concession on the exterior is the three-position active rear spoiler. It rises from the closed position to the mid position when the car reaches 100km/h.
There is no pre-set speed for the spoiler to reach its highest position. Instead, this is triggered by cornering and braking forces. Once the Ferrari Roma crosses a pre-set g-force, the spoiler is deployed to generate downforce and maximise grip.
Indeed, even at over 300km/h, the spoiler remains in the middle position. This allows it to provide a better front-rear balance of downforce.
Also, Ferrari is very concerned about the Roma being seen “posing” around town with the spoiler deployed. So, there is no manual switch to activate the spoiler.
This ensures that the Ferrari Roma is relatively understated, while remaining a head-turner when it is just trundling through the city. More importantly, as it is an integral part of the Roma’s performance package, the engineers do not want anyone messing with it.
Key to the Ferrari Roma’s performance is the award-winning turbocharged 3.9-litre V8.
This latest version is reworked to deliver an extra 20PS for a total of 620PS, and it will be shared with the recently announced Portofino M (Modificata).
The V8 uses Ferrari’s Variable Boost management to deliver a tailored torque curve resembling a naturally aspirated engine’s, and this has convinced ferrarista that turbocharging is the way forward.
Deploying all 620PS in anger results in the tyres squealing and slithering for grip for the entire 3.4 seconds it takes to accelerate to 100km/h.
Zero to 200 km/h is accomplished in an impressive 9.3 seconds, and the Ferrari Roma has a top speed of over 320km/h. Some of this is due to the brawny V8 engine and some of it has to do with the new 8-speed DCT.
The latter has its origins in the SF90 Stradale, except now it has a mechanical reverse gear ratio instead of an electric one. It is also 6kg lighter than the 7-speed DCT.
Having an extra forward ratio means lower gear ratios (1st to 7th) for better acceleration, and a taller eighth gear for cruising.
Apart from being lighter than the 7-speed unit, the 8-speed DCT also delivers 23 percent snappier gearchanges. The maximum torque of 760Nm is only available in seventh and eighth gears.
There is a new particulate filter just aft of the catalytic converter to meet current emissions standards. This ends up further muting the exhaust roar, but the Roma has not completely lost the sense of occasion.
It is still a Ferrari after all, despite being a lot less “anti-social” than its stablemates.
FERRARI ROMA: SHARP AND INCISIVE
Unlike the Portofino, the Roma’s manettino has the “Race” setting, just like Ferrari’s extreme models.
Interestingly, the Roma’s Race setting is acceptably comfy. It is perhaps similar to the Sport setting on the F8 Tributo or 812 Superfast, while the Comfort setting is remarkably plush in the ride department.
The Ferrari Roma’s relatively small size is very welcome, as it is easier to place the car in the corners. Turn-in is sharp and the front axle resists understeer surprisingly well.
Though the steering is not as chatty as the F8’s, mid-corner grip is very strong and reassuring. While clearly capable of carving up the meandering roads, the Ferrari Roma’s strong suit is long-distance cruising.
The brakes take some acclimatisation as they utilise brake-by-wire technology. Initially, they seem a bit oversensitive, but their stopping power is potent and reassuring.
Brake-by-wire enables autonomous emergency braking, which enhances safety.
The interior is a huge departure from what we are accustomed to from Ferrari. If you think that Ferrari is high tech, the Roma is on another level.
Even the door opening lever has been replaced by a button that remotely unlatches the door. The Ferrari Roma even tries to be the “iPhone” of interiors, with the barest minimum of buttons. Touchscreens and touchpads are used whenever possible.
Is this a prelude to an all-electric future?
Overall, the Ferrari Roma is easy to drive and live with. But is that enough?
Its strength is that it is a Ferrari that attracts admiring glances instead of envious ones. It is not loud or brash, but understated and confident. Ferrari is gambling that a Ferrari without the obvious bells and whistles is what the market wants.
The Ferrari Roma certainly drives well enough to wear the badge, and it almost feels as comfortable rubbing shoulders at the Ritz as it does going to the neighbourhood supermarket.
It might well be the first true everyday Ferrari.
Ferrari Roma 3.9 (A)
ENGINE 3855cc, 32-valves, V8, twin-turbocharged
MAX POWER 612hp (456kW, 620PS) at 5700-7500rpm
MAX TORQUE 760Nm at 3000-5750rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 415.8hp per tonne
GEARBOX 8-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 3.4 seconds
TOP SPEED over 320km/h
CONSUMPTION 8.9km/L (combined)
PRICE EXCL. COE From $888,000 (after $20k VES surcharge)
AGENT Ital Auto
Click here to find out more about the Ferrari Roma
Or read our Ferrari Portofino review here
Head over here for our Ferrari F8 Spider review
Ferrari F8 Tributo/Spider named “Coolest Supercar” at Torque Honours 2020