Less than 20 minutes after setting off, the answer is that the Roma is a very good Ferrari because in just a few miles it’s ticked all the important boxes. You’d never guess that it shares anything with the Portofino except maybe its flat-plane-crank V8, though even that feels utterly different in character.
The first clue that dynamically the Roma is going to be a bit special comes within a few metres. Getting the car off the flatbed transporter and pointing ourselves up the hills, all that comes through on small broken roads, is a soft, quiet pattering. A little further on, there’s some unavoidable, horribly broken asphalt and this also rolls beneath the Roma’s wheels with remarkably little fuss. But don’t go thinking that the Roma is some sort of lazy GT that has a chassis made of pudding, a coupe that has prioritised ride comfort above all else. As the day will prove beyond doubt, this ride quality is a result of superb wheel control and comes with satisfying dynamic precision rather than at the expense of it.
Rolling away, the steering weight felt a little light, but that was the last time I thought about the heft at the wheel, a sure sign that it’s very well judged. It feels connected right on centre, responsive to the smallest inputs, but it’s not jumpy, not overly bright. In no time at all the Roma feels direct and confident yet calm and refined.
Then you get to give the throttle a decent squeeze and the Roma picks up crisply and drives forward with all the thrilling eagerness you expect from a 600bhp, twin-turbo V8, which is something that couldn’t be said of the Portofino. Sure, the Roma is hauling nearly 100kg less, has about 20bhp more and the gearing of its lower ratios is around four per cent shorter but that combination doesn’t account for the dramatic difference in performance feel. Signs are that this is a proper driver’s Ferrari, so it all feels nicely set up for our day trip to the hills, with its changeable weather and demanding roads.
There’s no question that the Roma is the smoothest, most elegant production car from Ferrari in a decade, in style a successor to models such as the 550 Maranello. Initially shown in suit-like shades – silvers, greys and blacks – our test car is in Racing Green, a very unique (brave, even!), shade for a test car.
To classic, fastback GT proportions, Ferrari has added a sharklike nose with a version of the classic Ferrari ‘egg crate’ grille that looks like an original that’s been vinyl wrapped and then someone has punched the holes through with a thumb. Its rump is distinguished by the blade-like upper edge and four integrated taillights. It has some excellent angles but I was more wowed by the car on its reveal last year. I feel the more sombre colours suit it better. Having said that, on the road it looks stunning; it’s more dramatic in motion, especially when approaching, the bands of the daytime running lights lowering the sharp nose, its stance broad and planted, like it means business.
The Roma breaks with the current style in using the company’s aerodynamic expertise to hide the air management rather than show its working on the upper surfaces with vents and scallops, scoops and spoilers. On the flat underfloor behind the jutting front splitter are a pair of curved deflectors – vortex generators – that direct the air towards the sills and help smooth the wake from the wheels, while at the rear is a carbon fibre diffuser. The Roma’s muscular haunches are like those of the Jaguar F-type and it employs a similar active rear spoiler solution: a flip-up wing that is stowed flush until needed, its deployment triggered by speed and the Manettino setting for a medium or high downforce setting, neither of which adds greatly to drag. There’s no manual override.
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