REVIEW: The Ferrari Roma is the most beautiful car the company has produced in decades — and it's a joy to drive

Matthew DeBord/InsiderThe Ferrari Roma is simply gorgeous.
  • The 2021 FerrariRoma is the newest prancing horse in Maranello’s stable, a gorgeous grand-touring car that costs just over $US200,000.
  • The coupé features a 3.8-litre, twin-turbocharged V8, making 611 horsepower, but also a cabin crammed with touchscreens, a design departure for Ferrari.
  • The Ferrari Roma is a modern masterpiece, thoroughly beautiful and blissful to drive.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

It isn’t hard to talk yourself out of absolutes.

I tell myself some cars are as lovely as Ferraris. Aston Martins. Jaguars. Even an Audi or a Maserati, every once in a while. Heck, Enzo Ferrari himself considered the Jaguar E-Type to be the most beautiful car ever designed.

This state of well-seasoned ignorance can persist for a while — usually, when I’m between Ferraris. But then along comes another prancing horse, and the unjustified, irrational absolute is restored. Sorry, every other car, but Ferraris just look the best. Absolutely.

Ferrari RomaMatthew DeBord/InsiderThe Roma is almost all new, with 70% of its components unique the car.

The latest evidence of this fact is the new Ferrari Roma, a grand-touring coupé that now represents the entry-level hardtop for Maranello. What we have here is a beauty so breathtaking, so thorough, and so sleekly rendered that words such as “timeless” enter the imagination.

When it comes to breathtaking beauty, Ferraris are special. But this Ferrari is more breathtaking than others. It takes your breath away and doesn’t want to give it back.

There were moments, during a gloriously sun-splashed jaunt up to Connecticut from my home in New Jersey, when I gazed upon the Roma situated against an impeccable autumn landscape, that I felt the rotation of the planet slow, as small creatures of the wood emerged in a time-warped frame to join me as I was enveloped by the car’s aesthetic power.

Overstatement aside, Ferrari doesn’t need to make its cars this pretty. Several years ago, annual sales were slated to rise from 7,000 vehicles a year to 10,000, and mission accomplished on that front. Ferrari sells every single vehicle it makes and could sell a lot more, so eternally and strategically undernourished is global demand.

But Maranello isn’t going to slap the badge on another few thousand same-old-same-old cars and make bank. Instead, Ferrari designers consider the thrown-down gauntlet of a beautiful challenge and they scoop it up. The jaw-dropping Roma is the result.

Ferrari RomaMatthew DeBord/InsiderThe coupé takes up an entry-level role, with the drop-top Portofino.

Ferrari’s objective was to create two clear product lines with the Roma, completely distinguishing the GT cars from the mid-engined sports cars such as the F8 Spider I sampled earlier this year.

Chief Design Officer Flavio Manzoni led the group effort in Maranello. “We had been wanting to create very formally pure Ferrari tourers for some time,” he told Ferrari magazine, the company’s in-house publication.

“Elegant, refined cars with lines kept as sober as possible and influenced as little as possible by the technical requirements,” he added.

Ferrari RomaMatthew DeBord/InsiderThe nose has a delicate, yet ferocious, design.

The Roma’s suave exterior can’t be neatly separated into thirds, but while the hood is fairly elegant, it isn’t as long as what we’d find with the 812 Superfast, Ferrari’s big V12-powered grand tourer. It’s compact and purposeful, and the arrangement allows the exceptional fascia to integrate fully with the flowing design.

And that front end truly is remarkable, with a simple — yet utterly captivating — gridded body colour grille defining the Roma’s face.

Ferrari RomaMatthew DeBord/InsiderThe head-turner is the gridded, body-colour grille.

The back-swept headlamps are bisected by LED running lights, and the carbon-fibre front spoiler is a straightforward, low curve that frames a wide scoop.

The minimalism is notable, but it isn’t an exercise in subtraction; rather, it helps the entire exterior design make sense, bumper to bumper.

Ferrari RomaMatthew DeBord/InsiderThe curved, fastback rear end is a study in smooth.

The rear end doesn’t fill out the final third of the Roma but takes its form from the curve of the roof, which continues through the backlight as a sort of convex fastback, culminating in a recessed, tail light to tail light swoosh that has an automatically deploying wing at its centre.

The quad exhaust ports are tucked beneath gentle swells in the rear haunches, giving the Roma’s rear track a powerful, athletic look that isn’t too wide. The effect is a car that looks as though it could literally turn on a dime.

Ferrari RomaMatthew DeBord/Insider‘Scuderia Ferrari’ is the company’s racing arm.

The Roma is supposed to evoke the legendary 250 GTs of the 1950s, and while you could say “mission accomplished” on that score, the car sets its own example. At first, it does resemble Astons and Jaguars, but when you zero in on the details and really consider the machine, it rapidly rises to the level of unique, and not just thanks to the unusual grille.

For me, picking up my test car in Manhattan before setting off on a drive north, I savoured some early thrills because the Roma was clad in an electric-blue paint job, and I love blue Ferraris — not that there’s anything wrong with red.

But my previous two prancing horses had been yellow, so I was ready for something a bit more subdued. And the truth is, the Ferrari of my dreams isn’t rosso, it’s blu.That colour also makes a better backdrop for the yellow Scuderia Ferrari badge on the Roma’s flanks (the Scuderia recalls Enzo’s original race-car workshop), as well as the yellow Ferrari badge on the hood.

Ferrari RomaMatthew DeBord/InsiderThe interior is a showcase for touchscreens.

Slip inside the interior — mostly black in my tester, with dollops of chrome, topstitching, and carbon-fibre judiciously applied, with faux suede injudiciously layered in — and it’s something of a whole new ball game for Ferrari.

Maranello has either smartly avoided the rush to build screens into every interface or lagged the rest of the auto industry. I count myself in the former camp, but our days are clearly numbered: the Roma is a screen-fest, by Ferrari standards.

Ferrari RomaMatthew DeBord/InsiderEven the Roma’s front-seat passenger gets a screen.

A mixed-success, in my view. For example, the famous red manettino selector switch for drive modes remains steering-wheel-mounted. But it now activates a selector screen. The start-stop button, also on the wheel, is touch-based.

The instrument cluster is all-digital. And the passenger has their own touchscreen to play around with.

Ferrari RomaMatthew DeBord/InsiderThe Instrument cluster still has the yellow tachometer, front and centre.

I didn’t much care for any of it, although the setup is fully functional and when I grew frustrated with aspects of the system, I could pivot over to Apple CarPlay, which has long been a feature for Ferraris, given that Apple vice-president Eddy Cue serves on Ferrari’s board.

Ferrari RomaMatthew DeBord/InsiderOverall, the interior is comfortable and open.

Being a “2+2,” the Roma has a kinda-sorta usable back seat, but it’s usable in the same way that a Porsche 911’s back seat is. Which is to say, not usable for grownups over trips that surpass a few minutes in duration.

The trunk is, by contrast, ideal for a weekend getaway’s worth of luggage.

Ferrari RomaMatthew DeBord/InsiderMany vehicle functions are controlled via the central touchscreen.

And that, ultimately, is what GTs are for: these are sophisticated, powerful cars that can travel over long distances at high speeds and carry enough gear for a few days.

A target customer is an affluent person who wants a ride that can transport a couple in blissful style and not at the posted speed limit.

Ferrari RomaMatthew DeBord/InsiderThe twin-turbo V8 supplies serious power.

Under the hood, we find a 3.8-litre, twin-turbocharged V8, making 611 horsepower and 561 pound-feet of torque, with the oomph sent to the back wheels through an eight-speed dual-clutch.

Ferrari has tuned the engine to serve up lag-less turbo torque, and it is a mighty impressive thing. I ended up preferring it to the slightly larger 710-horsepower V8 in the F8 Spider. The Roma is lustier, seemingly louder, but it’s possible that I’m in a front-engine mood these days.

Ferrari RomaMatthew DeBord/InsiderA clever ‘gated shifter’ design has been used for the gear selector.

A cool element is the adjunct gear selector on the centre console.

The Roma’s dual-clutch is engaged using the long, long column-mounted paddle shifters, but reverse and manual mode are controlled by this little console unit when has been cleverly designed to resemble a gated shift pattern from a bygone Ferrari that had a real stick-shift.

Ferrari RomaMatthew DeBord/InsiderWhat a looker!

At the conclusion of my two days with the Roma, I was smitten.Previously, I’d been an 812 guy. But the Roma won me over in a hurry.

What Ferrari did here is to create a car of monumental beauty that also embodies a new embrace of technology and still vacillates gracefully between high-speed comfort and extreme velocity wild-animal mode. The 0-60 mph dash is over in 3.5 seconds, and the Roma tops out at 200 mph.

At no point in exploring the torque curve or pushing the perfectly calibrated suspension to manage some back roads curves did the Roma even appear that it might break a sweat.

But trying to fluster such magnificence is hardly worth the effort. Instead, follow the Roma’s lead and allow it to be your performance tour guide. Above all, this car showcases Maranello’s wisdom, hard-earned and refined over the decades, on racetrack and roadways.

The starting price is around $US220,000, a lot by everyday measures, but … affordable in Ferrari World. My tester was well-optioned, with about $US90,000 in extras, but such is the honour of Ferrari ownership. You get to spend and spend and spend some more to possess the best.

Ferrari has squared a circle with the Roma. All the traditional values are present, from the snarling, burbling V8 to the edgy sense of slight danger that even seemingly calm highway drives serve up when you’re behind the wheel. But this Ferrari is also packed with technology, more than I’ve encountered in a Prancing Horse in the past six years.

Bravo, Ferrari! But they didn’t forget that beauty is the most important value of them all.


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