In his early days as a manufacturer, Enzo Ferrari had no interest in building comfy sports coupes. He proudly built uncomfortable, no-nonsense race cars for gentlemen who wanted to take on the Mille Miglia. Ferrari’s hugely popular 250 series was a dominant force on the race tracks of Italy during the 1950s, but these rich gentlemen racers eventually wanted a Ferrari with a touch of luxury to go with the V12 performance.
When the 250 series came to an end in 1964, the classic race cars, such as the 250 Le Mans, 250 Monza, and the legendary 250 GTO were joined by the factory’s luxurious new Grand Tourers blessed with more aspirational names, such as GT Berlinetta (Italian for the little saloon), GT California and GT Lusso.
These stylish, comfortable cruisers with their leather, chrome and wood interiors were more at home in Monaco than Monza and famous owners included Clapton, Delon and McQueen. Classic V12 GTs such as the 365 GTB/4 Daytona and 612 Scaglietti followed with the first of the front-engine V8s arriving in 2009 with the revival of California.
Currently, there are three GTs in the Ferrari range, the entry-level Portofino M, the flagship 812 Superfast, and the mid-level Roma. Although based on the Portofino, the Roma is in fact 70% new and feels it. Putting out 611bhp with 561 pound-foot of torque from its 3.9 litres twin-turbocharged V8, the Roma is a real performer. The 0-100 km/h sprint is despatched in a mere 3.4 seconds; 0-200km/h takes 9.3 seconds and the 1570 kg (same kerb weight as a Focus RS) Roma can power on to a top speed of 320 km/h.
What these numbers don’t portray is just how nimble and usable the Roma is around town. Although at 4.6 metres, the Roma is the same length as the Portofino, F8 and 812 Superfast, the sculptured bonnet edges are far more visible from the driver’s seat than its stablemates. On Sheikh Zayed Road, you can slide into any gap you see with complete ease. In fact, the Roma, thanks to its eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is one of the nippiest cars we’ve ever driven – a real automotive pit bull terrier. It’s a GT that wants, and likes, to be driven like a race car.
Although Roma’s drivetrain is very much a current Ferrari, its exterior and interior designs are like no prancing horse before it. When the model launched in 2020 the fresh look penned by Ferrari’s Senior Vice President of Design, Flavio Manzoni, was a revelation, with original front and rear treatments that were a major departure from the styling language of the rest of the current stable. Ferrari describes the new look as La Nuova Dolce Vita – or ‘the new good life’, taking classic design traits from the original 250 Series, such as the slatted grill and the flowing coupe roofline.
Symmetrical structure: Ferrari’s new formal approach to the interior led to the creation of two driver and passenger safety cells, an evolution of the Dual Cockpit concept.
Designed specifically to entice a new breed of younger Ferrari owners, Roma’s interior does away with the analogue and has now become fully digital. The yellow tachometer still dominates the gauge cluster but now it’s part of a widescreen digital display. There’s also an 8.4-inch centre touchscreen that controls the climate and infotainment systems; a passenger touchscreen display, haptic steering wheel controls and a 5-position manettino dial that allows the driver to switch between wet, comfort, sport, race and ESC-off. Even the centre console gear selector (designed to look like Ferrari’s classic metal shift gate) only requires the gentlest of touches to engage. It may not be your classic Ferrari dash, but the Roma is, after all, aimed at owners who are new to the brand.
Ferrari estimates that 70% of buyers would be first-time customers – a younger, more adventurous demographic tempted over from their super salons and super SUVs to an agile, fun and digitally focussed grand tourer.