I Heard a Roma [COTY2020] : 2021 Ferrari Roma Drive [review]

By davidkhoo, 11 February 2021

Singapore - As far as the Ferrari Roma is concerned, it was love in the first degree for us, although I’m pretty sure these are about all the Bananarama references you can handle!

If you haven’t been following the ‘saga’, the Roma is a classically-proportioned front-engine/rear-drive (or FR for short) fastback coupe that takes its design cues from Ferrari’s elegant 2+2 grand tourers of the 1960s.

We were already smitten with the Roma since its 2019 global preview in Rome (where else?!), although that seems like a lifetime ago.

(Click HERE to read about the preview of the Ferrari Roma)

More recently, the Roma was brought into Singapore for a closed-door preview mid-2020, where we had the opportunity to enjoy a more intimate session with the car.

If ever there was such a thing as a ‘low-key’, flash-free Ferrari, the Roma has to be it. The bold, yet minimalist lines are masterfully understated, with a well-toned musculature that isn’t embellished by over-styled, try-too-hard elements, yet retain a flavour that is indubitably Ferrari.

Like the other modern Ferraris, the Roma can be specified without the distinctive ‘Cavallino Rampante’ shields on its fenders (as our test-car was) should the owner crave even more anonymity.

(Click HERE to read our introduction to the 2020 Cars of the Year – Singapore-Style)

Let’s tackle the elephant in the room first: classically-styled FR coupes like the AMG GT, Aston Martin Vantage and Jaguar F-Type are bound to share certain similarities in their silhouettes, but the differences are in the nuances and execution of details.

The Roma’s shark-nose, fresh grille design and powerful, wide bonnet that flows elegantly into the car’s wings endow it with an air of quiet competence.

From the rear, the pert rump is short and powerfully stanced with beautifully developed rear haunches, with just a small concession for a series of minimalist ‘dashes’ that serve as tail-lights. Otherwise, it’s an exercise in styling restraint without recourse to superfluous aero addenda.

There’s also a speed sensitive active aero roof spoiler that sits in three positions depending on downforce required, but the default is ‘Low Drag’ as it sits flush against the rear screen to preserve the Roma’s elegant silhouette.

Die-hard tifosi may find it hard to forget Pininfarina’s speed-sculpted objects of breathtaking automotive art, but with the Roma, Ferrari’s in-house Centro Stile has worked with the Aerodynamics department to successfully create a tightly-packaged coupe that marries 60s nostalgia with modern design cues and more importantly, aerodynamic performance.

Although the Roma sits within the V8 GT family by birth and in function (the V8 GTs sit below the V8 Sportscars, which include the mid-engined/rear-drive F8 Tributo / F8 Spider), there’s a decidedly keen, sporting edge to it that will take your breath away the moment you turn a wheel in anger, especially when you find yourself twirling it to dial-in some opposite lock.

It’ll GT as well as the next GT (with golf-bag or an additional three occupants in tow), but it’ll also wag its tail playfully on-demand all-day every-day, thanks to the agile chassis, responsive steering and 760Nm hit of furious turbo’d torque.

There’s a solid sense of properly precise sportscar weighting to the Roma’s paddle-shifters, steering and pedals, which perfectly complements the V8’s authoritative thrust of acceleration as you power through the whip-crack of each upshift.

The Roma is a delightfully fluid handler with just the right amount of rambunctiousness to keep things entertaining. It may not be as twitchy as its mid-engined/rear-drive bigger siblings, but will respond to steering inputs with an incisiveness that’ll see the 1.6-tonne coupe dive eagerly into the corners.

If you’re familiar with the interior interface of current Ferraris right up to just before the SF90, you’ll need to reacquaint yourself with the Roma’s cabin, which takes its digital cues from the latter.

Most of the controls fall readily to hand, but Ferrari really pushes the digital agenda with the Roma.

A vivid, 16-inch curved multi-function digital instrument cluster and oversized 8.4-inch centre touchscreen HD display complement the optional 8.8-inch passenger touchscreen display for an immersive, all-digital onslaught.

The transmission console is reminiscent of Ferrari’s trademark open-gate shifters from its era of manual transmission cars, with levers to toggle between various gear selections of the SF90-derived eight-speed F1 dual-clutch gearbox. The brand has also transitioned to haptic touch-pads for certain functions, such as the lights and to cycle between the various displays on the main cluster.

Don’t be fooled by the digitalised cabin though, because the Roma is a refreshing, back-to-basics throwback to an analogue era of drive experiences, which focuses on satisfyingly ‘feelsome’ fun, as opposed to chasing increasingly ludicrous 0-100km/h straight-line times.

In the segment the Roma operates in, we reckon there’re still owners who like to get out and drive to properly explore its real-world limits on the winding roads, and not just blitz from one traffic light to the next.

Frankly, once the 0-100km/h times drop below 3.5secs, it becomes largely academic and is better relegated as a statistic for boorish bar-room oneupmanship, or left to the models further up in the brand’s hierarchy to deal with, because the reality is those cars need to constantly push the envelopes of performance to maintain their place in the supercar pantheon.

It’s great that thoroughbred sportscar brands like Ferrari are taking a step-back from swopping ever-faster 0-100km/h times – great for the ‘gram, but pretty meaningless to driving enthusiasts who are more concerned with driving engagement.

With 620hp and 760Nm on tap, the V8 is a predictably boisterous beast that requires judicious use of the throttle to manage.

To our minds, such deliberation helps differentiate a proper driver’s car from a merely fast car, because if you haven’t realised, fast and fun can be mutually exclusive concepts.

It’s also cool that Ferrari has given the Roma the five-stage Manettino setting of its sportier brethren (like the F8 and 812 for instance), so ‘Race’ mode is finally on the menu with its reduced stability intervention.

And a good thing too, since Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer (or FDE for short, a lateral dynamic control system) comes alive only in Race, which is incidentally where we spent many a happy hour during our time with the Roma.

FDE made its debut with the 488 Pista (Click HERE to read our First Drive of the Ferrari 488 Pista), but has since found its way into such models as the F8 (Click HERE to read our First Drive of the Ferrari F8 Tributo) and now the Roma. The system brakes one or more wheels not as a nanny-aid to rein you in, but to create a progressive breakaway when you’ve roused the car’s fun-end.

This means that holding a slide becomes more predictable for less experienced drivers, but you’ll still have to work at correcting it – you even get to look heroic in the process without the wildly flailing arms and white-knuckled death grip on the steering wheel.

The Roma isn’t intended to replace or rival its harder-edged Sportscar siblings, but to complement them on the days you prefer to keep things on the down-low. It’ll allow you to cover ground at a tremendous pace, but there’s also plenty of feeling to go with the real-world ferocity.

The Roma is priced at just under S$888k without COE, but with some standard options, which enables it to tackle everything from the Vantage to 911 Turbo and to a lesser extent, Huracan and R8 in-between... except of course, you’ll be getting a Ferrari.

PHOTOS Zotiq Visuals

Ferrari Roma
Engine 3855cc, V8, turbocharged
Power/rpm 620hp/5750-7500rpm
Torque/rpm 760Nm/3000-5750rpm
Transmission 8spd F1 dual-clutch
0-100km/h 3.4secs
Top Speed >320km/h
Kerbweight 1570kg
Fuel Consumption 11.2l/100km
CO2 255g/km

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