Somewhere in the West Midlands, Tobias Moers is pouring himself a stiff scotch. The new boss of Aston Martin – formerly MD at Mercedes-AMG – already faced an uphill battle. Now, the future for his ailing British brand looks even tougher.
The Ferrari Roma targets Aston Martin’s core constituency. Priced at £170,984, it nestles somewhere between V8 and V12 AMR versions of the DB11. It’s front-engined, luxurious and packed with cutting-edge tech. It’s also achingly beautiful and, well, looks a bit like a Vantage. If it drives as a Ferrari should, Tobias better make that whisky a double.
The 2+2-seat V8 Roma arrives hot on the tailpipes of the SF90 Stradale hypercar, but occupies the opposite end of the Ferrari spectrum. More blue-blooded grand tourer than red-blooded road racer, it sits alongside the Portofino convertible as the entry-point into the range. The starter Ferrari, if you will.
Drink in those classic GT proportions: long bonnet, muscular haunches and a compact cabin that rests almost atop the rear wheels. Design boss Flavio Manzoni describes it as “Formula One in evening attire”. Elegant and understated, with a pleasing lack of scoops and spoilers, the Roma suits sober colours: silver, grey and dark blue. The one exception, perhaps, is the vibrant Blu Corsa seen here.
I’m handed a chunky, leather-backed Ferrari badge that it turns out is a key. It’s perhaps the ultimate pub accessory – plonk this on the bar and everyone will know what you drive. Opening the frameless door, I settle into the sculpted seat. There’s room for small children to sit behind, but most owners will surely use the rear cabin as extra luggage space.
A drive selector on the centre console mimics Ferrari’s classic open-gate manual gearbox, while the rest of the interior is markedly modern. The driver display offers a choice of three modes, including a full-screen map. Frankly, though, having anything other than the digitised rev counter front-and-centre just feels wrong.
It all looks slick, but I’d prefer physical buttons to the plethora of touchpads. Thankfully, the “Ciao Ferrari” voice control works brilliantly.
The Roma is 70 percent new compared with the Portofino, but its 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 is closely related. The big numbers are 620hp, 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds and 199mph flat-out.
Its vocal range stretches from a bassy throb to a guttural roar, with pops from the tailpipes on over-run. Maranello proclaims ‘zero turbo lag’ and it never feels less than properly rapid, punching hard from low revs and soaring to a 7,500rpm crescendo.
The eight-speed gearbox is fantastic, too. Ferrari has dialled down the ‘thunk’ you feel in its supercars, so shifts are actually even quicker. There’s an automatic mode, of course, but you won’t be able to resist using the long, racer-style paddles.
On writhing country roads, the Roma feels finely balanced and alive with textured feedback. Its steering is calmer than, say, an F8 Tributo, but every detail of the tarmac permeates to your palms.
Oversteer is never less than a bootful of throttle away, though – and using the F1-style manettino dial can amplify this effect. There are five modes: Wet, Comfort, Sport Race and ESC-Off. Switch off the systems at your peril…
The Roma also rewards over long distances. Its ride is pliant, yet steadfastly resistant to roll. The blare of the V8 does get a bit monotonous at motorway speed and you’ll fit way more luggage in the (recently discontinued) Ferrari GTC4Lusso. Nonetheless, I can’t think of many more pleasurable – or more stylish – ways to drive across Europe.
Aside from a few qualms about the cabin, the Roma really is as good as it looks. It’s both a glamorous GT and a scintillating supercar.
If you’re after a Ferrari that ticks every box, all roads lead to Roma.
TOP SPEED: 199mph
CO2 G/KM: 255
MPG COMBINED: 25.2
Tim Pitt writes for Motoring Research