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Hugo Boss Or Valentino Couture?

The Ferrari Roma Verdict By Resident Contributor Andre Lam.

In 2008 Ferrari launched the California as an entry-level model to counter the GT models from marques like BMW, Mercedes, Bentley and even Porsche. The 460 hp coupe-convertible was off the mark so in 2014 Ferrari upped the power to 560 hp by turbocharging the V8 in the California T hoping that would fix it.

In 2017, Ferrari completely redesigned the entry-level coupe-convertible to come up with the Portofino, powered by a 600 hp turbocharged V8 but that was not all. Ferrari was actually planning a double feature with an additional GT coupe with a 620 hp V8 called the Roma.

Ferrari may have had V12 front-engined coupes and V8 coupe-convertibles before but they never had a proper front-engined V8 coupe. Obviously, Ferrari felt this was necessary because a coupe is perceived as more serious and commands more respect among aficionados.

Flavio Manzoni is Ferrari's Design director for good reason. The Roma is a masterstroke in styling, a return to the svelte, swoopy Ferraris of the 1960s. It appears very sophisticated, fresh and elegant and generates up to 95kgs more downforce than the Portofino at 250 km/h, without unsightly aerodynamic aids.

This is because most of the downforce is generated underneath the car. Ferrari aerodynamicists have given the flat-bottomed underbody advanced vortex generators and rear diffusers to develop impressive downforce. The only concession on the exterior is the 3-position active rear spoiler that rises from the closed position to the mid position when the car reaches 100 km/h.

To trigger the rear spoiler into max-position requires cornering force or braking force, not speed. In their infinite wisdom Ferrari engineers decided that over 300 km/h the spoiler always stays in the middle position as it provides a better balance of downforce front to rear.

There is no manual switch for the rear spoiler as it an integral part of the Roma's performance package and there is no messing with it. Besides Ferrari does not wish for the Roma to be like a peacock prancing ridiculously around town with the spoiler in the max upright position at the traffic lights. This way the Roma remains understated as designed but is still a head-turner while it is just trundling through town.

Key to the Roma's performance is Ferrari's award-winning turbocharged 3.9-litre V8. This latest version has a 20 hp boost to 620 hp and it will be shared with the recently announced Portofino M (Modificata). Should you deploy all 620 hp during a standing start, the tyres will be squealing and slithering for grip for the entire 3.4 seconds it takes to accelerate to 100 km/h. 

In just a tick under 6 more seconds, the Roma will pass the 200 km/h mark and on a long enough stretch, it will reach a top speed over 320 km/h. Managing all this power is a new 8-speed DCT that has its origins in the SF90 Stradale except now it has a mechanical reverse gear ratio instead of an electric one and is lighter than the 7-speed one by 6 kg. The extra gear ratio means lower gear ratios (1st to 7th) for better acceleration and a tall 8th gear for cruising. 

Shifts are also 23 percent quicker, and surprisingly the Roma is perfectly happy to cruise with just 1000 rpm on the tacho. So it can be very aggressive in Race mode or placid in Comfort mode. There are 760 Nm of torque available but they are only delivered in 7th and 8th gear. This turbocharged V8 uses Ferrari's Variable Boost management to deliver a trimmed torque curve resembling a naturally-aspirated engine and this has convinced ferrarista that turbocharging is the way forward.

Unlike the Portofino, Roma's manettino has the Race setting just like Ferrari's more extreme models. Interestingly, the Roma's Race setting is acceptably comfy, perhaps similar to the Sport setting on the F8 or 812, whereas the Comfort setting is remarkably plush in the ride department. There is a new particulate filter just aft of the catalytic converter to meet current emissions standards. This further mutes the exhaust roar, but the Roma has not completely lost the sense of occasion. It is a Ferrari after all but the Roma is a lot less anti-social than its stablemates.

The compact size of the Roma is very welcomed as it is easier to place the car in the corners. Its turn-in is sharp and the front axle resists understeer surprisingly well. Though the steering is not as chatty as the F8, mid-corner grip is very strong and reassuring. While clearly capable of carving up the meandering roads, its strong suit is long-distance cruising.

Initially, the brakes feel a tad sensitive and will need some acclimatisation. Ferrari is using brake-by-wire technology because it allows for autonomous emergency braking ability to enhance safety. Ultimately the stopping power is potent and reassuring.

On the inside, there are big changes, a huge departure from what we are accustomed to from Ferrari. If you think that the Ferraris by far are high tech, the Roma is on the next level. Even the door opening lever has been replaced by a button that electrically unlatches the door. This Roma is trying to be the iPhone of interiors with the barest minimum of buttons and wherever possible touch screen or touch pads to execute commands. It is nothing like previous Ferraris but perhaps this is a prelude to an all-electric future?

Here is a Ferrari that does not attract envious glances but rather admiring ones, it is not loud and brash but understated and confident. Ferrari is gambling that a Ferrari without the obvious bells and whistles is what the market wants. It certainly drives better than the Portofino and it feels as comfortable rubbing shoulders at the Ritz as it does going to the neighbourhood supermarket. Is there a place for a practical everyday Ferrari? We think so because some prefer Hugo Boss over Valentino couture.

  • Car Ferrari Roma
  • Engine: 3855cc, Twin-Turbo V8
  • Transmission: 8-Speed F1 DCT
  • Power: 620 PS at 5750 to 7500 rpm
  • Torque: 760 Nm at 3000 to 5750 rpm
  • 0-100 km/h: 3.4 seconds
  • Top Speed: over 320 km/h
  • Fuel Consumption: TBC

​Visuals: Ferrari