2021 Ferrari Roma Review: A Truly Elegant Athlete
Unveiled at the tail end of 2019, the Ferrari Roma looked less like it rolled off a production line and more like it stepped out of a time machine.
With its sleek, 60s-inspired styling, this grand tourer looks like nothing else on sale today. Whereas most Ferraris released over the last decade dazzle with their flamboyance, the Roma stuns with its sheer elegance. It's the type of car you almost don't need to drive to enjoy. It's pure eye candy.
Of course, the Roma doesn't deliver flash without some fire. A front-mid-mounded twin-turbocharged V8 lives under its long hood, making a stout 612 horsepower, allowing for a run to 60 mph of 3.4 seconds and a top speed of over 200 mph. It may present like a tame GT, but those are flat-out supercar figures.
The main question then, as I began my time with the 2021 Ferrari Roma, was simple: it may look like a GT, but is it? A blast up an empty canyon road reveals that while its stylish lines may belong on a James Bond film set, the Roma is far from just a plush mile-munching machine. It's comfortable and almost subtle in daily traffic, but as the speed picks up, it reveals its properly athletic nature.
In Ferrari's words, the Roma represents "la nuova dolce vita," meaning "the new sweet life." It's a play on the 1960 Italian film "la dolce vita," which sees a journalist exploring the glitz and glamour of late 50s Rome over seven nights and its many dark sides. It perfectly encapsulates the era of opulence that inspired Roma's styling and name.
However, it's easy to spot this GT's source of inspiration, even without knowing its movie connection. There's not a hard crease or sharp edge anywhere on this car. Its sleek lines drape over its bodywork rather than cut through it. Ferrari cites cars like the 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso and 250 GT 2+2 as sources of inspiration, but the 275 GTB and 250 Europa GT also come to mind.
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It may represent a new take on a bygone era, but the Roma is still a modern car, so it has to conform to current crash and safety standards, limiting how far its designers could go in pursuit of its classic aesthetic. Its radar sensor nestled within its lower front grille is an excellent example of a blemish that detracts from its sleek vibe, but rewards with sought-after tech like adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist.
In the rear, quad tail lights and exhaust tips pay homage to its 60s forbearers but do so in a surprisingly subtle way. The only modern supercar-esque touch on the Roma's exterior is its sizable carbon-fiber rear diffuser and active rear spoiler. Although to keep this subtle aero element low-key, engineers hid it just above the trunk lid. 20-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels live on all four corners and offer yet another distinctly modern touch.
Sat just above the Portofino M but below the Ferrari F8 Tributo, the Roma is technically the brand's "entry-level" fixed-roof coupe, if we can even call a $311,647 2+2 that. It counts on a 612-hp and 561 lb-ft of torque version of the carmaker's ubiquitous 3.9-liter twin-turbocharged V8, which outputs all of its power to the rear wheels. It does so through an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission that debuted in the SF90 Stradale, albeit tuned slightly differently.
Around town, the Roma is surprisingly subtle. With peak torque starting at 3000 rpm, it doesn't need to rev high for quick blasts of acceleration. In automatic mode, its DCT often elects to stay in top gear, despite added demands from the gas pedal. We have the Roma's variable boost management system to thank for this, as it limits torque as you click up through the gears. Once this GT steadily cruises in its seventh or eighth gear, the system allows it to develop full torque, reducing the need for lower gears when overtaking.
Lag from its pair of twin-scroll turbochargers is almost non-existent, thanks mainly to their smaller turbines. These allow them to spool up quicker, resulting in a V8 that's plenty responsive at speed. Around town, however, the Roma's power delivery is surprisingly smooth, and with its DCT's daily-driving friendly tuning, it moves through its gears as imperceptible as a luxury land yacht. It may be at home during long highway runs in top gear, but the Roma is more than up to daily driving duties.
Switch out of comfort and into either sport or race mode, and the Roma sheds its aura of calm elegance, serving up a quick reminder of its supercar-like performance figures. Its DCT transforms, ripping shifts almost instantaneously, all while delivering a stern kick to your back. Its V8 becomes eager to rev, even in automatic mode, topping out at 7,500 rpm. However, you'll want to click into manual mode to experience the Roma at its most responsive. Like all modern cars of this caliber, the Roma is outrageously quick, pushing the boundaries of what's explorable on public roads.
Hit some bends, and the optional magneride suspension system dials out body roll well and keeps the Roma planted. It's a dual-mode system with the marque's well-known "bumpy road" mode for imperfect surfaces. However, to further aid this GT's stability, the Italian carmaker included its latest Side Slip Control 6.0 system controlled by a five-position manettino on its steering wheel. The result is a sports car that never steps out. Regardless of how hard you push, the modes lend a helping hand in keeping the Roma shiny side up.
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Ferrari claims a 3,461-lb curb weight figure, but you'd be hard-pressed to tell in the bends. With sticky Michelin tires and its front-mid engine layout pushing its center of mass inward, the Roma's front end is properly agile. It's eager to turn in and rewarding to hustle up a back road. Despite being advertised as a GT, I can't confidently claim you'd be quicker up a canyon road in an F8 Tributo, the Roma is a proper athlete in its own right.
Its electric power steering is far from talkative but outrageously precise. What the system gives up in terms of feel, it makes up for in weighting and directness. Around town in comfort mode, however, it's still light enough for effortless maneuvers but weighs up nicely in Sport and Race when needed.
Like all modern Ferraris, the Roma gets carbon-ceramic brakes as standard. They're 390 mm in the front and 360 mm in the rear, identical to those found in the Portofino M and slightly smaller than the 398 mm fronts and identical rears that stop the F8 Tributo. Although they don't provide as much feedback as McLaren's mechanical system, pedal travel is short, with firm resistance. They're challenging to modulate around town, with a bit of a light-switch attitude, but behave almost perfectly on a canyon run.
A common criticism the 488 GTB received when it debuted following the sublime 458 Italia surrounded its exhaust note. Even the F8 Tributo I tested in 2021 was surprisingly subtle, despite wearing flashy blue paint. The Roma is a different story. Its exhaust delivers proper throaty V8 noises without many of the whooshy turbo sounds associated with modern supercars. Although it's still a bit quiet from the driver's seat, the Roma puts on quite the show for onlookers as you drive by.
The 2021 Ferrari Roma's stylishness continues in its spacious cabin. It makes a clear departure from the exterior's 60s-inspired styling, but it's tastefully modern. There's plenty of headroom, enough for someone taller than six feet, with plenty of width to remain comfortable on longer drives. A prominent center console divides the driver and passenger cells creating a clear separation, marked in my tester's case by a thin line of Rosso Ferrari-colored leather.
A pair of optional Daytona-style front and rear seats offer plenty of adjustability for the sides, thighs, leg support, and lumbar. It's straightforward to dial in an ideal driving position, making it easy to settle in for longer stints behind the wheel.
Ergonomics aside, the interior's centerpiece is its cluster of screens. My tester included three, a 16-in digital instrument cluster, an 8.4-in vertical infotainment screen in the center, and a separate 8.4-in passenger display. The cabin features few physical buttons, swapping them for capacitive touch surfaces with a relatively high learning curve.
For example, to start the Roma, you don't get a bright red switch somewhere in the cabin. Instead, it's a haptic feedback surface on the wheel that only lights up when the key is nearby. The same goes for the infotainment controls, which vanish until summoned. While this is a welcomed touch to avoid accidental presses during spirited drives, the system is laggy and cumbersome at best. Sometimes the buttons are slow to appear, and they downright refuse to work in other cases.
Plug in your iPhone and the Roma greets you with its over $4,000 optional Apple Car Play system. Android Auto connectivity is not yet available from Ferrari. However, as the system boots up your phone, it pushes your tachometer and other menu screens, taking up most of the 16-in clusters screen real estate. Switching back to it requires a few swipes of the not-so-responsive touch surfaces, which sometimes makes the whole experience a bit frustrating.
Its center infotainment screen is better, but not great. It also lacks a bit of responsiveness and tends to lag occasionally. This main display controls vital functions such as seat adjustments, navigation, phone connectivity, and HVAC settings, making it sometimes tough to operate. Thankfully the passenger display to the right of the center console is spectacular. It's responsive, bright, and offers elegant graphics.
The 2021 Ferrari Roma starts at $243,358. However, my tester and its optional extras, such as its carbon fiber elements, sport exhaust, and magneride suspension, comes in at $311,647. At this price point, its direct competitor is the $220,000 Aston Martin DB11 and the $274,000 Bentley Continental GT Speed.
Given how deep these three contenders dip into the six-figure range, value hardly separates them. Instead, it'll come down to aesthetics, performance, and luxurious features. Having driven all three, the Aston Martin is stylish in a modern context, while the Bentley is more plus luxurious than anything else. This leaves the Roma as the most athletic of the bunch and the closest to a proper supercar.
The Ferrari Roma is cuck full of surprises. Judging by its exterior styling, it comes across as a stylish 60s-inspired cruiser. Perfect for a highway run or a daily commute with all of the creature comforts we've all come to expect from modern cars. However, that's only half the story. On a back road, the Roma seemingly sheds its grand tourer skin and turns into a proper supercar fighter. With its agility, composure, and outrageous power, it's far from tame.
It's not perfect, of course. Some of its tech will need significant revisions, especially since a $311,647 GT likely has a buyer that's spent more than a few decades in the workforce to be able to afford it. If I had to guess, future revisions are bound to work out these kinks. As an overall package, however, the Roma questions why you'd need a mid-engined supercar. It plays both roles beautifully. And if I'm honest, its performance is far from its most impressive trait. I'd be content just staring at it for a while.
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