In celebration of the upcoming cinematic tribute to Scuderia Ferrari founder and Il Commendatore himself, Enzo Ferrari, I felt it my duty to get behind the wheel of one of Maranello’s’ latest and greatest. So let me introduce you to la bella Roma.
But first the movie. Unless you’ve been living a yurt in Tristan da Cunha, you’ll know that Ferrari, starring Adam Driver (House of Gucci) as Enzo, with Michael Mann (Miami Vice, Ali) doing the producing, opens at a cineplex near you on Christmas Day. I’m counting the hours.
Signore Ferrari, who passed away in 1988 at the ripe old age of 90, would have loved the Roma. When it was launched back in 2020, it marked a return to classic front-engined Ferrari grand touring V8 coupes.
Here is the successor to Ferrari’s Portofino folding hardtop roadster and, at around a quarter of a million bucks, essentially the first rung on the Ferrari ladder. A “starter” Ferrari no less.
As a lover of fine engines, Ferrari once said: “When you buy a Ferrari, you are paying for the engine. The rest you get for free.” I’m pretty sure he would have nodded in quiet appreciation of the Roma’s exquisite power plant.
Mounted well back under that curvy hood for near-perfect weight balance is a twin-turbocharged 3.9-liter V8, packing an impressive 612-horseys and 561 torques, that loves to shriek to its 7,500 rpm redline. It’s one of the great Ferrari engines.
It powers a car that has more curves than Gina Lollobrigida in her sultry prime, more tensed muscle than Chris Hemsworth in Thor. See it in the metal and there’s hardly a sharp edge or crease anywhere. From that thrusting shark-nose front end to the bulging rear haunches, to the swept-down roofline. Bellissimo.
It’s at the recent Monterey Car Week in California where Ferrari kindly offers the keys to this ever-so-subtle Grigio Medio-colored Roma. We have four hours—just long enough for a fast blast south along snaking Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur and the beloved Nepenthe coffee shop for cappuccino.
Slide into that fabulous rosso-red-and-black leather interior, gently squeeze the leather and carbon wheel, and gaze at that yellow-and-black Ferrari prancing horse badge in the center. Ahhhhh. As the t-shirt says, “Life is Good.”
It’s surprisingly spacious inside. Heck, there’s even a pair of rear seats. Not that anyone over the age of 10 will fit back there. But they fold flat and add to the luggage space. Pop the glass tailgate and there’s room for a couple of weekend-away bags.
One big disappointment here is that instead of some big red “Start” button on the center console, Ferrari has opted for a capacitive touch surface on the bottom of the steering wheel. It uses haptic feedback to recognize your thumb and offers about as much sense of occasion in firing-up that mighty V8 as turning on the radio in a Kia.
But ignite the motori, hear that soul-stirring bark from the exhaust, pull back on the oversized paddle shifter behind the wheel, and we’re rolling.
Along the winding, picturesque 17 Mile Drive with the crashing Pacific to the right, the Roma is a docile, relaxed, refined grand tourer, its eight-speed dual-clutch automatic shifting with oily smoothness.
But on to Highway 1, stomp on the throttle, and Dr. Jekyll becomes Mr. Hyde in a very short time. The sheer thrust as the Roma slingshots forward is beyond breathtaking, accompanied by a soundtrack matched only by Pavarotti hitting the high notes in “Nessun dorma.”
Select “Sport” or “Race” mode for the full fireworks that reveal the Roma’s true supercar persona. Hearing the V8 as it screams towards the red zone is aural magic.
And through Highway 1’s tight twists and turns, the Roma tracks on invisible rails no matter how hard you push. Yes, the steering, while laser precise, is a little too light in feel for my taste. But there’s an agility, a dynamism, and athleticism here that’s pure Ferrari.
What the Roma delivers is that glorious blend of relaxed grand tourer and heart-stopping supercar, all wrapped-up in a body that’s design perfection. Signore Ferrari would have approved.