2021 Ferrari Roma First Test Drive: Meet the Best Everyday Ferrari
When the Portofino isn’t quite right, head to Roma.
LONG BEACH, California—You know how when you find a great pair of jeans, you buy another pair (or four) because you know you're basically going to live in them? Well, if you're in the market for a new tailor-made grand-touring sports coupe, don't try the 2021 Ferrari Roma—or if you do, make sure you have at least two empty garage spaces. You're going to want more than one.
Maybe you're a dressier type, swapping denim for Italian silk or Scottish wool. Whatever your closet looks like, the Roma will complement everything in it. Baseball cap and t-shirt? You'll look like a billionaire out for a low-key lunch. Power suit? An executive on a mission. A snorkel and a cowboy hat? That's pretty weird—but did you see that car?
2021 Ferrari Roma Test: Looking at It
Stunning is the single best word to describe the Roma's exterior. Whether it reminds you of the legendary Ferrari Daytona or the sensuously styled 550 Maranello—Ferrari itself references the 250 GT Lusso as an influence—it's clearly a Ferrari, and one that leans on the best styling and proportions of front-engine Ferraris past. In traffic, at the mini-mart, parked for photos, wherever you go with the Roma, people will stare, give the thumbs-up, and often strike up a conversation, moved to express their joy in the Roma's beauty even to a complete—and presumably upper-crust—stranger.
The Roma's sleek, flowing surfaces meet classical proportion and a minimum of visual fuss in perfect harmony. The oh-so-low headlights and front end seem legislatively unlikely these days, and the grille has a hint of Bertone to it, a subtle yet off-beat detail that gives the Roma just a dash of fun, in addition to being smartly engineered to allow adequate airflow despite the largely closed design.
If that sounds remarkable for what is, effectively, the one-step-above-entry-level Ferrari, well, it is. The Portofino, the ostensible "starter" Ferrari, is no slouch, but the Roma is clearly a cut above. The Roma looks, feels, and drives much more like a hybrid of Ferrari's mid-engine V-8 sports cars and its V-12 grand-touring formula.
The 2021 Ferrari Roma's cabin, likewise, feels like a mishmash of the driver-focused nature of the marque's sports cars and the long-haul comfort of the larger GTs. There is a great balance of duties shared between the driver's steering-wheel-touchpad-controlled instrument-panel display, the passenger's dash-mounted strip-style display, and the portrait-orientation central display. The cockpit buttons are all touch-sensitive now, but Ferrari replaced the tactile feedback of a mechanical switch with haptic and auditory feedback. Even the side-mirror adjuster is touch-based. It takes a little getting used to, but it works great.
If the exterior of the Blu Corsa example of the Roma I test drove needed any help in selling its $332,001 as-configured price tag (it doesn't), it would get the final shove across the line thanks to the cabin. Equipped with a leather headliner ($4,219), contrast stitching ($759), Prancing Horse logo-stitched headrests ($1,266), color-matched mats with logo ($1,266), electrically adjustable seats (included!), a carbon-fiber steering wheel ($5,062), carbon-fiber upper center-tunnel trim ($1,687), carbon-fiber dashboard inserts ($4,725), door-sill kick plates in carbon fiber ($2,025), the trick passenger display ($5,906), an excellent stereo system ($6,243), and Apple CarPlay ($4,219), the Roma has all of the comfort, style, and connectivity you need, whether running to the gourmet (is there any other kind?) cheese shop or toward the horizon.
2021 Ferrari Roma Test: Driving It
If you're all about the performance, you might be inclined to dismiss the Roma out of hand as one of Ferrari's "lifestyle" products, rather than a serious performance car, but that'd be a mistake. As much as the Roma is a great lifestyle car, it's also a great sports/grand-touring coupe, and a fair bit friskier than expected.
For one thing, it's the first of Ferrari's GT cars to get the underbody front-vortex generators it typically applies to its sports car line, to generate greater front downforce with minimal drag. At the rear, the functional carbon-fiber diffuser ($11,812) is aided by a dynamic spoiler mounted at the bottom of the rear window. It's also the first Ferrari GT to get Ferrari's Race mode on its steering-wheel-mounted, five-position manettino controller.
Under the hood, mounted in a front-mid-engine configuration, is Ferrari's 3.9-liter, twin-turbo V-8 engine, good for 611 horsepower and 560 lb-ft of torque, mated to Ferrari's new eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, also found in the new SF90 plug-in hybrid hypercar. On top of sounding better than any other turbocharged V-8 I've ever heard, and revving to the moon (peak power all the way up to 7,500 rpm!), the Roma's engine combines the ability to pull with monstrous and immediate ferocity with the ability to glide with no perceptible effort. When you're not right-foot-down, there's only the most melodious, barely perceptible burble from its tailpipes—all without need to futz with a single button. It just figures it out.
Ferrari put an emphasis on performance (minus the concern for lap times) in the Roma, cherry-picking items from its mid-engine sports car range as well as its top-tier hybrid. But all of the fancy tech aside, how does it feel to a flesh-and-blood human driver? Like a Ferrari from another era, actually, aside from the exceptionally quick and feelsome steering.
In Sport and Race modes, the traction- and stability-control systems are increasingly permissive, but both reveal some of the Roma's tendency toward power-on oversteer and its rather neutral chassis setup, making for tidy corner entries and cautiously optimistic exits. But despite the fundamentally sound and engaging dynamics, the Roma, unlike most other cars that share its performance envelope, is an eminently comfortable continent crosser, as any good GT should be. Overall, it strikes an incredible balance on the sporty side of grand touring.
How does the 2021 Ferrari Roma manage to avoid beating you up even as it makes your heart beat faster when tested hard? Suspension compliance. Yes, the wheels and tires simply move more than a typical super-performance car's do, and they adjust dynamically to the road surface when equipped with the $5,568 Magneride Dual Mode Suspension. Yes, that translates to a bit more body roll than you might expect initially, especially in Comfort mode, but also in Sport and Race modes. No, the car doesn't love super-quick back-and-forths, and the occasional camber transition between a set of winding curves may let the Roma feel a bit light at the rear at times. None of these are bad things—if anything, the slightly exaggerated motions enhance the enjoyment of driving a massively capable car quite briskly. Combined with the neutral-to-tail-happy balance, the Roma responds to the test more like a vintage sports car or GT than most of its stiffly damped, computer-nannied competition.
2021 Ferrari Roma Test: Buying It
Speaking of its competition, what, exactly, does compete with the 2021 Ferrari Roma? Not much; this is rarefied air. Chief among its alternatives is the Porsche 911 Turbo S, a similarly priced (before options, anyway) super-performance sports/GT in its own right, and an excellent, gorgeous car as well. But for all of its indomitable pace, the 911 Turbo S is, at the end of the day, a 911. The Roma, on the other hand, is a Ferrari.
2021 Ferrari Roma Highlights
- High-revving, sweet-sounding, twin-turbo V-8 engine
- Fantastically fun to drive
- Excellent steering
- Quick, smooth eight-speed dual-clutch transmission
- Real long-distance comfort
- Glorious style
2021 Ferrari Roma Specifications
|PRICE||$222,420/$316,240 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.9L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8/611 hp @ 5,750-7,500 rpm,
560 lb-ft @ 3,000-5,750 rpm
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 2+2-passenger, rear-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||17/22 mpg (city/hwy) (est)|
|L x W x H||183.3 x 77.7 x 51.2 in|
|WEIGHT||3,450 lb (est)|
|0-60 MPH||3.3 sec|
|TOP SPEED||199 mph|