Review: Ferrari Roma in Malaysia - When style and speed are priorities, but so is daily drivability
Sanjay · Jan 4, 2022 02:34 PM
Silky smooth to drive in town
Loud and proud when you need it
The ultimate one supercar to do it all?
Waiters asking for sound checks, KL-ites magically finding the gumption to not tailgate, and no fewer than a dozen camera phones peering at us aren't usual experiences us WapCar writers go through.
I suspect that has something to do with the hoi polloi nature of the cars we usually test. Our office today however is a just a tiny bit different: we're cocooned in the supple leather seats of the Ferrari Roma, thanks to the good folk of Naza Italia.
Experiencing La Dolce Vita
Ah, Ferraris. Yes, they're expensive, obviously they draw attention even when you don't want to, but they're also magic. There's something intangible about sitting behind the big yellow roundel, and it rubs off on onlookers too.
Perhaps part of that charm comes from how we first come into contact with the brand: we had posters, collected model cars, and watched some cool TV heroes drive one.
Ferrari has that de facto dream car position down to a science, and that's become traditional of them.
And traditional is what the Roma absolutely nails. Ferrari's Centro Stile (design centre) drew inspiration from '50s and '60s models, which explains why even in this relatively-incognito Blu Tour de France, the Roma's svelte lines are ones that instantly invites your eyes to caress every haunch, every smooth curve.
With its engine in front, the fixed-roof Roma – the sister car to the convertible Portofino M – is a grand tourer (GT), with a lineage that's traceable to 1948's Ferrari 166 Inter.
But this being a post-IPO Ferrari (with its apt NYSE ticker, RACE), it's crammed up the wazoo with gizmos like electronic door handles, an omniscient giant screen, and a fully digital instrument cluster.
When it first came out, the Roma shared applause and derision all the same, the latter coming mainly from people who think that Marenello's decisions for the model were strung along by shareholders' invisible hands.
Softer? Not by any means
Really, much of the derision are based on unfounded claims. You don't need to think too hard to see how the Roma keeps the well-known hallmarks: it's among the last, non-hybrid cars to come out of Maranello.
It's a fact worth celebrating in our increasingly electrifying world because these shifts happen before you can write 'Save...' on your picket board: the V12s in the higher-end Ferraris are pretty much at their last evolution already, and once that's gone, it's probably for good.
In that vein, the Roma's silky powertrain is certainly one for the ages: you get this old-school roar and burble upon each startup, but when you potter about, it's well-mannered, quiet even. Appreciate it while you still have it then...
It's 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 and 8-speed automatic transmission is mellow enough to allow you to cruise comfortably (an important distinction), but when the rosso mist descends...you better have the skills if you've been trash talking.
It’s more about how the complete package of chassis, steering, and engine acquit themselves in different situations, be it for a night out in Bukit Bintang or an early drive up Kuala Kubu Bharu – you want to be engaged, and in this sense the Roma is a reverential driver’s car.
Though haptic-feedback buttons scream ‘new-age distillation’, the perfectly weighted, wonderfully fluid steering wheel is driving engagement at its finest: there’s always a natural, constant stream of communication from tyres to driver.
The five-step manettino toggles between different stages of drive modes – Wet, Comfort, Sport, Race, and the hairy ESC Off – but we spent most of the day in Comfort, which provided the best settings across the board over KL’s pockmarked roads.
The one supercar to do it all
Paraphrasing Rudyard Kipling's If: the Roma is a car that can walk with crowds yet keep its virtue, and run with kings but never loses its common touch.
And that's how its character shines. It's well-mannered on the streets, never pretending to be a track-trained weapon, but if and when you call for it – you'll know it's a Ferrari through and through.
The focus on livability is clear, and the Roma does relaxing just as well as it does stimulating, taking different driving situations in stride and style.
A one-trick pony it certainly isn't, and positioning it as the gateway to Ferrari ownership (prices start from RM 968,000 before taxes and options) is genius: one hit, and first-time customers will turn to loyal, repeat ones.
With humble beginnings collecting diecast models and spending hours virtually tuning dream cars on the computer, his love of cars has delightfully transformed into a career. Sanjay enjoys how the same passion for cars transcends boundaries and brings people together.