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Ferrari Roma: Less glitz, more glamour

Ferrari

There are, broadly speaking, two types of Ferrari. One is the truly mid-engined supercar, built for out-and-out performance, with outrageous styling and links to Formula One racing... and is generally a bit of a show-off. Nothing wrong with any of that, but I’ve always preferred the other type, the grand tourers, the ones you can imagine taking across Europe, with a friend in the front and a couple of small bags in the boot (because that’s all you can get in there).

Travelling light, fast and in some comfort. More understated. Elegant. Hence the Ferrari Roma, a front-engined, rear-drive turbocharged V8 with sinuously classic lines and an evocative engine note to match. It oozes so much style that you cannot help but love it. It would melt the hearts of Extinction Rebellion, I’m sure, with it being so lovable. Cars such as this usually don’t cover many miles and tend to be looked after for many decades after they’re built – so, despite the plutocratic image and impression of waste, in reality they inflict far less damage on the environment than the mass-market models.

That’s me all over, of course, very much “la dolce vita” (in the words of the Ferrari publicity material, and not my own cliche). Yet, sadly out of range of the Italian riviera, its more natural habitat, I took the Roma to the Matlock Bath Illuminations, a charming night-time show for the family, nestled in some stunning scenery beneath the Heights of Abraham with some nice bendy roads. The Roma acquitted itself extremely well, and I liked the relaxed cruising style you have to adopt on the surprisingly crowded narrow lanes of the Peak District. When you need to, obviously, you can overtake in complete safety, but you’re in a car that really doesn’t have to try too hard: foot down, count to 10 and you’ll be doing 200mph. You and your Roma have nothing to prove.

On the motorway, at legal speeds, you can make the most of the mighty engine and its thrilling acceleration. It’s actually a relatively small unit, at under 4 litres, but fairly high-revving (to 5,000rpm-plus) – tuned, turbocharged and fitted with a race-derived dual clutch and clever software, it makes the most of what it has got. It’s very “communicative”.

THE SPEC

Ferrari Roma

Price: £224,755 (as tested, starts at £174,701)

Engine capacity: 3.8l petrol, V8, 8sp auto

Power output (hp): 620

Top speed (mph): 200+

0 to 60 (seconds): 3.4

Fuel economy (mpg): 26

CO2 emissions (WLTP, g/km): 323

The thing that is most different about the Roma is the steering wheel and controls. There are no stalks for the indicators or wipers, these being controlled by unusual buttons on the steering wheel, and the transmission is selected by a conventional lever between front seats and the manual “paddle” shifts, in a slightly complicated ritual. There are also tiny buttons on the steering wheel for cruise control and the like, but they’re quite fiddly. You need elegant fingers, let’s say.

The most special feature is a little dial fitted to the wheel, a “marinetto”, which will set up the brakes, traction control, steering and suspension for optimal performance. So you can choose: wet mode for stability in rainy conditions; comfort, which is self-explanatory; sport, which is a bit tighter and louder; race, more of the same; and ESC-OFF, which cancels all the stability aids and is not recommended. Being in Derbyshire in the autumn meant the Roma spent a good deal of time in wet mode, with the efficient heating system just about stopping the windows from steaming up. It’s still a tonne and half or so, even with a lot of aluminium used in its construction, but it feels quite lithe and planted.

The Roma possesses all the usual accoutrements of a large luxury coupe (Ferrari)

Overall, the Roma possesses all the usual accoutrements of a large luxury coupe. It’s snug in the cockpit, cosy even, but there’s adequate space for driver and companion, and some of the audio and finer controls can also be accessed from the passenger side. The medium-sized touchscreen is plonked between the front seats, which also suggests the Roma is designed more for couples to enjoy together. Sweet.

There are plenty of bespoke options for your Ferrari, using the most exclusive materials, and I couldn’t fault the full-grain Frau leather, Alcantara cabin trim, chromed aluminium and carbon-fibre touches. The Roma feels and looks like an instant classic. The styling is clean to the point of spartan. The shark nose is a familiar look, but check out the grille – a body-colour painted, stamped panel. Simplicity. It’s still got presence but it’s extremely low-key when set against its rivals from the likes of Aston Martin or Mercedes-Benz. Less glitz, more glamour, I guess.

The Roma feels and looks like an instant classic (Ferrari)

Although the Ferrari track racers were the original Ferraris (including some Alfa Romeos in the earlier days) with one purpose only, some road cars were eventually developed as a result. The first “production” series Ferraris were quite large, highly styled, supremely elegant and desirable coupe tourers, and as desirable now as they were about 60 years ago.

The world is a better place for them still being handbuilt at the factory in Maranello in Emilia-Romagna. It’s a wonderful part of the world populated by illustrious brands, awesome car collections and the best of food and drink. It can even hold its own against the Derbyshire Dales. Arrivederci, Roma. I’ll miss it. This fabulous Ferrari will make you feel happy wherever you happen to find yourself.