This is a defining moment in the life of any blessed auto enthusiast: the first time they stumble upon a Ferrari big, red engine start button and take it for a drive. I still remember my first time today, and if you have ever had the pleasure of doing so, I think this is a moment that is equally revered.
If so, cherish that moment, because if the 2021 Ferrari Roma is any sign, it is a simple verb that is now obsolete. You see, Roma is not a big, red engine start button. It does not have an engine starting button on the side of the new steering wheel equipped with capacitive touch-sensitive pads. That, as it turns out, is not only a little sad, it’s a big mistake.
Roma is the latest model in Ferrari’s stable, and is also the cheapest – in fact, the least expensive way to get yourself a ticket to Scuderia, with a starting price of $ 222,420, including $ 3,750 for the destination . (The cute Blue Corsa example you see here has enough visual and functional options to make it cost up to $ 316,240.)
It is also the most humble and, in my humble opinion, probably the best looking modern Ferrari. It is certainly the most distinctive, with a sharp, low nose and a pair of headlights extending over the ends of a unique, body-colored grille that is a matrix of ever-widening holes.
The rear, however, is even more of an earlier departure from Ferrari. It makes sense and is a bit plainer than the nose, but smaller than four, with small taillights integrated into the lower spoiler. Only the quad exhaust pipe and oversized, raw carbon diffusers are typical Ferrari. Well, and the pressing horse badging.
To see the biggest changes of all though, you have to sit inside. Has the same abbreviated two-plus-two layout as Roma Portofino – That is to say, it will be a comfortable two-seat and an extra two with the inconvenience – but despite those cars sharing a platform and an engine, it’s more different than being the same here. So much so that it’s hard to know where to start, but I’ll start with the new infotainment system, which looks like a Chonky tablet between the seats. It does not differ in size and placement, which you might expect in McLaren, its functions are also primarily for HVAC and multimedia. This means that travelers can actually do some tunes, something that is not easy to do. F8 tango, for example.
Beneath that screen rests a gear selector that is chicly styled to look like the liver’s gated shifter, but the three switches used to actually activate the reverse and switch between manual and automatic shifting Has a line of This is the same design found in Ferrari’s second new car SF90 Stradale. Appropriate, since the Roma and the SF90 share a transmission. It is an eight-speed, dual-clutch unit that is lighter than the seven-speed unit found in Portofino.
The engine, however, has the same basic lump. Ferrari’s 3.9-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 produces 612 horsepower and 561 pound-feet of torque in the Roma, which you find in its other applications and is slightly higher than the rear wheels here.
Those wheels on the Portofino are still separately located, but the Roma are about three inches long and about two inches wide. Crucially, it is some 200 pounds lighter, weighing 3,461 pounds. All of this is a conspiracy to create a car that is somehow comfortable and tour friendly, yet very fast and nimble.
On the highway, the Roma is quite comfortable, giving your ride more pleasantly damp than the ultra-profile 245 / 35ZR20 front and 285 / 35ZR20 rear tires. Likewise, the steering is not very frantic like the F8 and even the brake pedal has a relatively long, easy-to-throw module toting through a stop light that is a nausea-free detour for your passengers. There is a generous amount of headroom, a decent sized trunk and really just a small portion of the droning exhaust note that gives a feel of the excursion here. Nothing compares to touring-focused sports cars like the Roma Aston Martin DB11, for example.
It is also a Ferrari with a modem with active safety features, including adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning system. Keep in mind, there is no active transaction assistance here, just an unpleasant beep whenever you wander somewhere near the lines on the side of your lane, something that can happen when you drive a new Ferrari on a twisty road To do this. “So, just disable the system,” I hear you say, but there is a problem: you can’t do this when you’re moving. You have to stop the car before you can get access to the various menus required to do so.
And this leads me to the worst part of this car: the interface. The Roma borrows the same capacitive-touch steering wheel found in the SF90. Usually, when the more attainable Ferrari shares a wheel with a racer it is a positive thing, a standout touchpoint that makes it feel more special. Here, a disaster film is produced in that touchpoint.
This new wheel takes the same approach as other modern Ferrari, culminating all the important controls on the wheel. I really like how it works in other cars, such as the F8 or earlier 488. But I hate how it’s done here. Many of the former touch controls have been replaced by a series of touch-sensitive zones. It covers everything from that engine starter – now accomplished by double-tapping the bottom of the wheel – to scroll through the car’s various menus.
Some problems are subtle, such as feedback from the thumb controller that always makes me scroll down the menu item I need. Other problems are more serious, such as the placement of touch controls, which trigger an in-car voice assistant. Located directly below the left turn signal, it is not a question of when you will hit this mistake, but rather when and how often. In my nearly six hours spent behind the wheel of Roma, I accidentally turned on the voice assistant eight times. Yes, I counted.
The integrated voice system is sluggish even at the best of times. I have to say “I have to find a restaurant” twice, toggle to the navigation interface once and the other time to actually find the restaurant. The overall process takes 30 seconds. on me Android phoneA single search takes less than five times.
And kept teasing that street by street? The setting to adjust is buried in some of those annoying submenus while the car is in motion. Changing the following distances of the adaptive cruise also requires digging deeper three submenus. It is neither easy nor comfortable while driving.
Those menus are displayed on a wide, curved virtual gauge cluster that sits behind the steering wheel and, at first glance, is quite striking. You will quickly realize that it is also quite dull, there are different pan stuttering as they make their way during the performance. This is a type of performance that would be unacceptable on a $ 200 budget tablet. This is a $ 200,000 Ferrari.
Ferrari assured me that a software update was coming before sending this car to customers, and hoped it would fix performance-related problems and perhaps even clear menus. I do not see how the company will resolve the issue of placement of voice assistant control, however, without any kind of redesign.
Thankfully, there is one, still physical, control that works exactly as intended: a little red Manettino on the steering wheel that cycles through the driving mode. I sadly spend a dismal time in the rain, as my experience was in the midst of a terrible recession, not to mention terrible traffic. But when I finally find some clear roads, Roma quickly responds, running through the sport and into the race.
Although the steering in the race is still not flirty like the company’s more pure sports cars, it is lighter and much faster, the Roma spins spontaneously and flips its tail with glee when exiting corners. The transmission, usually drifts, becomes very quick and any doubts about the provenability of this car are quickly erased.
Roma is a sublime drive when aggressively and surprisingly sweet when your demands fall more towards the tour. It’s sad with a fundamentally frustrating control interface, though, as it performs the simple task of using your turn signals or adjusting the cruise after an incredibly frustrating distance. This is a car that still gets hard stuff but sadly it is very easy.