The Roma uses a 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8, similar to that of the Portofino. But you’d be mistaken for thinking the Roma is a hard-top Portofino. Not only can the turbochargers spool up more quickly and to higher speeds, but the engine itself has been treated to some software and mechanical upgrades. The result is 620PS and 760Nm, with a redline of 7,500rpm. The Roma’s chassis is 70 per cent new and weighs 100kg less than the Portofino’s, and the gearbox is an eight-speed double-clutch unit, the same ‘box you’ll find in the SF90 Stradale, albeit with a reverse gear added in (the hybrid uses the electric motor for backing up). Compared to the Portofino’s seven-speed gearbox, this new unit is smaller, faster, can cope with more torque, has longer top gears to increase fuel consumption and is 6kg lighter. Truly, this is not a Portofino with a tin-top.
The engine is brilliant. Turbochargers do not mean a muted soundtrack, and with peak power so close to the redline you’ll be revving it out as often as the road allows. And if you listen carefully in the higher gears at lower revs, you’ll hear the turbochargers working their magic, too. The performance is pretty exciting, too, with 62mph rushing up in 3.4 seconds.
The gearbox is at its best with a healthy boot full of throttle and revs, the changes scintillatingly fast and smooth on the way up and on the way down. It’s also an incredibly smart gearbox, as moving to a more sporty drive mode (more on those in a moment) it doesn’t immediately jump to an unnecessarily low gear, instead waiting for a poke on the accelerator before knocking itself down a few cogs.
With less throttle and the ‘box in manual, however, the changes, particularly on the way down, are a little more ponderous. That being said, as lovely as it is to change gear manually (the aluminum shift paddles are gorgeous), it’s a clever enough ‘box that you don’t need to DIY to have fun.
If you’re worried that the performance could be a little too much to handle then fear not, as Ferrari’s driver aids are some of the best out there. They’re good not just because they stop you spinning off the road but because some of them are there only to help you enjoy performance you wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. There are five modes on the jelly-bean like, steering wheel-mounted ‘Mannettino’ switch, namely Wet, Comfort, Sport, Race and ESC-Off. Within these modes adjustments are made to the traction and stability controls, giving the powertrain quicker reactions and the rear tyres more freedom. But there’s also the latest generation of Ferrari’s ‘Side Slip Angle Control’, which in basic terms allows you to control how big of a slide you want, safe in the knowledge that the car will only let you go so far but it’ll also allow you to hold it at that angle. So you don’t get the rear moving, get to a certain point and the car brings it back. Instead you get the rear moving, get to a point and the car will help you keep it there. It’s like an art teacher in school that would always say ‘well done, good job’, even when your attempts at a watercolour landscape look more like a canvas shot with a paintball gun. It’s incredibly flattering, and really good fun as a result. Just make sure you’re friendly with a garage that has a healthy supply of tyres. Perhaps a Pirelli loyalty card would be handy?
The steering is accurate and incredibly fast, but arguably too light given that the Roma is a car to be driven more regularly and even a bit slower than something like an F8 Tributo. The brakes, meanwhile, carbon-ceramic as standard, are more than enough for the road, and the ride is actually very comfortable thanks to the magnetic damping (thisties in to the drive mode settings to soften or harden the ride as appropriate) and the reduction in spring rates (you don’t need as firmer springs when the car’s weight is significantly down).