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Few vehicle manufacturers have so consistently pushed the supercar boundaries over the past 20 years quite like Ferrari.
But, despite ever more impressive aerodynamics, power, construction techniques, Formula One technology and bold machines such as the SF90 Stradale and 812 Superfast, it feels as if it’s been a while since the firm created something that you might describe as pretty.
As an old romantic whose soul is stirred by the coachbuilt classics of the 1950s and ’60s – machines that were as much about the pursuit of beauty as of top speed – I was excited by the arrival of the Roma, a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive grand tourer with an economy of design that had been missing, to my eyes, since the Daytona.
Styled in-house under Flavio Manzoni, the Roma is perhaps the most pure and clean shape to leave the Maranello works in recent decades.
While the familial resemblance is there in the profile and the nose, the Roma is in many ways an exercise in simplicity, notable for its lack of vents, wings and louvres.
What aero there is – and there is plenty – is largely hidden: the rear spoiler is only activated above 62mph, while the front splitter feeds two vortex generators to smooth airflow down the sides of the car.
The doorhandles sit flush to the body, the front and rear lights are slim, while only the wide track and 20in alloys contradict this delicate treatment.
Beneath its striking coachwork, the Roma owes much to the softer, retractable-hardtop Portofino, with which it shares its basic structure.
But unlike the tail-heavy Portofino, the Roma is almost perfectly balanced front-to-rear, with a lower centre of gravity, a stiffer chassis and kerbweight reduced by 100kg.
The older car’s twin-turbocharged, flat-plane-crank V8 is carried over, but has been lifted from 592bhp to 612bhp, while the seven-speed gearbox has been ditched in favour of the more compact eight-speed DCT from the SF90.
In performance terms, all of that equates to more than enough pace to make it a match for price rivals such as the AMG GT-R and Porsche 911 GT3.
Where the Roma edges those machines is in its capacity for gobbling mile after mile of autostrada, thanks to a forgiving suspension set-up that can be complemented by the optional MagneRide dynamic shock-absorber system.
It’s also got an incredibly comfortable 2+2 cabin with enough space for a weekend away. As a grand tourer, it’s hard to imagine anything better – even at £170,000.
The Roma’s stylistic purity is sure to divide opinion among the tifosi, some of whom may consider the car as something of a plain-Jane where others see a classic beauty.
Interestingly, that might not matter all that much: the Roma is a car aimed squarely at new markets, and Ferrari expects around 70% of customers to be fresh to the marque.
Perhaps, then, the Roma is a bolder play than its subtle styling might suggest?
Images: Will Williams
- Engine twin-turbo 3855cc V8; 612bhp @ 7500rpm; 561lb ft @ 3000rpm
- Transmission eight-speed auto, RWD
- 0-62mph 3.4 secs
- Top speed 199mph
- Mpg 21
- Price from £170,984