BMW 2 SERIES GRAN COUPÉ / Setting the bar for hot-hatchery
Ihave been to Italy several times in my life, both as a motoring journalist, and as a tourist, but my first trip to the Italian City of Love only happened in late 2019. Although barely more than an extended layover, I managed to squeeze some of the city’s most revered sites into a very short space of time. The ancient city left me enthralled, and indeed, in love.
Much like my experience of the great city, my introduction to the latest work of automotive art from Scuderia Ferrari was equally fleeting, and the sampling of it similarly short-lived, yet my reaction was proportionately visceral.
The Ferrari Roma is a beautiful car, but more than that it is a fascinating car for various reasons.
Although billed as the new “entry-level” Ferrari, the Roma carries itself with such poise, even at a standstill, that one would think it is the brand’s latest supercar creation.
That might be because, according to Ferrari, the exterior design draws on the 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso and the 250 GT 2+2 for its design inspiration. Iconic designs from the 1960s in their own right, the 250 GT variants form the ideal bedrock for a modernday classic such as the Roma.
From the exterior, the Roma draws attention with its retro design, where the body colour grille takes centre stage and is unlike anything Ferrari has done before. Supported by a large chrome section and purposeful front spoiler, the Roma grille can also be ordered in contrasting black.
Elevated beside and above the new grille, the headlights feature a striking new design – with an LED daytime running light strip splitting the upper and lower sections – and appear to almost blend into the car’s sculpted front wheel arches. Naturally, the Cavallino Rampante takes its customary place above the waistline and ahead of the front doors.
At 4,656 mm long, the Roma is remarkably elegant for its compact frame, thanks to the elongated front end, and culminates in a masculine yet futuristic rear with its pronounced rear wheel arches. The rear lights are a notable design feature on their own, and the back is rounded off by dual exhaust pipes that sit on either end of the rear bumper and are integrated into the blackened rear diffuser.
Ferrari has significantly upped its interior design game in recent years, and the Roma presents the culmination of everything the brand has learnt about striking design and luxurious appointments. The experience begins with Ferrari’s new ‘Comfort Access’ doors that open by merely touching a button next to the door handle. Once inside, the dual-cabin concept creates the feeling of being wrapped in your own space, and presents the driver, in particular, with the distinct sensation that control of every aspect of the driving experience rests with her.
The steering wheel retains all of the multifunction abilities that have become part of every Ferrari cabin’s DNA. The dramatically sloping centre console between the cockpit spaces is a new addition, however, and offers access to the electric windows to both passengers. At the same time, the driver can operate the gear system from here.
Although the centre infotainment screen offers both occupants access to the car’s internal systems, the passenger has a second screen embedded in the dash, from where the climate control and some infotainment options can be manipulated.
Naturally, the Roma would not be a true Ferrari without a formidable V8 beating in its chest. The Roma continues the brand’s rich heritage with the same 3.9-litre V8 engine that powers the F8 Spider (Driven September 2020). Producing 456 kW with 760 Nm torque available between 3,000 and 5,750 r/min, we cannot wait to sample the Roma once a test unit becomes available.
The engine is mounted mid-front behind the front axle and closer to the cabin. The eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox comes straight from Ferrari’s Formula 1 team and grants the Roma a zero to 100 km/h acceleration time of a blistering 3.4 seconds. It will also hurry from standstill to 200 km/h in only 9.3 seconds. Top speed is rated at more than 320 km/h.
At an asking price of R4,972,000, the Roma is anything but an entry-level car. However, to be so lovingly sculpted from a blank sheet into an instant classic is a trick that not even Ferrari manage every time. They have with the Roma, though, and it makes me extremely curious to see what Ferrari’s compact sports car future holds.