Just as classic Ferraris of the 1950s and ’60s symbolised an Italian heyday of glamour and style, Ferrari’s fabulous new Roma heralds a new era of speed and elegance.
There are few — if any at all — carmakers who can evoke as much passion, beauty, drama, and excitement as Ferrari. Established just after World War 2, the company was built upon the motor racing activities of its founder, the great Enzo Ferrari, and motorsport remains at its heart to this day.
But the Ferrari name was also synonymous with the prosperity, style, glamour and carefree living of Italy in the late 1950s and early ’60s, a time that today is headily encapsulated in three words, la dolce vita.
It was a period when cars – and Ferraris in particular – were exceptionally beautiful, and the rich, glamorous and famous of the period all had to be photographed with them. Film stars and directors, such as Marcello Mastroianni, Robert Rossellini, James Coburn and Steve McQueen, naturally owned Ferraris – the latter famously drove a 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso, ranked among the loveliest cars ever made. They were joined by the Italian industrialist and playboy Gianni Agnelli, a man considered the epitome of masculine style, who was rarely seen driving anything other than a machine with the cavallino rampante badges on its bonnet and flanks. Indeed, as a symbol of exclusivity, thrilling speed, and dashing Italian design and engineering, a Ferrari was considered almost without peer – much as the manufacturer’s automobiles remain today.
Looking back on the string of beautiful cars that emerged from the factory in Maranello during this golden era, it’s hard to decide which is the most stunning. Was it the Berlinetta Lusso, or the 250 GT SWB California Spyder, or perhaps the Scagliettibuilt 250 GT SWB Berlinetta, a car that wasn’t just perfectly proportioned but that also performed heroically on the racetrack? All are exceptional and all are prized today.
So how to create a fitting successor to those exquisite motor cars? The designers at Ferrari’s Styling Centre, who nurtured this ambition for years, delved into the past for inspiration and found it in the sweeping lines, sloping rooflines and harmonious proportions that characterise so many of the company’s classic front-engine sports and GT cars. And 60 years later, they’ve produced an automobile of such sinuous style and grace that it can rightly be considered one of the most beautiful Ferraris of all time: the Roma.
Harking back to la dolce vita and yet utterly contemporary in approach and execution, the Ferrari Roma boasts a timeless design that’s rare among current sports and GT machines. As far as possible, the stylists freed their minds of technical considerations, the car’s resulting smooth and sleek surfaces appearing as if honed from a single block of metal and almost completely uninterrupted by vents or adornments. As for the Roma’s silhouette, the shark nose, long bonnet, fastback tail and long rear overhang all combine to create the impression of a creature leaping forwards. Unmistakeably modern are the slashed matrix LED headlamps and an active rear spoiler that’s completely retracted at rest and low speeds.
Despite the purity of its design, the Roma is as technologically sophisticated as a modern-day GT can be, so that its dynamic abilities are easily equivalent to its stunning appearance. Although it combines the front-engine and rear-drive layout of a classic grand tourer, the Roma’s 3.9-litre V8 is mounted close to the mid-point of the car, ensuring almost perfect weight distribution that translates into impeccable balance and handling. Producing 620 cv (hp), the multi-award-winning twin-turbo engine is linked to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission that offers gearchanges in milliseconds; a steering-wheel Manettino switch – much like that on a Ferrari Formula 1 car – offers five driving modes, from ultra-safe “Wet” to ultra-track-focussed “Esc Off”. Performance is, of course, scintillating.
Within its cabin, which in traditional 2+ fashion offers a pair of occasional seats in the rear, the Ferrari Roma combines a wraparound dual-cockpit aesthetic in which each person at the front is enclosed in their own “cell”. Beautifully realised in the highest-quality materials and superbly comfortable, it makes for an environment that’s appropriately luxurious and yet entirely suitable for day-to-day use. It also comes with the very latest human-machine-interface technology, including a 16-inch driver’s display, an 8.4-inch central infotainment screen and a redesigned steering wheel, while a new selector gate echoes the gearshifts of traditional Ferraris.
Sensationally fast, devastatingly gorgeous and exquisitely luxurious, the Roma isn’t just a Formula 1 car in evening attire but a classic Ferrari reimagined in every way for the 2020s. Effortlessly combining sport and luxury, and as beautiful to look at as it’s thrilling to drive, the new Ferrari Roma marks the dawn of a new era indeed – la nuova dolce vita.
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This story first appeared on Prestige Online Hong Kong.