2021 Ferrari Roma first drive review: Good feel, bad touch

It is a defining second in any blessed auto fanatic’s life: the primary time they get to stab on the large, purple Engine Begin button on a Ferrari and take it for a drive. I nonetheless keep in mind my first time fondly, and in case you’ve ever had the pleasure of doing so your self, I think about it is a second that’s equally revered. 

If that’s the case, cherish that second, as a result of if the 2021 Ferrari Roma is any indication, it is a easy motion that’s now out of date. You see, the Roma would not have a giant, purple Engine Begin button. It would not have a button to begin the engine in any respect, performed away with in favor of a brand new steering wheel riddled with capacitive touch-sensitive pads. That, because it seems, is just not solely a bit unhappy, it is a large mistake. 

The Roma is the most recent mannequin in Ferrari’s steady, and it is also among the many least expensive — really, make that least costly — methods to get your self a ticket into the Scuderia, with a beginning worth of $222,420, together with $3,750 for vacation spot. (The beautiful Blu Corsa instance you see pictured right here has sufficient visible and practical choices to drive its worth as much as $316,240.)

It is also among the many most svelte and, in my humble opinion, maybe one of the best wanting of the trendy Ferraris. It is definitely probably the most distinctive, with a pointy, low nostril and a pair of headlights squinting out on both finish of a novel, body-colored grille that is a matrix of ever-widening holes.

The rear, although, is much more of a departure from prior Ferraris. It is understated and a bit plain in comparison with the nostril however punctuated by 4, smallish taillights built-in right into a diminutive spoiler. Solely the quad exhaust pipes and the outsized, uncooked carbon diffuser are typical Ferrari. Properly, and the prancing horse badging.

2020 Ferrari Roma

Not your typical Ferrari inside, and a considerably problematic steering wheel.

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To see the most important modifications of all, although, you may want to take a seat inside. The Roma has the identical abbreviated two-plus-two format because the Portofino — that’s to say it will seat two with consolation and an extra two with discomfort — however regardless of these vehicles sharing a platform and an engine, there’s extra totally different right here than there’s related. A lot in order that it is arduous to know the place to start, however I am going to begin with the brand new infotainment system, which seems like a chonky pill wedged between the seats. It is not dissimilar in dimension and placement from what you would possibly count on in a McLaren, its features primarily for HVAC and likewise multimedia. This implies the passenger can really cue up some tunes, one thing that is not really easy to do within the F8 Tributo, for instance. 

Beneath that display rests a gear selector that is cheekily styled to appear like a gated shifter of yore, however is definitely a row of three switches used to activate reverse and to modify between guide and automated shifting. This is similar design discovered on Ferrari’s different new automobile, the SF90 Stradale. Applicable, because the Roma and the SF90 share a transmission. It is an eight-speed, dual-clutch unit that is lighter than the seven-speed unit discovered within the Portofino.

The engine, although, is similar fundamental lump. Ferrari’s 3.9-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 produces 612 horsepower and 561 pound-feet of torque within the Roma, which is barely greater than what you get in its different functions and right here completely driving the rear wheels.

These wheels are located simply as far aside as they’re on the Portofino, however the Roma is nearly three inches longer and about two inches wider. Crucially, it is also some 200 kilos lighter, weighing 3,461 kilos. All this conspires to create a automobile that’s one way or the other comfy and touring-friendly but sprightly and nimble.

On the freeway, the Roma is sort of comfy, its experience extra pleasantly damped than you’d count on given the ultralow-profile 245/35ZR20 entrance and 285/35ZR20 rear tires. Likewise, the steering is not fairly so manic as that of the F8 and even the brake pedal has a comparatively lengthy, easy-to-modulate throw that makes tootling by means of cease lights a nausea-free affair to your passengers. There is a beneficiant quantity of headroom, a decent-sized trunk and actually solely a little bit of a droning exhaust be aware mars the touring expertise right here. The Roma provides up nothing in comparison with extra touring-focused sports activities vehicles just like the Aston Martin DB11, for instance.

2020 Ferrari Roma

There’s even a good trunk.

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That is even a Ferrari with a modicum of lively security options, together with adaptive cruise management and a lane-departure warning system. Thoughts you, there is no lively lane-keep help right here, simply an obnoxious beep everytime you stray wherever close to the traces on the fringe of your lane, one thing you is likely to be apt to do when driving a brand new Ferrari on a twisty street. “So, simply disable the system,” I hear you saying, however there’s an issue: You possibly can’t do this when you’re transferring. It’s worthwhile to cease the automobile earlier than you may achieve entry to the assorted menus required to do such a factor.

And that takes me to the worst a part of this automobile: the interface. The Roma borrows the identical capacitive-touch steering wheel discovered within the SF90. Normally, when a extra attainable Ferrari shares a wheel with a racier one it is a constructive factor, a standout touchpoint that makes it really feel extra particular. Right here, that touchpoint has the makings of a catastrophe film.

This new wheel takes the identical method as different trendy Ferraris, cramming an important controls all onto the wheel. I actually like how this works in different vehicles, just like the F8 or 488 earlier than it. However I hate the way it’s performed right here. Most of the previously tactile controls have been changed by a collection of touch-sensitive areas. This covers every part from that engine starter — now achieved by double-tapping the underside of the wheel — to scrolling by means of the automobile’s numerous menus.

Some issues are delicate, just like the lagging response from the thumb controller that at all times has me scrolling previous the menu merchandise I would like. Different issues are extra critical, like the location of the contact management that triggers the in-car voice assistant. Positioned instantly beneath the left flip sign, it is not a query of in case you’ll hit this by accident however slightly when and the way usually. In my roughly six hours spent behind the wheel of the Roma I by accident triggered the voice assistant eight instances. Sure, I counted. 

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Even at one of the best of instances the built-in voice system is sluggish. I’ve to say “discover me a restaurant” twice, as soon as to toggle over to the navigation interface and a second time to really search the eating places. The general course of takes 30 seconds. On my Android phone, the identical search takes lower than 5.

And that irritating lane-keep beeping? The setting to regulate that’s buried in a number of of these annoying submenus, locked whereas the automobile is in movement. Altering the next distance of the adaptive cruise additionally requires digging a whopping three submenus deep. That is neither simple to do whereas driving nor intuitive. 

These menus are displayed on the huge, curved digital gauge cluster that sits behind the steering wheel and, at first look, is sort of putting. You will shortly understand it is also fairly sluggish, the totally different panes stuttering as they lazily make their manner throughout the show. That is the sort of efficiency that will be unacceptable on a $200 funds pill. It is a $200,000 Ferrari. 

Ferrari assures me {that a} software program replace is coming earlier than this automobile can be shipped to prospects, and hopefully that may repair the performance-related woes and possibly clear up the menus, too. I do not see how the corporate goes to unravel the problem of the location of the voice assistant management, nevertheless, with out some type of redesign.

2020 Ferrari Roma

It is a particular factor.

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Fortunately, there’s one, nonetheless bodily, management that works precisely as supposed: the little purple manettino on the steering wheel that cycles by means of driving modes. I sadly spend a disappointing period of time in Rain, as a lot of my expertise was within the midst of a torrential downpour, to not point out terrible visitors. However once I lastly discover some clear roads, toggling over by means of Sport and into Race, the Roma responds simply as shortly. 

Although the steering in Race nonetheless is not as flirty as the corporate’s extra pure sports activities vehicles, it is gentle and sublimely sharp, the Roma rotating effortlessly and wagging its tail with glee when accelerating out of corners. The transmission, usually sedate, turns into ferociously fast and any doubts about this automobile’s provenance are instantly erased. 

The Roma is a chic drive when piloted aggressively and surprisingly candy when your calls for fall extra on the touring facet. It is saddled with a essentially disappointing management interface, nevertheless, that makes the easy act of utilizing your flip indicators or adjusting the cruise following distance extremely irritating. It is a automobile that will get the arduous stuff proper but sadly will get the straightforward stuff very, very incorrect.

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Tim Stevens