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Ferrari Roma engines, drive and performance

2021 onwards (change model)
Performance rating: 4.6 out of 54.6

Written by Adam Binnie Published: 13 May 2021 Updated: 13 May 2021

2021 Ferrari Roma side, red
2021 Ferrari Roma side, red

  • Huge, accessible performance
  • Strong top-end rush to sate enthusiasts
  • Equally enjoyable wafting around in, too

Sure, Ferrari has more powerful models in its line-up but once you’ve gone past the 500hp mark there are few occasions on the road where performance feels lacking. Typically there was no point during our time with the Roma that it lacked the answer to a question asked by our right foot. The Roma’s reserves feel bottomless, as befits its sports touring nature.

A 3.8-litre V8 and two turbos means 620hp and 760Nm of torque, and 0-62mph ticked off in 3.4 seconds. While a top-end rush has been deliberately engineered in, it’s easy enough to keep the rev needle in the mid-range and find more than adequate power. There’s no need to drop loads of gears or wait for the boost for the turbos to arrive, it’s just ruthlessly fast, all the time.

It’s not one dimensional though – the different driving modes accessed by the Manettino switch on the steering wheel all offer very distinctive power deliveries, ranging from soft and progressive in Wet and Comfort through to the sharper and more responsive Sport and Race – here the accelerator barely needs to be brushed in order to deliver a surge of forward momentum, but in its more moderate modes, the long travel throttle pedal needs a good push to get going.

2021 Ferrari Roma V8 engine
2021 Ferrari Roma V8 engine

Race mode might sound intimidating but it’s the one tuned for the most amount of fun on the road, rather than setting new personal best lap times at Fiorano. This fastest setting gives the Roma breath-taking pace and delivers the full 760Nm, although you’ll need to be in 7th or 8th gear to get it, because the torque on offer increases as you climb the gears.

Compared to the old Portofino (there’s a new M variant with a new gearbox) the Roma has an extra ratio in its eight-speed dual-clutch ‘box, and the lower gears have been made shorter. That means punchier acceleration and lazy cruising – the car is barely ticking over at motorway speeds.

As with the Jekyll and Hyde power delivery, the gearbox also displays impressive duality – able to blur its ratios seamlessly or deliver pin sharp shifts that punctuate heavy braking moments with a loud flare of revs.

Left to its own devices and driven at anything less than flat out, it did seem keen to get into the highest possible gear, but turn up the heat a little and shifts are completed with Ferrari’s trademark telepathy. There’s still enough reward on offer in using the brilliantly clacky and large column-mounted shift paddles, though, to convince you into manual mode every now and again.

The engine can be quite restrained in volume especially when cruising in top gear where its song is barely present. Although this is never the case on start-up where it is consistently flamboyant. With more enthusiastic driving comes a satisfying soundtrack – if not quite as soaring as older V8 Ferrari models – that is full of bass and gravel at low rpm and a higher pitched howl closer to the redline.

All-in-all this makes the Roma a versatile car – equally happy wafting about as it is picking your favourite B-road to bits. But more on that in the next section.

View full Ferrari Roma specs

How does it handle?

  • Wide breadth of abilities and driving styles
  • Effortless or pin sharp, your choice
  • Oversteer heroics on tap from Side Slip Control

As a bit of a two-things-in-one-car the Roma runs the risk of feeling compromised, particularly in the often-opposing areas of comfort and handling. To an extent it does, but only within the framework of Ferrari’s more focussed models – it’s not as sharp to drive as an F8 or as cossetting as a GTC, but bear in mind that those are high benchmarks.

What it is though is a very usable balance of both – at no point could you describe the suspension as luxuriously soft, but it’s fine for daily use, only getting a bit out of shape on really bumpy roads – while the way it handles can easily blow sports cars from other manufacturers into the weeds.

2021 Ferrari Roma V8 rear spoiler
2021 Ferrari Roma V8 rear spoiler

None of this should be a surprise of course, as Ferrari has left nothing to chance by throwing a load of tech at its new coupe. As such you get five modes on the Manettino plus underbody aero (and a pop-up spoiler) to enhance downforce without ruining those sleek exterior lines. Both of these are a first in the Italian manufacturer’s (comparatively) less focussed GT models, and that should give you a sense of its intentions.

As with the engine response, the Manettino gives you a variety of different handling responses from soft to sharp. Somewhat oddly our favourite combination was Comfort mode with the gearbox in manual. This gives you a very relaxed (but still bonkers fast) set up that suits the car’s suave and unflustered appearance.

Still, Sport and Race do increase the response from the throttle and steering to very satisfying levels, while firming up the suspension to improve body control. You can dial this back by pressing the Manettino to utilise Bumpy Road mode, which offers a nice balance on UK roads, while still hugging the ground.

2021 Ferrari Roma V8 drive modes
2021 Ferrari Roma V8 drive modes

When it comes to driving quickly the Roma again offers a breadth of attitudes – if you enter a corner tentatively and feed the power in it’ll hook up nicely and fire you out the other side in a neat, grippy manner. However, go in with more confidence and give the gas a big push and the rear end of the car will swing out to a point controlled by lots of clever electronics.

Chiefly this is down to the Roma’s Side Slip Control, which ties together the traction control, electronic differential and something called ‘Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer’ to interpret your inputs and let the rear of the car move around accordingly. It’s essentially a traction control system that lets the rear of the car have a little slide without wiping out, and is capable of making you look absolutely heroic while providing something of a safety net. Even so, this is best explored in a controlled environment.

The steering is quick and linear but not as fast as the F8, making it seem more relaxed and less twitchy on faster roads. The brakes need a good push to get going but when you do there’s plenty of power and feel, although they were a bit grabby and hard to modulate in our test car.

Even so, it took a bit longer to get under the Roma’s skin than in current or former mid-engined Ferraris, which usually feel just-right from the off. But those are a very different proposition, and once you get used to the Roma’s feel it becomes a very rewarding thing to drive indeed.