The 2021 Ferrari Roma

An Elegant Design Signals a Change in Style

In the absence of the LA Auto Show, makers of luxury cars were left a bit adrift as to where to preview their latest wares.

Around March 2020, they discovered the informal car shows, "Cars 'n Coffee," held throughout the nation. While not officially permitted, an unofficial show takes place Sunday mornings at Malibu Village.

Late last year Ferrari sent a new model called the Roma, no doubt attracted by the information that, although the show is entirely impromptu, million-dollar-plus cars regularly appear. Marques like the higher end McLarens, Ferraris and even the occasional Bugatti. Classic cars are even showcased from the Petersen Museum to amuse the crowd (all properly masked, of course).

I wager the model name was deliberately chosen because for fans of Italian culture it brings to mind the classic Fellini film “Roma,” a 1972 semi-autobiographical comedy drama depicting Director Federico Fellini's move from his native Rimini to Rome as a youth. It is an homage to the city, shown in a series of loosely connected episodes set during Rome's past and present.

Ferrari's Roma is a 2-plus-2 coupe based on the convertible Portofino. It exudes an entirely different character, a conservative air. Ferrari must have come to the realization that some of the tifosi (Italian for devotees of motoring) in some occupations—say doctors or lawyers—might want a Ferrari less ostentatious than their mid-engine cars, which often use the latest aerodynamic aids of Lemans’ racers. So instead, they made this quietly sophisticated coupe sans big wing on the back and vents and scoops on the hood or sides. 

The engine is not a V12 (the configuration that made Ferrari famous) but instead a 3.9-liter twin turbocharged V8, an upgrade of the Portofino's engine, with a fatter torque curve and 21 more horses. The transmission is an automatic with 8 speeds.

It will still do what Ferraris are bred to do. If given a "bit of stick" (horse racing term entirely appropriate for a company whose symbol is a prancing horse), it'll do 199 mph top speed and 0 to 60 mph in under four seconds. 

One difference between this and past Ferraris is that there is some electronic display on the passenger side, involving them more on the journey. 

The price is a clue to where Roma fits into their lineup. At $222,620, it is a tad more expensive than the Portofino. In its role as a grand tourer, it competes with the Aston Martin DB11Bentley Continental GT, and maybe even the Porsche 911 Turbo, which are all cars you can drive to a white-tie dinner or board of directors meeting and not be thought of as a "boy racer," which is the impression some mid-engine Ferraris deliver. As a longtime observer of the marque, I have to congratulate Ferrari for realizing that their mid-engine cars were in some cases conveying an impression that not everyone wants. This car indicates a new direction... one that puts them in another segment of the luxury market where I think they will thrive.

Wallace Wyss is a seasoned auto writer turned automotive fine artist. For information on Ferrari art, email MalibuCarArt@gmail.com.

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