The Ferrari Roma Spider Brings A Soft-Top Back Into The Marque’s GT Line-Up

The Ferrari Roma, unveiled in 2019, always invited comparison to the Ferrari Portofino, which preceded it by about two years. After all, they were both V8-equipped 2+2 grand tourers tuned for a relaxed driving experience. But image plays a big part for supercars and stylistically they diverged—while the Portofino had a rakish flamboyance to its exterior, the Roma was restrained and pared down with a simplicity and elegance to its form. The Roma was the polished leather Oxfords to the Portofino’s tan suede loafers. Furthermore, the Portofino had a retractable hardtop, while the Roma was a coupe.

And then the Roma Spider was announced last year. What separates the Roma Spider and the Portofino, then? Well, for one, the Portofino is going out of production. And for another, the Roma Spider is a soft-top.

It is difficult to find a practical reason to make it a soft-top. But image plays a big part, after all. With the top down, the Roma’s slick profile is preserved, but the two-toned fabric weaves of the top impart a sense of sartorial casualness while remaining smart, like a Chelsea boot.

It carries a throwback vibe as well to the mid-century drop-tops that have adorned many a bedroom wall. In fact, the last time a front-engined Ferrari had a soft top was in 1969, on the 365 GTS4—better known as the Daytona.

Noise would be a concern with a soft top, but this is not a detail that Ferrari would overlook. The five-layered fabric includes an acoustic dampening layer, ensuring that noise levels are comparable to that of a retractable hardtop. It takes 13.5 seconds for the roof to fully retract, and it can be activated at speeds of up to 60km/h. The tonneau cover is upholstered in the same fabric as the roof, allowing the Roma Spider to maintain its textile flair when it’s in the open-top mode. When retracted, the compactness of the folded roof means that slightly more of the 255-litre boot space remains available for use than it would have with a hardtop.

With a dry weight of 1,556kg, the Roma Spider is 84kg heavier than the coupe version. The added weight is due to the chassis reinforcement and roof mechanism, but also because of the patented wind deflector at the rear of the cabin. With the touch of a button, and the absence of rear passengers, gas springs will extend it upwards in dignified fashion, where it will deploy horizontally at level. It seems almost too simple, looking like little more than a board with a slot. But never doubt Ferrari when it comes to aerodynamics. With the top down, the wind deflector slows and channels air down and away from the front passengers, reducing discomfort and noise from the wind.

Inside, the dual-cockpit concept is in full, dramatic swing. The prominent centre console that divides driver and passenger holds the gear selector levers, styled as always after the iconic gated shifter, as well as the 8.4-inch touchscreen that controls infotainment and climate. When the Roma launched in 2019, it was ahead of its time in its use of steering wheel touch controls to access functions on the digital instrument cluster. Today, it is commensurate with the norm and has received minor updates, such as indents to provide better feedback during use. The use of these touch controls, which include touchpads under both thumbs, is meant to reinforce Ferrari’s ‘eyes on the road, hands on the wheel’ philosophy.

In practice, it takes, well, a lot of practice to use confidently while driving and adds fuel to the endless debate of physical versus touch buttons. The Manettino mode selector, at least, remains tactile and exactly where it should be, along with the love-them-or-hate-them thumb-operated indicator toggles and the oversized and wonderfully clacky paddle shifters.

The 3.9-litre engine needs no introduction, being part of the turbocharged V8 family that has won multiple awards. Capable of 611bhp, 80 per cent of its 760Nm maximum torque is available at just 1,900rpm.

The eight-speed dual-clutch transmission is derived from the one seen on the SF90 Stradale and has been specified with longer gear ratios as befitting a grand tourer. The Roma Spider will do 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds and 0-200km/h in 9.7 seconds. It also has all the requisite aerodynamic detail that one expects from a Ferrari, including a three-position rear spoiler as well as the under-the-hood cleverness of the latest version of Ferrari’s Side Slip Control algorithm.

The results are unsurprising. Just like all of Ferrari’s V8 grand tourers, the Roma Spider is easy to drive but no less engaging. In Comfort mode, there is a reassuring softness to the set-up but it remains organic and addictive to handle, whether on winding roads in second and third gear, or at high-gear, low-rev cruising on the highway.

In Race mode, it recovers some of its edge and, though it may lack the aggression and bite of some of its stablemates, the Ferrari Roma Spider is as fast as it is fun and it sounds fantastic to boot.


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