Progress report: Ferrari 308 GT4 vs Ferrari Roma
Four-seat V8s aren’t Ferrari’s usual fare, so it seems apt to put the first up against the latest
What a pair these are…
These Ferraris may be separated by more than 40 years, but they share more in common than their cylinder or seat count (eight and four, respectively). These are both Ferraris that ruffled feathers on arrival, most notably in the styling department. The Roma has stirred up debate with some very un-Ferrari styling swoops and slashes and a passing resemblance to the Aston Martins it’s sparring with in the GT car market.
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And the older one?
The 308 GT4 arrived to similarly miffed reactions in the early Seventies, the first Bertone-designed production Ferrari apparently looking far too much like other wedge-shaped, pop-up headlamped cars from the Italian styling house. That one of those cars was the gobsmacking Lancia Stratos didn’t seem to quieten the criticism. Imagine looking too much like a Stratos…
The 308 seems to have aged well, though.
Doesn’t it just? Top Gear Magazine actually bought one of these way back in 1997 (issue 40) under the cover line ‘We buy a Ferrari for Mondeo money’. A lot’s changed since the TG budgeting desk parted with 17,000 Nineties pounds (about £30k now): the Mondeo’s a goner and these are no longer the unloved bargain they used to be.
But at around £50k, the GT4 is still at the relatively attainable end of Ferrari prices. Which makes sense, given it was badged as a Dino for the first few years of its life, Prancing Horses notable by their absence.Advertisement - Page continues below
Are they both family friendly?
The older car is actually roomier, despite its 2.9-litre V8 being in the middle and the Roma’s 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 sitting up front. Turn a blind eye to minor details like safety or cabin temperature and the 308 will swallow rear passengers with the most ease.
Their legs will be wrapped around the seat in front like they’re amid an intimate examination, but there’s plentiful headroom. Step forward four decades and you’ll find scant head or leg space in the Roma and even modern child seats will be a squeeze. It feels more like a 2+bags than a 2+2.
Enough practicality. Drive them!
Contorted legs are a bit of a theme in the 308 GT4, for its driving position fulfils every cliché you’ve heard about Seventies Italian supercars, with supremely offset pedals. But mould yourself into position and you actually feel front and centre behind its wraparound windscreen. Angle someone this much towards the middle of a car and they end up with a truly unbeatable view down the road, though.
Is it quick?
Its 230bhp peak may be a mere sliver of the Roma’s 612bhp, and the two cars’ performance is suitably spaced out. But with the GT4’s glorious open-gate, dog-leg 5spd manual transmission and shamelessly heavy steering to operate, I doubt you’ll have the brain space to care. It demands effort but inspires it too, its engine revving freely and quickly and the whole thing constantly alert and up on its toes. It feels like a Ferrari, even if it wasn’t originally marketed as one.
How does the Roma compare?
It seems Ferrari can’t help but make a sports car, even when it’s ostensibly doing a GT. Because the Roma channels the same energy, a car more hyperactive than its smooth, practical shape might have you believe. It’s like someone made an 812 Superfast tuck its shirt in and do up its top button; it purports to be classier but will still shake its hips with minimal encouragement. And my word, is it fast.Advertisement - Page continues below
How will history remember it?
It’s hard to say. The 308 GT4 still has chinks in its armour when it comes to image; the simple fact it was a Dino rather than a Ferrari at launch – plus the introduction of a 208 GT4 with a tax-dodging 2.0-litre engine in some European markets – somewhat blunts its edge in Ferrari’s long and illustrious history. But a day mildly cooking inside this one confirms that even less loved Ferraris are still Ferraris – pretty spellbinding simply to behold, never mind operate. The fact the Roma is so frenzied out the box suggests any styling cavils will be forgotten swiftly.
Thanks to Rardley Motors for the loan of their 308 GT4