Captivating to look at, charismatic to drive, performance, chassis
Interior HMI is improving but it’s still too complex, fuel consumption if you really go for it
What is it?
The return of a signature format for Ferrari, after a lengthy hiatus. Ferrari says it hasn’t made a front-engined Spider since the 365 GTS4 – Daytona – in 1969. That’s one of the sharpest looking cars in the entire canon, so a Roma soft-top has big hand-made loafers to fill.
Sure, we could get caught up here in the logic-free world of Ferrari’s naming policy, and you may well wonder what makes a Spider a Spider and the conspicuously front-engined open-top Portofino… something else. Or the 812 GTS or 575 Superamerica, for that matter. Whatever, Ferrari has fallen out of love with the retractable hard-top, and decided that a classic canvas roof is the way to go for the Roma convertible. Sorry, Spider.
We should also add that the new car finds itself in a market sector that’s populated by some of the world’s most desirable cars. We’re looking at you Aston Martin DB12, Bentley Continental GTC, Mercedes-AMG SL and Porsche 911 Turbo. Not one of them compromised by losing their heads.
What’s new on the Spider?
Well, the Portofino is no longer ‘available to order’, to use the Ferrari vernacular (discontinued sounds too pedestrian, right?). Although that car managed to disguise its bulky folding roof better than most, it seems that fickle fashion has had its way with a solution that was once all the rage but now seems frightfully early Noughties. (NB: a folding hardtop first appeared on the Peugeot 401 Eclipse in 1934, a system patented by French designer, engineer, dentist, and - get this - war hero Georges Paulin. But we digress.)
He sounds interesting, I’ll look him up. Now back to the Ferrari, please.
The Roma Spider features a classic canvas roof with five layers for improved refinement and a special weave for visual enhancement. Different colour combinations are available, exemplifying the car’s character: you can dial up the Riviera hustler look or opt for or a more technical, racy one which, Ferrari says, has an iridescent red finish that gives the roof a 3D effect.
The sills are new, there are reinforced structural elements at the rear, and an integrated wind deflector in the +2 seating compartment minimises turbulence inside. This has a centre duct and technically qualifies as an aerodynamic device. The roof disappears in 13.5 seconds at speeds up to 50mph. The weight penalty overall is a modest 84kg.
Does the Roma Spider look as good in the flesh as it does in the images?
Absolutely. In fact, roof down, the Spider might even be prettier than the coupe. Ferrari, perhaps riskily, invokes the spirit of la dolce vita around this car, but there’s no question it’s a classy, glamorous looking thing. We’ve got used to the perforated, body-coloured grille and chiselled nose, but the camera sensor looks like a crude after-thought. Surely they could have integrated that more successfully? It stands out all the more given that Ferrari’s Centro Stile has worked so hard to minimise everything else. The front wings and bonnet hump are evocative.
And from behind?
We could look at the view across the rear three-quarters all day long. There’s a genuine barchetta feel from some angles (echoing the late Forties 166 MM, Ferrari’s first big hit). The coupe’s rear screen has been modified so it folds away beneath the tonneau cover when the roof is lowered. Advanced lighting tech gives the Roma Spider a fresh graphic dynamism at the rear, although the prominence of the head-rests spoils the silhouette’s purity a little.
There’s exterior aero efficiency, too, thanks to vortex generators and a deployable rear spoiler, with Low Drag, Medium Downforce and High Downforce settings. The amounts generated are modest by Ferrari standards, but no-one is ever going to track day their Roma Spider. Are they?
What's the verdict?
This is truly a Ferrari for all seasons. Rather than compromising it, the absence of a fixed roof actually adds another dimension. Reverting to an old-school soft-top plays perfectly to the Roma’s stylistic strengths, and as modernist as it is, this is as pretty a car as Ferrari has ever made. Just think about that for a moment.
And although it’s still hugely fast, the Spider is less highly strung than the Coupe. Clever aero suppresses the worst of the buffeting when the roof’s down, but you’re less inclined to drive it as hard as the Coupe anyway. No Ferrari is relaxed as such, but the Roma Spider arguably does its best work at a less frenzied pace. The interior is lovely, too, and the previously frustrating HMI has improved.
All in all, this is a fabulously seductive car, a little softer in character but still laser-focused in its intent.