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Driving

What is it like to drive?

The advance buzz on the Roma suggested a hotter Portofino. Ferrari insists not. Accordingly, 70 per cent of the components are entirely new, and it incorporates the latest weight reduction and production techniques.

Chief test driver Raffaele de Simone singles out the chassis engineers for particular praise, which is significant because while the Roma is apparently less frantic than other Ferraris (812, we're looking at you), the hard bits underneath point the way forward for Ferrari. Not that any car powered by a 3.9-litre twin turbo V8 making 612bhp is ever going to be anything less than extremely vivid.

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Tell me about the engine.

In the Roma, the engine receives new cam profiles, a revised catalytic converter and gas particulate filter, a reworked exhaust that uses an oval-shaped flap rather than a traditional silencer, and more aggressive valve lift profiles on intake and exhaust. So it’s more thermally efficient but also more sonically satisfying, too. This was already one of the world’s cleverest engines, and the biggest issue the fortunate end user faces is simply being able to tap into its huge potential.

All vestiges of laggardly old-school turbo behaviour have been completely eradicated, the hardware magic matched by Variable Boost Management software which adjusts torque delivery to suit whichever gear you’re in. Throttle response is instant, and if it doesn’t deliver the extraordinary sensory highs of, say, Lamborghini’s V10, it’s pretty damn close.

In the Roma, of course, that sort of emotional overload wouldn’t be appropriate anyway, and the result is a car that is as seductive at whispering in your ear as it is giving it the full 7,500rpm V8 baritone roar. There’s a new gearbox, too, derived from the eight-speed dual-shift one in the SF90 Stradale.

It’s improved in every measure: lighter, faster shifting (15 per cent on upshifts, 21 per cent on downshifts), more efficient, and better integrated with the engine software. We tested the car in Piedmontese wine country, where the topology and road surfaces are very similar to the stuff you’d find near Maranello. Which is to say, often bloody awful. Throw in an apocalyptic downpour and the scene’s set for a sweaty-palmed, often eye-popping few hours.

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How's the handling?

Ferraris crave dry tarmac, and need proper heat in the tyres to do their best work. A combination of slippery surfaces and heavy rain meant a rare case of selecting Wet mode on the manettino. It works extremely well, though that flickering traction light is a reminder of how much work the software’s doing.

Comfort, Sport, Race and ESC-Off (are you sure?) complete the quintet, backed up by something called the Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer – which adjusts brake pressure on whichever wheel needs it and works only in Race mode – alongside the regular stability control and V6.0 of side slip control. Ferrari has gone truly, bewilderingly digital, but beneath it all is a deeply satisfying car to drive, both quickly (0-62mph in 3.4 seconds, 0-124mph in 9.3s) and not-so-quickly, with wonderfully linear steering, fantastic composure, and terrific brakes (the pedal feel is better on the Roma, too).

What’s it like on a motorway?

Good question, and perhaps more relevant to the people who’ll actually end up buying it. This is after all, a Ferrari built specifically to romanticise the idea of a cross-continental jaunt with crushing ease in something shaped like 1960s Italy. Make no mistake, the Roma is a gorgeous car; looks that very effortlessly embody its ethos of la dolce vita.

In reality that translates as steady-state motorway manners that are really very good, if not the consummate competence exemplified by, say, a Bentley Continental GT. A 400+ mile jaunt across France proved its composure, the Roma able to dial down its wild streak and cover miles with pace and in comfort.

But it is a Ferrari after all, and while it might be the car to encourage new buyers to the brand, it still has to have claws: the steering is quick, the ride tauter than you’d expect. All it means is that the Roma demands more of your attention more of the time, especially when a momentary tickle of the throttle warps you forward so rapidly.

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