Ease. That’s the key. They should make the business of getting about and using them hassle-free. Connect and engage when you want them to, but know when to pipe down. Follow your mood, in other words. So for three days that’s how I used the Roma. Followed the M4 coneworks in and out of London, folded the rear seats to fit guitars, put them back up for small nephews, did runs to the pub, supermarket, school. Then on a Tuesday morning, got in and drove a very long way, very early.
All told, it hadn’t been particularly easy or hassle-free. It was the low-level irritations: the letterbox load bay opening that leaves the trunk lid at perfect headbutt level, the purpose-designed phone slots that are too slender if your phone is wearing a case, the seatbelt alarm that sounds if you put anything heavier than a wallet on the passenger seat. And the not-so-low-level irritations: how effectively the A-pillar and the mirror block visibility at junctions, the reflections that render the center screen practically invisible, the awkward thumb pad that ‘controls’ the instrument binnacle.
And why, when you change the volume, don’t the sound levels change immediately? There’s a marked delay, enough time for you to think the change wasn’t registered, jab the screen a bit more, then jump out of the—overly firm—seat when the system catches up.
All this stuff matters because it makes operating the car a trial. Interactions with the Roma aren’t seamless, you have to think, process; it takes mental capacity which should be purely focused on the driving. Which brings us back to where we came in. Because this is a car that demands your full attention once you start moving. But it’s hard to do that when the cabin is also asking quite a bit of you as well.
We know this isn’t necessarily a grand tourer, but we also know it’s designed to do a gentler job than the mid-engined F8 Tributo. In my head, that meant it was more along the lines of the GTC4Lusso, and that chimed with the cars Ferrari claims are rivals. The ones you see here.
There’s the Porsche 911 Turbo S, the most powerful machine in the lineup, the definitive everyday supercar and our Performance Car of the Year last year—quite a compelling double act. It’ll test the Roma’s driver appeal and everything’s usability. Hardly a bargain these days, though—it’s more expensive than the Bentley Continental GT V8. Until you start shoveling essential options into the big Brit. However, that’s a car that understands exactly what job it was designed for better than any other here. Show it an autoroute and it would sniff out Antibes like a truffle-hunting hog.