All Roads Lead to Rome

Ferrari’s quiet return to elegance.

Ferrari Roma Spider. Image: wordlesstech

It has been happening for some time, and while it hasn’t gone entirely unnoticed around these parts, it has until now been largely unacknowledged[1]. Ferrari design has once more become a seat of elegance. This change in visual course from the visual coarseness of the post-millennial period has been a gradual one. It can probably be ascribed to the current design leadership, under the supervision of Flavio Manzoni, with perhaps some assistance by way of Pininfarina, while under the assured baton of Fabio Filippini.

This shift towards classicism was previewed by a number of low-volume, high-cost model runs aimed at the serious collector of Maranello ephemera, harking back to the much-revered designs of the 1950s, when Ferrari was first making a name for itself on the racetracks and amid the nascent jet-set. However, it was the 2020 advent of the Roma, a 2+2 coupé of surpassing elegance that this shift in stylistic direction truly landed.

In truth, Ferrari was on a losing pitch with its more combative post-millennial style, largely because no matter how aggressively outré their designs became, they would always be upstaged by their Sant’Agata Bolognese rival, for whom striking visual statements is their entire raison d’être. And latterly, with the likes of McLaren, Pagani and other more niche ateliers nipping at Lamborghini’s kitten heels, there really was only one logical direction for Maranello to take.

Ecce Roma. But in planet Maranello, Berlinetta = good, Spider = better; after all, Ferrari is in the business of both hedonism and the maximisation of profit. Presented to potential clients earlier this month at an exclusive event (well, it wasn’t likely to be anything but exclusive) at the El Badi Palace in Marrakesh, the Roma Spider, Ferrari’s first factory-built front-engined soft-top in 54 years made its official debut.

Image: topcarnews

Ferrari is making a big deal about the Roma Spider being what they call “a contemporary take on the chic, pleasure-seeking Italian lifestyle of the 1950s and 60s[2], with frequent allusions in their press release to “La Nuova Dolce Vita”, but marketing fluff aside, it does carry a little of that timeless elegance of line. If one was to pick nits, the profile appears a little heavy over the rear wheels, but nevertheless has none of the visual weight and gracelessness exhibited by its Portofino M stablemate, whose styling is heavily compromised (as all of these vehicles are) by its folding hardtop layout.

One notable (and welcome) feature of the Roma Spider (in launch specification at least) is the absence of the seemingly now obligatory Scuderia wing emblems[3], suggesting that perhaps even in Maranello, this has become viewed as somewhat déclassé. They certainly are not missed by this observer.

Apart from matters pertaining to the roof and its mitigation in packaging and aerodynamics terms, all is very much as for the Roma coupé. It is powered by the same 3855 cc 90° V8 with twin turbos, developing, well, more stallion-power than you or I are likely to experience this side of a EuroMillions win. Performance? More than adequate. Wind in the hair thrills? More than your coiffure can handle, madam.


The Roma Spider (and its coupé sibling) are to be welcomed, not so much for what they represent, but for what they have left behind. A styling era that married a lack of grace with a clumsiness of detail so removed from the artful delicacy of form and line that marked out carrozzeria Pininfarina at its best. It has taken almost two decades for Ferrari to find its own path back to grace, but now that it has, those of us who retain a screed of romance in our bosoms can take heart.

The fact that it makes the case for the Portofino M almost certainly null and void[4] can only be viewed as a bonus.

[1] Well, unacknowledged by this scribe. But not everyone at DTW.

[2] But isn’t every indulgent GT or convertible from any of the more storied carmakers?

[3] There was a time when these only appeared on the Scuderia’s actual race cars.

[4] Word is that it will be axed.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

15 thoughts on “All Roads Lead to Rome”

  1. Good morning, Eóin. I’m happy to see Ferrari’s return to more elegant cars. The Scuderia wing emblems are still an option. I wonder how many customers will tick that box. I’ve never liked it.

    Between the Berlinetta and Spider I have to go for the Berlinetta. The Spider has, as you mentioned too much visual mass over the rear wheels and I don’t like the black rear spoiler. On the Berlinetta it makes more sense as it integrates with the rear window.

  2. Nice to see a new model featured on these pages which one can comment positively upon. I do prefer the coupé as the hump of the tonneau cover does overbalance the visual weight of the car toward the rear. However, it’s still a thing of beauty among so much ugliness in today’s market and roadscape.

    I had the chance to see a coupé in the last week as one approached at dusk in a carpark. Head on, with the headlamps glaring, I did wonder whether it was the more common facelifted F-Type at first. However, it soon became clear that it was a pinky-red hued Roma. It’s quite a delicate shape, and looks smaller than its presence suggests. Either way, a pleasure to behold.

    A neighbour has a Portofino, dressed in white with black wheels and a black roof. Not flattering, in my view, and not a great piece of Ferrari design either. Anyway, someone clearly disagrees with me. White-on-black seems popular in my area, as round the corner we have a Grancabrio in the same scheme …

  3. Hi Eóin. Fortunately, Ferrari elegance seems to be back. I remember watching a road test for the Berlinetta and feeling almost relieved that it was such a restrained and nicely judged thing.

    I think Ferrari’s post-millennial stylistic travails started promisingly with the likes of the 458:

    Before running amok BMW or Audi-style and resulting in the F8 which shares much of its structure with the 458:

    Ironic that the F8 is pictured with the rear of a BMW i8 where the same kind of (mock?) aerodynamic busy-ness results in a far more pleasing design (to me at least).

  4. Good morning Eóin. Well, it’s certainly a step in the right direction, but I wish they had found the courage to ditch the clichéd and naff shiny black rear ‘diffuser’ treatment, and I’m not sure why the panel inset into the boot lid (Is it an active spoiler?) Is black rather than body-coloured.

    Moving round to the front, one thing that isn’t obvious in the photos above is the really nasty looking treatment of the front valance, with a laughably amateurish looking radar installation:

    It looks like a PIR pinched off an exterior floodlight. Others can conceal these pretty well, so how can Ferrari not do better?

    Overall though, it is an imorovement and I suppose we should be thankful for small mercies these days.

    1. I like the way they did the air intake.

      …Daniel has already said everything about the lower part of the front, which is why I’ll remain silent.

    2. If you don’t check the adaptive cruise control you’re fine.

    3. Adaptive cruise, on a Scuderia car? Hah! If they want to win races, I have a better idea:

    4. Isn’t that part of the whole Ferrari mythos, though? Insanely expensive and exclusive cars with Fiat switchgear. Or Citroën CX wing mirrors (that was Lotus, wasn’t it?). I suppose Ferrari want to outgrow that whole boutique brand ethos, but they clearly haven’t.

    5. The CX mirror was used on a wide variety of cars: Aston Martin DB7, Aston Martin Virage, Aston Martin Vantage, Jaguar XJ220, McLaren F1, Lotus Esprit, Lotus Excel, TVR Griffith, TVR Chimera, TVR S4, Marcos Mantis and Renault Sport Spider (I had to look that up)

      In fairness to Ferrari. It seems the interiors have more of their own switch gear now. Whether that improves the ownership experience I don’t know.

    6. Renault Sport Spider? That’s remarkable! No wonder they kept quiet about that one.

  5. I’ve never understood the purpose of a roofless car in this performance category.
    If I want open top motoring I’d buy something with an upright windscreen and a low beltline like a Spitfire, old Alfa Spider or barchetta and then 100 kph would be plenty enough to get wind in the hair. If I want a fast car I’d need every bit of body rigidity and torsion stiffness I could get and I could do pretty well withour the additional wind noise created by a soft top.
    Therefore a roofless Ferrari simply doesn’t make any sense for me personally.

    And yes, I agree the Roma looks better than the last generation of Ferraris and it does without the silly roof of the fat arsed California/Portofino. The Quasimodo rear most probably is there to replace a wind deflector which pretty much negates the purpose of an open top car.

    I know the guy running the Carglass franchise in Frankfurt (Carglass is a chain of workshops specialised in repairing and replacing glass in cars). The Ferrari importer is hundred metres down the road and whenever they have a car in need of new glass they bring it to Carglass because they have the necessary tools, bonding materials and expertise for the job. They once had a 599 Maranello with a cracked windscreen and were shocked how crudely the windscreen was attached to the car, more like a kit car than a series production item and much worse even than my barchetta.

    1. Dave, the only (more or less) purpose of a vehicle without a roof in this performance class (or better price class) is to be seen. The performance data is usually only needed at the bar.

  6. Elegance makes a long-awaited return to automotive design! Led, of course, but the Italians, as I somehow knew it would be. Now, if the rest of the automotive world will but follow…

  7. The main emotion this car generates in me is an enormous sense of unease. “Let’s live La Dolce Vita again!”. I think it’s a bit late for that.

    I suppose it’s a nice looking car, although I prefer the fixed roof version. The colour in particular is very attractive – the Ford Explorer which was unveiled recently was a similar colour.

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