Ferrari Roma Spider: Open-top romp

IT’S NOT every day that you get to experience that romantic drive along some winding seaside route in an ultra-premium sports car like a Ferrari.

Yet there we were making our way along the tight twists and turns of the somewhat coastal road from Batu Ferringhi to Balik Pulau in an open-top 2+ seater Ferrari Roma Spider.

Fine, we didn’t get to see the sparkling blue sea as we drove along as secondary forest and fruit plantations, namely durian, were the course for the day.

The funny thing was that this was perhaps one of the less gung ho drives we had along this route, which would give us a great feel of the car’s dynamics had we pushed the vehicle.

But then again, we were in a left-hand drive Roma Spider that costs RM3.2mil (with duties and taxes).

By the way, this was the second left-hand drive Ferrari that I had driven on Malaysian roads; the first one being part of the Ferrari 360 World Tour more than 20 years ago.

Back then, Ferrari was in celebration of something or other (memory fails me here) but also the Italian sports car maker wanted to show that the mid-mounted V8 360 (400PS and 375Nm) was a worthy successor to the F355.

Our drive back then was 90% highway driving from Ipoh to Penang with the urban experience in getting to the Batu Ferringhi hotel from the Penang Bridge.

Ferrari Roma Spider (13)

This time, we were expecting a fun drive in a soft-top Ferrari, which the Italian carmaker is featuring again, having stopped offering a front-engine soft top model for more than 50 years.

We even had a preview drive from the Lone Pine Hotel to the Teluk Bahang Dam on the first day followed by a much longer one of almost 40km drive (one-way) to a beach near Balik Pulau.

After a short burst to enjoy the V8 power as we exited from the hotel premises, heavy traffic put paid to any hopes of a quick drive to the dam.

It was lovely hearing the loud and throaty intake roar from the 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 that delivers 620PS (465kW) from 5,750 to 7,500rpm and 760Nm of torque from 3,000 to 5,750rpm.

Ferrari says the rear-wheel drive Roma Spider would sprint from 0 to 100kph in 3.4 seconds, slightly slower than the Roma Coupe.

And this continued for the longer drive on day two; although traffic was lighter, no caution was thrown to the wind due to the tight and narrow winding route.

So, we made the best of it in the convoy drive, holding back a little and then charging into the approaching corner for some light dynamic thrill.

And in the meantime, we fiddled with the controls for the Ferrari-patented deflector and opening and closing of the soft top (13-second operation under 60kph) to break the monotony.

The deflector is activated when the soft top is down to divert the air from rustling our hair although we felt the effect was minimal.

The air turbulence was not as strong as when the deflector was not activated but you could still wear a baseball cap to keep your hair neatly in place.

Ferrari Roma Spider (14)

Ferrari appears to have dropped numerals for its model names from the second half of the 2010s and the Roma is perhaps three or four generations down the line from the 360 we drove in the early 2000s.

To keep with the times, the controls have all gone electronic and the preview drive was to get us acquainted to this new aspect of Ferrari motoring.

This include getting comfortable in the driver’s seat using electric controls at the side of the seat cushion; steering wheel height and telescopic adjustments were made in the usual order via electric control on the steering column.

We started the engine by pressing the bottom of the centre boss of the steering wheel; we need to press it longer similar to the press start systems in many contemporary vehicles today.

To get going, we had to pull the right paddle shifter on the steering wheel to select first gear, following which the parking brake is released and we left the eight-speed double-clutch automatic transmission to operate as it saw fit.

As a low-slung ultra-premium sports car, we immediately found the door mirror on the passenger side somewhat large as it didn’t give good view of approaching road traffic at junctions.

It’s a small price to pay for the exhilaration of hearing the throaty V8 roar and the expected excellent road dynamics that we didn’t quite get to enjoy.

Ferrari Roma Spider (12)

We started with the suspension setting on Comfort mode that made driving over potholes, speedbumps and rumble strips hardly noticeable.

Changing to Sports mode made the damping noticeably stiffer but going over the same road undulations was not a jarring one; we could still enjoy the ride.

Another interesting feature was the controls for the turn indicators; we had to use dedicated buttons located on the steering wheel spokes.

And when coming to a stop, we had to pull both the steering wheel paddle shifters at the same time to get into Park and activate the parking brake.

All the electronic controls have made the modern-day Ferrari a less manually involved sports car to drive, which should suit the elite clientele that it panders to.

With the blazing hot sun, we would opt for the cheaper Roma Coupe hard-top although the additional engineering that went into the Roma Spider explains its pricier tag.

Extra strengthening of the chassis and careful selection of materials for the soft top are among the few added steps to ensure the Roma Spider delivers to expectations in performance and drive comfort.

Whether soft top or coupe, you are fully assured of the attention the Ferrari would get you as you motor along, fast or slow.

Ferrari Roma Spider
Engine: 3,855cc, V8, 90-degree, twin turbo
Maximum power: 456kW (620CV) from 5,750 to 7,500rpm
Maximum torque: 760Nm from 3,000 to 5,750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed F1 Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT)
Wheels: Front 245/35 ZR 20; rear 285/35 ZR 20
Brakes: Front 390mm x 34mm discs; rear 360mm x 32mm
Fuel tank: 80 litres
Boot: 255 litres
Acceleration (0-100kph): 3.4 seconds
Top speed: 320kph
Fuel consumption (combined): 11.4 l/100km
Features: Electric power steering, Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC), anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), F1 Traction Control System (F1-TCS), electronic differential (E-DIFF3), Side Slip Control (SSC) 6.0, Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer (FDE), SCM-E Frs
Price: RM3.2mil (with duties and taxes)

Ferrari Roma Spider (1)
Ferrari Roma Spider (2)
The Roma Spider is a 2+ seater convertible.
The Roma Spider is a 2+ seater convertible.
Ferrari Roma Spider (4)
Ferrari Roma Spider (5)
Ferrari Roma Spider (6)
Ferrari Roma Spider (7)
Ferrari Roma Spider (8)
Ferrari Roma Spider (9)
Ferrari Roma Spider (10)
Ferrari Roma Spider (11)
Autos Ferrari