We Drove The Ferrari Roma Spider Through Italy’s Sardinian Mountains

The long-hooded, 620-horsepower GT features Ferrari’s first soft-top roof in more than 50 years.


Historians recognize the nebulous “Sea People” as the theorized destroyers of the Bronze Age, a borderless congregation of oceangoing folk who banded sails to wreak havoc across the Eastern Mediterranean, from the Levant to Egypt and deep into the fertile crescent. It has long been speculated that the ancient Nuragic civilization was not only among, but one of the spearheads of, this vaguely named nautical pestilence. Inhabitants of Sardinia, the Nuragic were as mysterious as they were feared some 3,300 years ago.

This lost civilization stays close in mind when slicing through Sardinia, especially when passing the nuraghe, the crumbling fortress/ towers of the Nuragic. These spectacular ruins, still somehow shockingly intact as they rise into the horizon, remind you that we too are here to raze the Mediterranean landscape—except forget the oared galley, our chosen transportation being the latest steed from the Maranello stable: the newly unleashed Roma Spider.


The esoteric lures of ancient civilizations aside, Sardinia makes for one hell of a landscape for any drive. The second largest island in the Mediterranean, beset with towering cliffs and twinkling waves as far as the eye can see, would make a spectacular setting for a moped launch. Now try to envision what it’s like navigating the latest open-air version of Ferrari’s adored grand tourer bloodline, the origins of which are showcased in Michael Mann’s Adam Driver-led Ferrari.

Toe the throttle and the glorious brrrrrraaaaps! from the 3.9-liter V8 rip across the sage-covered hills, sending small deer scurrying into caves. You imagine terrified pharaohs running to the hills alongside them. Later that evening at dinner, Ferrari’s Turbocharger Design Manager Luigi Mosciaro will expound upon his team’s efforts to recalibrate the sound from the Roma hardtop, tweaking bypass valve software in order to create “the correct mix between the wind and the sound of the engine itself.” With no muffler, Mosciaro explained the driver is able to modulate sound with the throttle alone to overpower the wind.


And push the throttle you will, with endless glee. Thanks to a new gearing developed for the Roma coupe, the Spider offers near instantaneous throttle response, with 80% of torque available at just 1,900 rpm—and max 561 lb-ft (760 Nm) unleashed at only 3,000 rpm. Surfing the sinewy coastline that demands constant braking, the ability to burst out of corners with breakneck pulls exhilarates. The official 0-60 mph click of 3.2 seconds seems modest, while Ferrari’s famed steering remains wonderfully tight, responsive to every slight whim without acting jumpy like a supercar.

It’s clear with the Roma Spider that Ferrari wants to harken back to the golden era of gentlemanly motoring. 

Sure the Roma in any guise is not as agile as its mid-engine 296 GTS cousin, which we test-drove a year prior about 100 miles from here just across the Tyrrhenian Sea on the Tuscan coast. But it’s not supposed to, that’s not its DNA; the Roma’s genetic programming revolts against any supercar antics. It is, after all, the embodiment of gran turismo: long front hood, all 620 horses channeled to the rear wheels, comfortable thrones that wrap not-too-snugly around you. One could sit comfortably on a leisurely ten-hour drive. And don’t forget the rear boot, ample enough to fit a couple weekenders or golf bags should you need.


With Sardinia’s dearth of traffic in early autumn, mostly decent pavement conditions, azure skies, and littoral roads that feel like Poseidon tossed asphalt spaghetti along the craggy coast, you have everything you need to both challenge the Roma Spider’s bonafides while also burnishing them to a sheen. This nearly holy front-engined GT bloodline was begat by the coach-built 166 Inter in 1949—the first non-track-focused Ferrari ever—and includes in its family tree other legendary vehicles such as the Daytona 365 GTB/4, Testarossa and 250 GTO.

But this new Spider model elevates gran turismo into a state of mind. Stare down the long, shimmering red hood; from the driver’s perspective the bonnet curves like a W, peaked by twin fenders and center air stack. The voluptuous shape is comely—one is tempted to make a hackneyed Monica Bellucci reference, and it takes all your willpower to resist.

The Spider manifests all the post-war romanticism conjured by the Roma’s namesake city.

It’s clear with the Roma Spider that Ferrari wants to harken back to the golden era of gentlemanly motoring. It all starts with Chief Design Officer Flavio Manzoni solving the convertible dilemma with a softtop—something we haven’t seen crown a Ferrari since the spider version of the above mentioned Daytona 365, the GTS/4, in 1971. Then there’s the breathless mention of what Ferrari marketing dubs “La Nuova Dolce Vita,” a blatant overture to those halcyon days of Italian cinema when Marcello Mastroianni chased Anita Ekberg around the Trevi fountain, manifesting all the post-war romanticism conjured by the Roma’s namesake city.


Of course the fabric top is more than a Fellini hued heart-tug to nostalgia. Ferrari hasn’t waited for more than a half-century to opt for a soft-top solution on a whim. No, the five-layer fabric lowers overall center of gravity, and along with its all-aluminum chassis helps provide the Roma Spider with best-in-class weight-to-power ratio. The roof can be activated in just 13.5 seconds while driving at speeds up to 37 mph. All while still providing enough acoustic protection to keep the cabin as quiet as a hardtop—although to be honest the amount of time spent with the roof up on our five-hour jaunt could be measured on an atomic stopwatch.

From a pure luxury standpoint, however, the biggest gamechanger may just be the simple-at-first-glance wind deflector—a patented black sculpture that unfolds from the rear backrest to control how air channels through the cabin. This utilitarian flourish may seem simple in theory, however its design required years of calibration, wind tunnel work, aerodynamic design tweaking and superb engineering. Simply push a button and the deflector deploys via gas springs at speeds up to 105 mph, creating a remarkably still bubble around the cabin and greatly reducing wind turbulence.

“It really rewards you when you feel the difference with it employed,” Francesco Comand, Ferrari’s Test Driving Specialist, will explain later. “The cabin feels incredibly calm, even at velocity.” After that aforementioned 296 GTS drive last year we capped the launch at legendary Ferrari founder Enzo’s favorite restaurant just outside his Maranello HQ. There, over plates of Parmigiano Reggiano tortellini, a veteran Ferrari spokesperson explained that during the last decade the company has focused on developing a “different Ferrari for every Ferraristi” philosophy, where for every owner there’s a unique vehicle to complement them.


This philosophy continues seamlessly with the Roma Spider. As a superb manifestation of the gran turismo lifestyle, there is no doubt for whom this drop top is for. Perhaps we were wrong with our initial missive—we weren’t in Sardinia to raze the Mediterranean landscape, we were here to breathe in every atom of its beauty. With Ferrari’s new Roma Spider you don’t have to chase a platinum blonde around the Trevi Fountain to find the Sweet Life (although feel free). Just push the glowing red Start button on the steering wheel and you’re halfway there. 

Follow Deputy Editor Nicolas Stecher on Instagram at @nickstecher and @boozeoftheday.