Would you like to drive a Ferrari?
From guest writer Ryan Carignan Text alert… "Are you in town this weekend?" followed by "Call me." A few seconds later, I was on the phone with a friend I had not seen in a while. She asked if my wife and I would like to go to an event that Saturday at a private residence not far from town; to drive a Ferrari Roma and an F8 Spider… I said yes.
The friend in question was Cindy Sisson, the CEO of GS Events and someone connected to almost every level of motorsports in North America. If Cindy invites you to an event, you find a way to be there.
Technically the invite was not for me; the Petal to the Metal event was for my wife and about 29 other women. GS Events specializes in empowering women in motorsports and business and uses events like this to allow women who may otherwise never experience an exotic car from the left seat the ability to drive one. There are no pushy salespeople or spiels; this isn't a timeshare weekend trap. It's an example of inclusive car culture, allowing women to meet other professional and inspiring women, network, and experience the thrill of a supercar. I got to tag along in the afternoon session when many of the invitees' husbands could have a go, which was awesome.
The Roma is a beautiful example of Ferrari's long tradition of building excellent front-engine, rear-drive touring cars. In comparison, it lacks the sonorous V-12 of the 812 Superfast and other predecessors, but its 3.9-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 puts on a show. Making 612 horsepower at 7500 RPM and 561 lb.-ft of torque from 3000 RPM to 5750 RPM.
One look at the Roma, and it's clear this car is not here to win track shootouts or magazine comparison tests. It's here to look good and bring you anywhere you want to go quickly and in style. This is the Ferrari you buy to drive and enjoy, and not care who sees you. The Roma is a car for the occupants, not the spectators.
The styling of the Roma does one hell of a visual illusion on the viewer. I would swear this car is smaller than a C7 Corvette or current 911, but it isn't. The Roma is the same width as a C7 Z06 (two inches narrower than a 992 gen 911), yet it is, get this, FIVE inches longer than both of those models.
As I slid into the driver's seat, I noticed how familiar things felt. The driving position is not strange to anyone who's driven a modern Corvette, Viper, F-Type, etc. The hood is long, but the sculpted "wings" help highlight the car's edges.
The interior is a classic 2+2 configuration with very comfortable driver and passenger seats and tiny back seats suitable for children just out of car seats or, better yet, luggage. The cabin has the airy feel that is a hallmark of 2+2s, giving passengers a level of comfort and ease pure two-seat sports cars can lack.
Everything is not perfect, though, as the Roma falls victim to the trend of "digital everything." An adequately sized but somewhat chunky touch screen dominates the center console where you make most routine driving adjustments. There are no physical buttons on the center console except for the transmission, more on that in a bit.
The gauges behind the steering wheel are also digital. The familiar giant tachometer is still front and center in the instrument cluster, but the digital incarnation loses a bit of excitement compared to the analog gauge.
The steering wheel is the real star of the interior. The glorious red manettino at the 4 o'clock position adjusts the mode of the vehicle. The steering wheel makes up for the center console's lack of buttons as it is festooned with switches. The design mimics a Formula 1 steering wheel, and the effect works.
I assume the haptic navigation pad next to your right thumb can adjust the stereo and other features, but I did not use it. There is also a haptic feedback Engine Start/Stop button. That's right, the button you push to start the car, to bring life to the Ferrari theater, is a haptic feedback mush screen. Talk about anticlimactic, oh, and it may also disappear at times while you are driving. This probably has no impact on function, but it's a bit weird.
I almost forgot about the nod to Ferrari's past with the "gated" shift buttons. The design layout of the shift modes on the center console reminds you of the famed gated shifters of old Ferraris. It's a somewhat cheesy riff, but I appreciate the effort compared to other models that operate with large push buttons.
My time with the car was brief, so my focus was on how it drove. Many of these minor critiques are probably things that would no longer be annoying with a bit of time spent digging into how they function. The idea of placing nearly everything the driver would need to control on the wheel is an excellent one, but maybe not for someone who parachutes into the car to drive it for 20 minutes.
The shift paddles are excellent carbon fiber pieces of art that are always easy to operate and provide access to an excellent dual-clutch transmission if you shift it yourself. If you leave it in fully automatic mode, it prioritizes fuel economy by going to as high a gear possible and is not what you want for spirited driving.
The sensitivity of the brake and accelerator pedals made for a slow-speed cruise that was anything but smooth. It may also be something you would get used to the longer you drove the car. For me, I felt a little like Richard Gere lurching that poor Lotus Esprit in Pretty Woman.
Once outside the confines of the neighborhood, all those little things melt away. Mash the gas, pull the right shift paddle when you see the blue shift lights in the steering wheel, and giggle like a child. The Roma accelerates as you would expect a modern turbocharged Ferrari; it is fast and sounds lovely. It is not as neck-snappingly quick as some of its contemporaries or indeed any of the performance-oriented EVs. But it will not leave you wondering where the power is.
The Roma does a masterful job of hiding turbo lag, as well as not allowing those turbos to spoil the party from the exhaust. Ferrari found a way to negate both of those evils while still enjoying the spoils of turbocharging. Well done, Ferrari! The Roma's exhaust note is what you want to hear from a car with the prancing horse badge.
A quick daily triple revealed the Roma to be poised and easy to drive at speed. The front end felt a little bit light, and the steering could maybe be weighted a smidge more, but these are things I would happily "deal with" in this car.
The driving experience was fantastic, and the Roma will not disappoint anyone who comes at it with the proper perspective. While I'm sure it is competent on the track, that's not where this car belongs. It is the spiritual successor to the Daytona, fast, sleek, and eager to gobble miles and miles of road at extra-legal speeds without leaving its driver exhausted. I would sign up to drive a Roma across the country and back tomorrow; just give me the key.
Oh yeah, the key. A leather and metal Ferrari logo, pure, simple, and quite frankly the best key fob anyone has created yet. It is as good as every auto journalist and YouTuber has said.
The F8 Spider
Next up, the flashy one. After driving the Roma, it was time to hop into the F8 Spider. This example was everything you think of when you hear the name Ferrari. It was brilliant red with a dark tan interior that just screamed prancing horse. The F8 is the opposite of the Roma; it is the shouty, look-at-me Ferrari to the Roma's reserved, buttoned-down demeanor.
The mid-engine F8 is all about how it looks to the wind, with scoops, vents, and winglets everywhere. Ferrari's tagline for the F8 is "the evolution of the species," which is accurate. It is a clear descendent of the mid-engine supercars before it from the 360 to the 488. It is the culmination of what Ferrari has learned from those models with every advancement they can muster (well, not all of them, you must save something for the more expensive special additions, of course).
To say the look of the F8 is purposeful would be an understatement. It is sexy, aggressive, low, wide, and mean. As I stood looking at it, one thought screamed through my head, "I wanna go fast!" The F8 will make you do irresponsible things, and you will love it.
A mid-mounted 3.9-liter turbocharged V8 powers the F8, making a stunning 710 horsepower at 8,000 RPM and 567 lb.-ft of torque from 3250 RPM. This makes for a Car and Driver tested 0-60 time of 2.8 seconds, and after driving it, I have no reason to doubt that number.
The interior of the F8 is very different from the Roma, with no center console dividing the driver and passenger seats and no space behind those seats. You operate the transmission mode by large pushbuttons set in the general vicinity of where you would reach for a manual transmission shifter.
There is no center-mounted touchscreen, just pleasantly arranged buttons and dials to manipulate the climate control system. The driver receives pertinent information from the gauge cluster screens behind the steering wheel. Thankfully, the center-mounted tachometer is analog and glorious.
As with the Roma, the steering wheel is where the action lies. There are buttons and switches everywhere to cycle through menus and select options. Then there's the bright red Engine Start/Stop button, an actual button! Again, Ferrari has mastered the steering wheel as the controller of all the things. The column-mounted carbon-fiber shift paddles are just as exquisite as they were in the Roma.
The engine fired up with a push of the big, red fun button, and the F8 was alive. As agro and "shouty" as the F8's exterior may be, the exhaust is, frankly, tame. That isn't to say it is whisper-quiet; there will be no mistaking the F8 for a hybrid, but it is undoubtedly no 458.
The F8 amplified my complaint from the Roma regarding the binary gas and brake. It felt like I deployed a drag chute the instant I took my foot off the accelerator. Driving the F8 through the neighborhood at speeds under 25 mph was probably the least elegant thing I've ever done. Que the Pretty Woman clip.
Any concern over the slow-speed dynamics of the F8 disappeared as quickly as the tachometer needle climbed toward the redline. Life became a blur of green trees and flashing blue shift lights as we bombed down the road. Oh what fun an open-top mid-engine Ferrari is on a back road! As I said, the F8 will make you do bad things.
I had no opportunities to explore the limits of the car, but I hammered it enough to know the F8 is a competent supercar that could easily be the star of your track weekend. It is fast, looks absolutely mega, and will make you feel like a star. What it won't do is give you goosebumps from the howl of that Ferrari engine.
Unlike the Roma, Ferrari could not negate the effect of turbos on the exhaust note of the F8. Even at wide-open throttle, it was just, kind of, good. The Roma sounded like a stunner; the F8 doesn't have the lungs.
I'm sure a well-heeled Tifosi could rectify that with an aftermarket exhaust; something in titanium would be nice. It is a minimal complaint, but I must be honest. The exhaust is one of Ferrari's calling cards, so not having it here was a bit of a downer.
Winning lottery ticket in hand, which one would I buy? The Roma has a charm to it that would be difficult to find in another brand. Aston Martin would be a logical competitor, but I don't think they have the same swagger. Maybe a Bentley Continental GT would be a worthy foe, but I won't know until someone hands me the keys.
The F8 is spectacular, but I know there is already a sportier version in the SF90. Not to mention the mid-engine spaceships from McLaren. While the F8 has an authentic charm, I think I would look elsewhere for mid-engine performance. The Roma is a car that, while not without its faults, is something I would enjoy every day. It's a car that would make me smile when I opened the garage door and always look back after parking. I might even have to peak in the garage at night to make sure it was still there; it's that sweet.
Ryan has owned dozens of vehicles including an NA Miata, multiple C5 and C6 Corvettes, and several Porsches. After retiring from the Air Force, he managed the Porsche Club of America’s racing program for three years before making the leap to freelance writing and photography. Check him out at https://mydrivingpassions.com The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.