The most beautiful Ferrari has an intoxicating duality of character. We indulged in its talents on the undulating roads north of Turin, Italy.

These days, the term Grand Turismo or GT is used way more casually than it should be. Let’s face it, the BMW 5 Series GT was not a GT; it was a big fastback station wagon on steroids that had looks only a parent could love.

A GT should be elegant, sporty, able to evoke a romantic image of cruising through mountain passes at speed while having a conversation about dinner parties with your passenger. It should be as precise in a tight hairpin as it is comfortable cruising along the highway or heading to an upmarket soirée.

The Ferrari Roma is that car, a proper GT. Honestly, I didn’t expect it to be. I was prepared to be disappointed. It seemed to appear from nowhere, and, frankly, the whole point of the metal folding roof on the Portofino is that Ferrari didn’t need to build a coupé, but it has, and the Roma is gorgeous.

It is partly based on the Portofino, about 30% actually, but while there might be some familiarity, there’s much more that identifies the other 70%. The Roma has a 20 mm lower centre of gravity and a wider track front and rear. It’s a full 100 kg lighter, has more power and the eight-speed dual-clutch Getrag transmission from the SF90 Stradale hybrid supercar with gear ratios altered to provide more of a GT feel.

Ferrari ROMA

There are some serious numbers to consider, too, with the headline figures being a 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 producing 456 kW between 5 750 and 7 500 r/min and torque of 760 Nm between 3 000 and 5 750 r/min. Maranello claims it’ll spring to 100 km/h in 3.4 seconds, reach 200 km/h in 9.3 seconds and top out somewhere just north of 320 km/h.

The stats are only part of the story, though, because while the Roma is a real athlete, it hides its muscle beneath a beautiful body. That shark nose is inspired by Ferrari tourers of the 1960s. There’s heritage in the design, more so than any other modern-era Ferrari. The flanks are uncluttered; even the traditional shields have been removed to ensure a smooth surface. There’s a diffuser at the rear but it’s not overcomplicated like it is on so many performance models these days. Instead, it’s nicely integrated as part of an aerodynamic package that is essential to make the most of the power available.

Talking of aero, the Roma is the first Ferrari GT to feature vortex generators beneath the body. They channel air that is pulled in through that shark nose, pulling the chassis down onto the road and then forcing it out through the rear. It’s all part of an active package that includes a small spoiler just below the rear window that at its highest point generates 95 kg of additional downforce and which, importantly, you can’t deploy at the touch of a button.

There’s plenty of other wizardry at work, too, such as the Dynamic Enhancer torque-vectoring system, Side Slip Control and a new clutch-control management system that Ferrari claims improve selection times by 23%, although that is over the old seven-speed DCT rather than the one in the SF90. There’s a new electronic control unit and a new exhaust system with gas particulate filters to reduce emissions. The silencers have been thrown out and replaced by bypass flaps. Don’t think that makes things noisy, though; the Roma is a gent around town, cruising as quietly as you like until you are ready to push the needle way up through the scale to get the best notes from the hand-built V8.

Then there’s the trend of talking to your car as though it is your mate on the other side of the braai. Today you can say “Hey BMW” or “Hey Mercedes”, but this is an Italian thoroughbred so, of course, you have to say “Ciao, Ferrari”. Pretentious, perhaps?

When you do talk to it, it’s all part of the new Human 1 2 3 4 5 Machine Interface that debuted in the SF90. It’s been designed to allow owners to enjoy driving thrills without being distracted, useful if you are making the most of the 456 kW on offer. Some functions are in the vertical touchscreen in the centre console, but many of the important controls have been moved to the steering wheel ahead of the digital instrument panel.

Ferrari ROMA

Then one final thing before we get to the really important stuff – the Roma is the first Ferrari GT to feature a race setting as one of five modes on the manettino – wet, comfort, sport, race and ESC off, which by the way, really is everything off, so don’t do it unless you want to be in some stranger’s YouTube video.

With everything on, we took to the roads about an hour out of Turin in Italy. Initially, things were a bit slippery, the Roma calling on its electronic brain with wet mode reducing the torque to keep everything civilised… It was a nice opportunity to get to know the car and enjoy the impressively crafted interior. There’s plentiful space for two adults up front and a couple of laaities in the rear along with decent luggage space for a weekend getaway. It’s all rather pleasant.

Pleasant was also a good way to describe the early part of the drive. Remember that GT persona? The Roma is comfortable, relaxed and docile around town and through sleepy villages. Then switch it up to sport or race and mamma mia! it changes its character. Push the revs to around 6 000 r/min and you’ve got less Prancing Horse and more straight-up galloping stallion. I know, Ferrari clichés, but the Roma is a thrill to drive hard, revelling in tight corners and enjoying twisty mountain passes.

The transmission is as gentle or vicious as you want it to be, the V8 as smooth or aggressive as you wish and the suspension as compliant or sporty as the road surface requires. All the while, the hand-crafted interior allows you to relax in comfort and focus on the task at hand, whether that’s driving to dinner or seeking out new driving roads.

Ferrari ROMA

I can honestly say it’s been quite a few years since I have been this enamoured with a Ferrari. In fact, I’d have to go back to the 458. Yes, they’ve all been quick… but quick and beautiful – that perfect combination – has eluded Maranello a bit of late. Ferrari refers to the Roma as being “La Nuova Dolce Vita”, or the new sweet life and, you know what, it really is rather sweet.

At a Glance

Ferrari ROMA

The Roma manages to strike an intoxicating balance between striking beauty and raw thrills. Bonus? It’s one of Ferrari’s more affordable models (relatively speaking, of course).

Price: R4 857 000
Engine: 3.9 L, V8, turbopetrol
Transmission: 8-spd dual-clutch
Driven wheels: R
Power: 456 kW @ 5 750-7 500 r/min
Torque: 760 Nm @ 3 000-5 750 r/min 0-100 km/h: 3.4 seconds
Top speed: 320 km/h
Fuel consumption: 11.2 L/100 km
CO2 : 255 g/km