Review: Driving the Ferrari Roma Spider is a chance to relive Italy’s pleasure-seeking lifestyle of the ’60s

The drop-top version of the marque's famed Roma coupé comes with a web of features.

Th e Ferrari Roma Spider in special launch colour Celeste Trevi (All photos: Ferrari)

Colours speak to us in powerful cyphers of symbolism, memories and emotional resonance. “Give a child a piece of paper and ask him to draw a car, and surely he will make it red,” the late automotive colossus Enzo Ferrari once said. Colour, then, often constitutes an idea or an expectation. Ferrari’s sporting success over the years has lent Rosso Corsa, the iridescent red that represents Italian racing and the very lifeblood of the marque, a certain meaning. On the road, a heart-pounding supercar in that hue, visible from afar, makes room for itself. The sumptuous shade is an exquisite ambassador for love but it can also deliciously evoke a fine, age-worthy Barolo from a world-famous Piedmontese wine estate.

In that case, what does Celeste Trevi, a soft, easy-on-the-eye blue with a metallic glint that shares the same name as the famous fountain in the Eternal City, on our Ferrari Roma Spider signify?

The Roman landmark is more than just a wellspring of hope and a wish fulfilled for anyone who tosses coins into its gurgling waters. This architectural awe, which has lured countless tourists over two and a half centuries, conjures up one of cinema’s most iconic scenes: A fountain-soaked Anita Ekberg cavorting in Federico Fellini’s 1960 satirical drama La Dolce Vita, which probably took every man on set titanium will to resist joining the heady temptation of rushing water, blonde hair and a slinky black dress. It was such hedonistic, carefree and “sweet life” of ‘60s Rome that informed every aspect of Ferrari Roma’s DNA and its debonair iterations thereafter.


The Spider is built for sharp corners, especially around bendy roads in Penang's Batu Ferringhi

If red symbolises boldness and a passion pit of confidence, blue’s emotional valence is calmness, freedom and openness. Blue is also sea and sky, the promise of a pocket-sized vacation. Such a dreamy probability nourishes the senses all the more when you are behind the wheel of an optimism-streaked Ferrari that does not, for once, just scream speed. You may wonder what purpose a diabolically fast car may serve in an era of energy worries, congested roads and restrictive speed limits. But the laid-back Spider thumbs its pretty (shark) nose at the playbook and affords you the novelty of hurtling through space in a finer and refined machine to see the world on your own time.

Roma, the entry point to Maranello’s automotive hyperverse, offers nearly the same driving credentials and dynamics as the Spider until the latter’s soft-top, neatly deposited in 13.5 seconds like a pocketknife at speeds of up to 60kmph, is raised. Befitting its name, derived from a roofless horse-drawn carriage called Phaeton Spider with eight-spoke wheels reminiscent of an arachnid’s legs, the zippy Spider is meant to be enjoyed en plein air, with baked head and a smug grin.

Historians of the company have pointed out that it has been 54 years since the brand debuted a front-engine car with a cloth top, the last being the 365 GTS4, also known as the Daytona Spider. Why not a retractable hardtop? Unlike the heavy-handed rear design that afflicted the bulbous Portofino, a bespoke fabric with a two-tone weave not only accentuates the roof’s three-dimensional surface and sinuous line of the car but also preserves its trunk and 2+ designation — the plus refers to the two small seats in the back, roomy enough to store a weekender bag and a modest grocery haul (if wine and cheese are all you consume). A friend trained in contortionism may just fit too.


The soft top with two-tone weave, which boasts acoustic comfort on par with a hard retractable, folds away in just 13.5 seconds

Every updated Ferrari zooms into the market bragging about some innovative technology. A new, patented wind deflector has been integrated into the backrest of the Spider’s rear bench, which flips up like a small table, to reduce turbulence by 30% and diffuse noise when the roof is down. Apart from the slight impracticality that is our torrid Malaysian weather, the Spider allows you to chat without having to shout while being surrounded by the growling aria of a (relatively frugal) twin-turbocharged 3.9-litre V8 that delivers a stout 620hp, 7,500rpm peak and a libidinous exhaust note that has markedly improved from that of its closed cousin when you lay down power to the road.

Pleasure starts with a deep satisfying thrum as the roar of the engine rips into the pastoral quiet and rockets down a ribbon of twisty bends lapping the perimeter of Batu Ferringhi. Because the chassis links to the tyres in intuitive ways, it negotiates hairpin corners and looming blind spots with great finesse. Although feedback from the steering lags behind the lightning-quick response of its V12-powered counterparts, the Spider has a slightly more serene and measured demeanour, giving you ample reaction time before committing a sudden turn.

Asphalt soon gives way to alleys, where narrower roads curb the use of throttle and the aural drama plummets a few octaves. Commandeering the Spider in Comfort mode, when controls are least tensed, makes cruising a breeze in this beach town best savoured slowly. But should you need to make progress or overtake Penang motorcyclists who blithely and obliviously putter along, flip the Mannetino dial to Sport and watch the car zigzag between traffic without the briefest hesitation as the tyres juggle torque between them. In this setting, the suspension does not thud through bumps or gouged-out roads, even when the tachometer needle flicks up to 150 in seconds.


The red interior matches the Spider in Nero Purosangue colour, developed using pigments that produce intense red reflections under certain light conditions

Everything you love about the Roma, Ferrari has carried over to the Spider, including the dual-cockpit design that hugs cosily around each occupant, the 16in digital instrument cluster, 8.4in central display, and an infotainment system featuring Android Auto as well as Apple CarPlay connectivity. The cabin’s almost symmetrical layout yields a more organic distribution of space, enabling the side passenger to feel involved in the driving experience almost like a co-driver.

Alas, one may lament that the Spider begs to be taken on a road trip even though it has no luggage space or the fact that it needs a few more horses under the hood. These will not matter when so much else claims your attention, such as the transmission that cues up like a thunderclap or the burst of upshifts that allow speed for as much as you have road for. Built to be noticed, a Ferrari that wears its mystique and might lightly is almost unheard of but the well-mannered Spider, flaunting a winning combination of poise and sheer effortless driveability, will have no shame pulling up alongside any of the open-top GTs in its category.

The Ferrari Roma Spider is priced from RM3,200,000, inclusive of duties and taxes.

This article first appeared on Apr 8, 2024 in The Edge Malaysia.


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