Alfa Romeo 8C Spider car review
Thursday 16 July 2009
The most beautiful car in the world? The 8C Competitzione Coupe has been shown off at various events since its inception 4 years ago. And given its jaw-droppingly gorgeous looks its no surprise that the order list was oversubscribed well before the first one was built.
But for those who missed out there is now a convertible version and if you’re quick, the ink has yet to dry on a small handful of contracts. There is just the small matter of a £25,000 deposit.
Alfa Romeo Centro Style in Turin is building just 500 Spiders using a Maserati-developed 4.7 litre engine developing 450bhp and to even weight distribution, Alfa has put the gearbox and fuel tank behind the cabin.
Built of aluminium and steel with lashings of carbon fibre, the 8C Spider is 90kg heavier than the Coupe at 1590kgs and a large chunk more expensive at £174,000. Yes, that’s pounds not Euros.
Along with a 6-speed Cambiocorsa paddle-shift gearbox, the whole experience has to be as good inside as it is outside. It certainly felt that way. But this is not a practical car, the boot is so tiny that a bag has been designed specifically for it. It’s a very nice bag though. And you can forgive it that when it looks as good as this.
So here we are, at Balocco circuit, Alfa Romeo’s private test facility between Milan and Turin and Alfa’s ultimate supercar is sitting drumming its fingers on the tarmac.
Competitzione Red and Shell White
Just two cars here, one in Competitzione Red and the other in a pearlescent white, called Shell White.
The first lap was a familiarisation run and driving me was Martino Domenico whose official title is worthy of its own paragraph but in short, he is the test engineer responsible for 8C.
Built on a shortened version of the Maserati GranTurismo’s steel platform, which in S form is a truly brilliant drive, the two cars also share the same gearbox and then of course there’s the engine which started life in a Ferrari but was tuned to be used by Maserati. With 450bhp it’s more powerful than it is in any Maserati, and all of it harnessed by the rear wheels.
Having had track time only and not enough of that, the ride is softer than the Coupe but still firm enough to provide a thoroughly fun time at the wheel.
That said, I suspect that it might prove a little too firm on English roads. The Balocco test track is ultra smooth but where there were opposite cambers taken at speed, the Spider uses all of its mighty grip and balance to make light work of it.
It’s very easy to oversteer and the steering hasn’t been interfered with by electronics, making it heavier than the norm but ultimately, this is a good thing for feedback and good motoring entertainment.
With several different settings to choose from – including a ‘wet’ button – I chose ‘Sport’ which speeds up throttle response, alters stability control and lets loose even more exhaust racket.
It is glorious, popping and banging on deceleration like machine-gun fire. Find a tunnel of which there are three at Balocco, make sure you’re hitting the rev range between 3,500 and 4,000 and change down. Just fantastic.
There’s loads of grip with large Brembo carbon-ceramic ventilated discs hugging the 20” alloys which provide good braking although not immediately the sharpest feel.
Steering is quite heavy without intervention from electronics so linking up tight S-bend brings out muscles you didn’t know you had.
Gear changes both up and down are pretty swift and from every change up, power down, it feels like someone has just stuck a boot in your posterior and that’s no bad thing. The 8C Spider has a raw edge to it and that holds massive appeal.
There’s a good pair of carbon fibre bucket seats to hold you in place and it’s amongst the most sublime interior leatherwork, shared as it is with Ferrari. You can accessorise your Spider with matching suit-carriers that hang over the back of the head restraints, all of which can be ordered in the very same upholstery leather as your car.
Like the Coupe, the Spider looks and feels well built with the carbon fibre body panels sitting flush and the doors shutting with a decent thunk. Alfa Romeo has come a long way in reliability stakes and also build quality so I would be surprised if this was any different, put together as it is by Maserati and let’s face it, you’re not forking out this kind of money for something of dubious class.
A dashboard-mounted button operates the two-layer electrically operated roof which stows flush with the bonnet and becomes its own tonneau cover, saving a little more all-important weight.
But it’s not just the cabin that carries a strong whiff of a future classic. I have every confidence the 8C in both Coupe and Spider form will be future collector’s gains.
Model tested: Alfa Romeo 8C Spider
On the road price: £174,000
Date tested: July 16 2009
Road tester: Victoria Macmillan Bell