If you were disappointed at having missed out on one of Alfa’s 500 8C Competizione coupés, here’s more bad news: you’ve missed out on the Alfa Romeo 8C Spider too. Another 500 will be made, with 35 coming to the UK, but they’ve all been reserved.
Then again, you might be relieved at having missed out when you see the bill those lucky 35 are being presented with: at £174,000, the Spider is closer in price to the V12-powered Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano than the Ferrari California with which it shares its open-topped, front-mounted V8 configuration.
The 8C coupe cost ‘just’ £112,000: exchange rate fluctuations account for much of the hike, but can the Alfa Romeo 8C Spider really justify such a colossal price?
So what do you get for your average semi-detached house?
The Spider is 90kg heavier than the coupe due to the stiffening required by its Maserati Quattroporte-derived steel chassis; there’s a huge cross-brace between the front suspension turrets, beefier sills and extra beams in the floor. The folding hood is fabric to save weight and keep the centre of gravity low; it’s powered but needs to be freed and latched manually.
There are new Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes – 380mm at the front, 360mm behind – which save 14kg of rotating and unsprung mass over the coupe’s steel discs. The engine is unchanged, and still magnificent; a Ferrari-made, Maserati-derived 450bhp 4.7-litre V8 driving the rear wheels through a six-speed paddle-shift (but single-clutch) transaxle.
The springs have been stiffened and the dampers softened to avoid sending tremors into the less rigid chassis. All the panels remain carbonfibre; the paintwork is flawless but the bonnet and bootlid have been left gloriously naked on the underside. The bootspace beneath would struggle to take a briefcase.
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Does the Alfa Romeo 8C Spider (2009) drive as well as it looks?
Sadly, no. Alfa wouldn’t let us out of its smooth, fast Balocco test track, so a definitive verdict will have to wait. The 8C Spider’s structure is certainly stiff; occasional poor surfaces and harsh circuit kerbs didn’t set it shaking or corrupt the steering unduly, and the ride remains remarkably composed for such an edgy car.
The engine remains a masterpiece; ludicrously loud, powerful and responsive with a slick, sharp shift. The extra weight means the 4.5sec 0-60mph time is a few tenths off the coupe’s pace; the difference is irrelevant.
Having all its major masses – engine, ’box and tank – contained within the wheelbase means it changes direction with remarkable agility for a front-engined car; there’s understeer initially if you push too hard but it’s very easy to dial out with the throttle. But the steering is heavy and disappointingly lifeless, and the brakes, though hugely capable offer little feel or retardation over the first few inches of travel.
Should you be gutted at having missed out on the Spider too? Probably not; the Ferrari California has it licked dynamically for £35,000 less, and Ferrari will still take your order.
The 8C Spider’s looks, noise and price make promises the chassis can’t keep. For those with deposits down on a Spider, the looks, the noise and the fact that this is one of the stand-out cars in Alfa’s hundred-year history will be enough to keep them happy.
Judged by more objective standards, the Alfa Romeo 8C Spider struggles.