Just look at it. This has to be one of the sexiest cars on the road – regardless of price.
Another beguilingly beautiful new Alfa Romeo, sparkling in the hot Italian summer sun…
Pretty thing, isn’t it? Pininfarina style, handsomely stitched soft leather upholstery, enticing black-and-aluminium cabin, doubly welcoming because the new Spider has no roof and that drop top welcomes you inside like an open door invites you into a grand home.
What’s under the bonnet?
V6 or twin-cam four – you choose but we started with the bigger engine. Push the starter button and that creamy smooth V6 snarls into action. The clutch is sweet, the steering fluid and linear, but the gearchange, although short in throw is slightly vague. All V6 versions of the Spider get four-wheel drive. The other engine option, the 2.2 four, is less torquey, so front-drive suffices to parcel out the power. The 3.2 V6 is the new General Motors-collaboration unit, built in Australia (how much further from Italy can you get?) but it’s zestful and elastic just like the old Alfa V6 that serenaded a generation of GTV buyers, although less tuneful. It zings around to the 7000rpm electronic rat-a-tat-tat cut off.
Performance is good but not special. The Spider is based on the handsome Brera coupe – in fact it’s a Brera convertible in all but name. And like the Brera, this is more tourer than tearaway. On winding roads you soon discover that the handling is also secure and stable and safe. But it doesn’t sing to you, scintillate you. This car just doesn’t have the agility of a Boxster or even the latest Z4. The four-wheel drive, beefy weight (almost 1700kg) and nose heaviness all spoil the fun. It’s 65kg more than the Brera too, and to compensate for the half-as-good rigidity, the ride quality has been softened. Handling suffers. It feels what it is: a sports car based on a saloon, the dynamically good but not great Alfa 159.
So it’s fine if you’re happier slowing down to admire the view?
As the road straightens, you revel in the flipside of the car’s character. What’s been lost in agility and speed is made up for in comfort and easy liveability. The Spider is a roomy, relaxing convertible. Easy to drive, easy to use. Electronically controlled fabric roof down, windows up, wind deflector in place, it’s a pleasant place to spend time.
And which model is the best buy?
The 2.2-litre engine version is better dynamically than the V6, if not so muscular. It’s lighter, more agile, and the engine has that lovely twin-cam rasp redolent of all great Alfa fours. And since the front wheels only have 185bhp to deal with, torque-steer is never an issue.
But wouldn’t I be mad to buy any Alfa?
It’s a familiar tale. While many of us in the UK admire Alfa’s style and its BMW-alternative role, few of us spend money on them. It’s why Alfa’s UK market share is a pathetic 0.2 percent. We don’t trust the cars or, sadly, the dealers. But the quality of Alfas is improving, just as the character is being enhanced, and a big shake-up of the UK dealer network is imminent. Very soon, we Brits may once again buy Alfas instead of just loving them.
Gorgeous, sonorous, handsomely crafted by coachbuilders Pininfarina, and oozing character, verve and charm, the Spider is an easy car to like. Dynamically it falls slightly short of the competition, but it’s lack of faith in the brand that will really prevent massive sales success.