2010 Alfa Romeo 8C Spider

White | 6-Speed F1 Transmission | 4691cc | 14km | HK$ POA

Within seconds of launching the Alfa Romeo 8C Spider out of pit lane at the company’s Balocco test track near Milan, in northern Italy, I’m grinning like an idiot. And I’m not even driving.
The first reason is the noise: a manic blare and bark from the 4.7-liter V-8. The sheer volume and ferocity of the sound beats even a Ferrari Scuderia’s or a Lamborghini LP560-4’s and makes one wonder how the 8C gets through tough European pass-by noise regulations.
The second is that Domenico Bagnasco, the car’s chief engineer, pitches the 8C Spider sideways into the first corner he approaches. He holds the car in a long, lurid slide, the rear tires wreathed in smoke. By the third corner, I’m convinced he’s totally expletive-deleted insane.
When Bagnasco hands over this $301,600 roadster to me, it takes all of two corners to see that this is one beautifully balanced car, with delightful, talkative steering. For a few bucks more than 300 large, the 8C Spider had better be special, but I’d rather have one of these than a Bugatti Veyron. The 8C Spider is not as fast, but it has soul. The Veyron, by comparison, lacks tactility and passion.
Like the 8C Competizione coupe, Alfa Romeo is making only 500 of these convertibles. Just 35 will make it to the U.S., compared with 84 coupes. As with the coupe, the Spider is underpinned by components filched from the Maserati parts bin, but all of the bodywork is made from carbon fiber.
The control-arm suspension is lifted from the GranTurismo, as is a dry-sump version of the Maserati 4.7-liter V-8 that produces 444 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. It drives the rear wheels through a rear-mounted, six-speed automated manual transmission. Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, 15.0 inches at the front and 14.2 out back, sit behind 20-inch wheels.
Alfa says the Spider weighs 198 pounds more than the coupe. To offset raising the center of gravity versus the coupe’s, the car has a powered cloth top (rather than a folding metal roof) and a carbon-fiber windshield surround. The claimed top speed of 181 mph is unchanged from the coupe’s, but the 0-to-60-mph performance will likely be 0.2 second slower, at 4.4 seconds.
The convertible is about 30 percent less rigid than the coupe, Bagnasco says, quickly adding that the “rigidity of the coupe is very, very high.” As a result, Alfa recalibrated the springs, anti-roll bars, and shocks. The coupe was criticized for its firmness, whereas the roadster is actually pretty civilized.
Until the man behind the wheel gets serious, of course. Press the sport button, use the column-mounted manual paddle shifters, and the Alfa becomes a beast that will torture its rear 285/35ZR-20 Pirelli P Zero tires. It’s fast in a straight line and exhibits the purest handling balance one could wish for: understeer on turn-in, neutrality with the application of power, and yee-haw oversteer with too much right foot. The brakes are sensational, and the gearshifts are superfast in manual mode.
The driving experience is one reason the car is special. Another is the way it looks. There are plenty of cars that are visually interesting and intriguing—the Veyron and the Audi R8 come to mind—yet very few that are truly beautiful. The 8C is utterly gorgeous whether the top is up or down. Like the Zagato- and Touring-bodied 8C-2300 and 8C-2900 Alfas from the 1930s, the 8C Spider will look fabulous on concours lawns 50 years from now.
The interior is lovely, too, carrying the perfume of Poltrona Frau leather. There’s a sense of old-fashioned artisanship that works toward justifying the price. For instance, the panels that surround the gauges and the heating and ventilation system are machined from billet aluminum just as in a high-end Chip Foose hot rod. The Recaro seats have manual adjustments and are constructed of carbon fiber, a material that also adorns the cabin.
The 8C Spider is a great car, if somewhat outside the Alfa mainstream. Like the coupe, it was built as a halo vehicle and marks a low-key return to the U.S. market, which Alfa abandoned in 1995. When the marque makes a full-blooded return in a few years, it may be with the stylish MiTo, the car furthest in price from the 8C Spider in the Alfa lineup. Alfa is perhaps the only brand that can credibly deliver both a budget subcompact and a $300,000 convertible. There’s a kind of artistry to that, too.

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