What is it?
This is the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione. It’s as rare and special as any new V12 Ferrari. It’s more powerful than any eight-cylinder Audi R8 or Aston Martin Vantage. It’s one of the most desirable sports cars that Italy has produced in a decade.
There are only 500 Alfa Romeo 8C Competiziones in the world, and exactly 41 in the UK, all currently in private hands. Except this one, which is owned by the Marque II Car Club. And since Marque II has been kind enough to lend it to us, we can now tell you exactly how well it goes down a typical British B-road.
What’s it like?
Such things are subjective, but I don’t know anyone who would describe the Alfa Romeo 8C as anything short of sensational to look at. It’s smaller than you might expect though. With almost no rear overhang, the Alfa Romeo 8C is compact; at less than 4.4 metres long, it’s shorter than most family hatchbacks.
The dizzying excitement of your first moments with the car build when you climb on board. It’s low, with firm leather bucket seats, plenty of Ferrari-shared switchgear, and as many real carbonfibre fascia and door panels as you could conceivably make.
The brassy bark of Ferrari’s dry-sumped, flat-crank, 4.7-litre V8 yelps to a pin-sharp 5000rpm with the merest prod of your toe, and crackles and spits on its way back down to idle. Soundtracks get no more addictive or auspicious than this.
Now select ‘Sport’ mode (this leaves the exhaust bypass valves open, sharpens the throttle response and quickens the VDC stability control system), pull back on the right-hand gearshift paddle and nose out onto an empty road. The quick but heavy steering almost feels unassisted at dawdling speeds; the ride is stiff, unforgiving. There’s not much protection from wind noise, even less from the roar of those massive wheels and tyres. It’s a full-on, prepare-to-earn-your-money supercar driving experience.
From low revs the Alfa Romeo 8C feels brisk, but at about 4000rpm it explodes into full stride, squatting and squirming on its huge rear wheels, and tearing towards the horizon. Pedal response is fantastic, and the car’s brakes feel even more powerful than its engine, even though the pedal positioning means that you do have to left-foot brake for comfort.
The Alfa Romeo 8C’s chassis is at its best on smooth surfaces; over broken ones it’s much more foreboding. There's plenty of traction, but a compromised ride leaves little room for bump absorption.
At the limit, the Alfa Romeo 8C’s balance is a bit erratic too. You’re never 100 per cent sure whether you’ll get understeer or razor-sharp turn-in at any given corner – it’s usually the former if bumps are involved, but not always. The vast dry-weather grip makes the car tricky to adjust on the throttle too.
When the car hooks up and grips, though, it feels marvellous, changing direction with incredible zeal, and rocketing out of corners. Unlike the last dream Alfa, the SZ, this car needs no more power. It actually feels a little like a better-looking, more desirable TVR T350C; short-of-wheelbase, firm, noisy, agile and quick. But a bit unpredictable.
Should I buy one?
Technically, the 8C has been sold out since its first day on sale. A few of the UK’s number are available via specialist dealers as ultra-low mileage pre-registered cars, but at a premium over what was already an incredible price for an Alfa Romeo. Even now, you’ll be asked to pay close to £180,000 for one.
So is this car really worth more than a Ferrari 430 Scuderia? As a piece of automotive artifice, yes. As a properly exciting supercar, maybe. As a thoroughbred machine for fast road driving, unfortunately not.
But if you’d be the sort of owner who’s happy to accept an Alfa instead of a Lamborghini, you’d probably also be open-minded enough to overlook the absence of that final degree of dynamic polish for a car you’re simply in love with.