What is it?
A lot more than an 8C Competizione without a roof. Now that production of the coupe has stopped (the last example was delivered in January), deliveries of the Spider are beginning at last. Mindful of the different type of customer likely to be attracted to the Spider, Alfa Romeo has gone for a softer set-up with the car, while doing all it can to minimise its inevitable weight gain and maintain driving pleasure.
To this end the roof is a simple fabric affair which has to be manually released from the windscreen. It folds back and sits slightly messily behind the car, where the front panel acts as its own tonneau.
Extra reinforcement has been necessary both under the bonnet, where a massive cross brace has appeared, and under the car, but 14kg is saved by the standard fitment of carbon ceramic brakes.
The suspension retains its double wishbone architecture but despite stiffer springs and roll bars, it has softer damping and a more compliant ride overall.
Otherwise the Spider's specification mirrors that of the coupe, from its carbon body panels to its 450bhp 4.7-litre V8 motor with its six-speed electronically actuated manual gearbox. The Spider weighs just 90kg more, resulting in a 0-62mph time of 4.5sec, 0.3sec slower than the coupe.
The price is an eye-watering £174,000 and just 500 Spiders will be built, of which 35 will appear in the UK between September this year and December 2010.
What’s it like?
Bluntly, better than the coupe. Neither open nor closed 8C Is ever going to win awards for dynamic prowess, but the feeling with the coupe was that Alfa Romeo (or Maserati that builds the car and supplies the powertrain) had done just enough to command credibility in the supercar arena. And what impressions that can be gained from a few laps of a concrete test track in the Spider suggest that those few whose happy lot it will soon be to own one of these are going to love their new acquisition even more.
Sybarites will admire the car's impressive ride and impressive wind management, while thrill-seekers will marvel at the noise of the V8, whose exhausts have been specially tuned for the Spider.
More surprising, while I climbed out of driving the coupe around exactly the same track slightly disappointed with its steering feel and handling, I encountered no such problems with the Spider. It understeers a bit, as you’d hope, then if you’re in the right mood and in the right environment, it oversteers a great deal, but in a more friendly, progressive manner than I recall from the coupe.
Faults include steering that remains too heavy, gearshifts that are both slower and less consistent than we are now used to with the latest double-clutch transmissions, and poor brake feel, which is not the first time we’ve said this about cars with ceramic discs.
Should I buy one?
Or, to be precise, should I have bought one? The 8C Spider is almost everything you could hope from a modern Alfa Romeo supercar. It’s quick, gorgeous and sounds even better than it looks. For someone of a mind and in a position to buy such a car, it’s hard to think how he or she could be disappointed by it.
The price is, of course, outrageous but it’s not deterred customers even in these troubled times. Spend even a few minutes behind its wheel and it’s not difficult to see why.