Is it really an Alfa?
Much of the 8C’s chassis recipe comes from Maserati. Take one Maserati Quattroporte floorpan, shorten it 40cm (to 2650mm), build a new rear structure then bolt in the Quatroporte’s subframe-mounted, double-wishbone suspensions, suitably adapting them with special springs, dampers, anti-roll bars, suspension bushes and body fixings.
Give it a new steering rack requiring just 2.5 turns lock to lock and mighty ventilated disc brakes all round (360mm diameter front, 330mm rear).
Need big power? Use a newly bored and stroked version of the quad-cam Maser V8, now displacing 4.7 litres instead of 4.2, plus new heads with re-shaped combustion chambers. Tell the world this bigger engine will eventually go into other Maseratis models, but never in 8C tune: 450bhp at 7000rpm plus 354lb ft at 4750 rpm.
Like in Maseratis, send drive through a torque tube to the six-speed “cambio corsa” gearbox, rear-mounted in unit with the final drive and limited-slip differential, its shifting handled by steering column paddles.
The 8C’s unique feature is its semi-monocoque body/chassis whose external and internal surfaces are all formed in carbonfibre and tuned (especially underneath) in the wind tunnel of race car maker, Dallara.
The finished car weighs 1585kg at the kerb, around 100kg less than the old 4.2-litre Maserati coupe, and the body contributes greatly to the car’s impressive rigidity, a fact you notice as soon as you start to drive.
Not that 8C’s character is as you expected: the combination of “technical” carbon surfaces, sumptuous Italian leather and some impressive milled aluminium brightwork inside give the aura of a long-legged GT.
Only the firm bucket seats, well-bolstered at the sides and ribbed in the way of old Alfa Coupes, speak of very high performance.
What’s it like?
You start the engine, and any confusion dies. This car has just about the best and most classically sporty engine note ever: a powerful bark-rumble that rises to a genuine Le Mans howl, accompanied by an amazing crackle on the overrun. Very Italian.
It is enhanced at low speed when you push the dashboard Sport button and open a couple of exhaust bypass valves, also shortening throttle travel, setting the stability control to “hero” position, and cutting gearchange time.
The 8C, the first rear-wheel-drive Alfa for at least 15 years, is awesomely sporty, fast and powerful, in ways that put it well and truly on terms with contemporary Astons, Porsches and Ferraris and beyond some of them.
It storms to an official top speed of 182mph (it’ll go faster, says project chief Domenico Bagnesco) and despatches a 0-62mph run in just 4.2 seconds.
Around Alfa’s circuit, besides the power, its chief virtue is fairly compact front mid-engined layout that offers purer steering and better weight distribution (49 per cent front; 51 per cent rear) than others.
The ride rates are stiff, and the damping is extremely firm, but there’s still some a little roll in maximum-effort bends. Maybe it’s to help in the wet.
But it handles brilliantly. Traction control off, the car turns in as if the nose is pinned to the road, though it’ll oversteer easily and predictably with the power.