If you’re an Alfisti – and plenty remain despite the company’s best efforts to frighten us from its showrooms with dubious reliability and worse dealer back-up - then the arrival of the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione could be cause for hope.
This is the company’s first new rear-wheel drive model in 15 years, and anyone who knows Alfa’s history, and especially those who have been fortunate enough to enjoy it, perhaps in the shape of a ‘60s Giulia, will know that rear-wheel drive is where this company should be for anything bigger than a 147.
Alfa knows it too. While driving the 8C I met a development driver who had been there 25 years – around the time the Alfetta was launched – and he told me that there’s ‘plenty of talk around the coffee machine about making rear-drive cars again.’ But, he says, the company’s got to prove to boss Sergio Marchionne – who allegedly wants to see a return to rear-drive models too – that these product planning dreams will turn a profit.
The 8C isn’t the machine to do this with – an adaptation of the Maserati Gran Turismo, its platform is totally unsuitable for anything other than high-end coupes and sports cars - though we’d love to see Alfa make more of those. What’s needed is an entirely new array of platforms, or perhaps one, cleverly adaptable for length, width and weight – from which to generate some credible alternative to BMWs and Mercedes’.
So, a humble suggestion – how about a spot of platform-sharing with two marques making right-sized, rear-drive models that could surely use the assistance. They are Jaguar and Nissan’s Infiniti; neither of these two are currently scoring the kind of sales that pays for the development of German-calibre premium platforms. With Jaguar about to find new owners, and Infiniti grappling with expansion, now could be the moment for Fiat to broker a deal that could bring about the return of the rear-driven Alfa.