RAC

Alfa Romeo 8C Spider

Alfa joins the supercar elite with its 8C Spider. Steve Walker takes a look.

Preview

Whatever you think about Alfa Romeo's eccentricities or any minor foibles you may feel it displays in some areas, you have to hand it to the Italian firm when it comes to designing beautiful cars. Even the affordable Alfas have it, although pinpointing exactly what 'it' is can be tricky, so you'd bet your luxury Milanese penthouse on a £175,000 open-topped Alfa supercar being at least mildly attractive. The 8C Spider doesn't disappoint.

Ten Second Review

Alfa Romeo is a renowned sportscar manufacturer but at the very top end of the market, the standards are very high and the 8C Spider always looked an ambitious project. As it turned out, there was very little to worry about, Alfa's flagship offers exclusivity and beauty as well as performance that can live with the world's best.

Background

You will probably never see an Alfa Romeo 8C Spider on the road. Even if you do mix in all the right circles and spend a good portion of your time tootling around San Marino harbour, there are only 500 destined to be built and these will be distributed to dehumidified garages around the globe, so the odds are against you. Just in case one does hove into view along your local high street, the accepted response is to widen your eyes, lower your jaw a good inch or so and commence a full-on gawp. There's no need to feel self-conscious because everyone else will be doing the same thing.

Driving Experience

The oily bits in the 8C Spider soft top are, for the most part, lifted from the 8C Competizione Coupe which in turn pinched them from Maserati. The 4.7-litre V8 engine has 450bhp and can fire the 8C past the 62mph barrier in 4.5s, confirming supercar status for Alfa's flagship. The top speed is 182mph but the real thrill comes from the bellowing engine note that accompanies any sustained use of the throttle pedal. The 8C has the sight and sound boxes well and truly ticked. Compared to the 8C coupe, the convertible Spider version has gained only 90kg in weight. That's despite the strengthening that has gone on under the car and in the engine bay to negate the wobbly results that tend to follow the removal of a car's roof. Weight has been saved in the braking system with the Spider replacing the coupe's steel discs with carbon ceramic items. The suspension has been tweaked in an apparently counterintuitive way with firmer springs installed to improving the ride quality.

Design and Build

No open-topped Italian supercar would be complete without a roof that could have been designed to form the basis of the mental agility round on the Krypton Factor. With the 8C Spider, owners are required to lift off two plastic panels for the fabric roof to leave its storage bay behind the seats. These are then replaced to cover the hole and the roof is manually attached to the top of the windscreen with a couple of clips. The boot is ridiculously small as well but none of that matters in the slightest. The 8C is a fantastic looking thing from any angle with its long sweeping curves running from the grille over the bonnet and rising over the car's haunches. It's distinctively an Alfa Romeo as well, the designers having resisted the temptation to merely re-badge a Maserati product. The cabin is finished in jet black leather, carbon fibre and aluminium. A perfect 50:50 weight distribution is achieved by mounting the engine behind the front wheel and the gearbox in front of the rear ones. The transmission is a robotised manual that's operated through wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Market and Model

If you don't already have a receipt on Alfa Romeo headed note paper for your deposit on the 8C Spider, the chances of acquiring a new one are very slim. All the cars have been snapped up, which gives Alfa Romeo a handy retort for those who have claimed the price tag was on the expensive side. It's true that Aston Martin (with their DBS Volante) and Ferrari (with their California) will both sell you an open-topped V8 supercar for substantially less, while if you don't mind a fixed-top sportscar, then the Maserati Gran Turismo S that this car is based on would save you nearly £90,000. Still, despite a relative lack of pedigree in this sector, Alfa has filled its admittedly small order book with ease.

Cost of Ownership

Running costs will be a virtual irrelevance for most 8C Spider owners. These individuals are more likely to concern themselves with the cost of heating their swimming pools or installing helicopter landing pads on their luxury yachts. Just in case you're interested in the kind of fuel consumption they can expect, the official combined cycle reading is 17.3mpg and emissions are measured at 379g/km. Greenpeace activists will have to console themselves with the fact that there aren't many of these cars about.

Summary

Alfa Romeo is best known for bringing Italian sportscar style to a wider audience than can stretch to Ferrari and Lamborghini products but with the 8C Spider, it's shown that it can mix it with the big boys. Jaw-dropping looks and a 450bhp V8 engine mean it ticks the important supercar boxes and while the pricing might look a little steep, the order books are bulging, so it's Alfa who's having the last laugh.

Scores
Performance 8
Handling 8
Comfort 8
Space 6
Styling 9
Build 7
Value 3
Equipment 5
Economy 4
Depreciation 5
Insurance 5
Total 68
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