19 December 2014
Some current two-seater roadsters are so over-styled and fussy-looking that they almost seem dated already. In ten or twenty years we’ll look back and say, ‘Did I really drive that?’. Not so the Alfa Spider which, although essentially a soft-top Brera, will look gorgeous for decades to come.
The 4cyl, 185bhp 1,998cc motor is smooth, flexible, and ‘though quiet, sounds decently fruity, All well and good, except that even when driven hard the smaller-engined Spider doesn’t feel particularly quick. Of course, 0-62mph in 8.8secs and 135mph should be ample for most, but if you reckon a sports car should pack a proper punch, and your pockets are deep enough, then you’ll prefer the 3,195cc 260bhp V6. But despite 0-62 in 7secs, a 146mph max and a glorious exhaust note, the smoother and more flexible V6 version doesn’t readily deliver the sensation of neck-snapping acceleration. Instead it gathers momentum forcefully and convincingly.
The 2.2’s steering is light and direct, and so requires little effort at the wheel to initiate substantial directional changes. An exuberant cornering style can provoke understeer, especially on a polished road surface but, with the electronic traction systems engaged, that’s no big deal. Due to its relaxed power delivery, tall gearing and near 1.7-tonne weight, the V6 Spider isn’t a point and squirt sports car. Despite its power and all-wheel-drive it really doesn’t encourage frisky, spirited driving. Although its claimed that the Spider can complete a standard lane change test manoeuvre at 135km/h compared with a Porsche Boxster’s 130km/h, at the wheel it feels more like an accomplished four-seater tourer.
Fortunately, that dreaded downside of less rigid convertibles, scuttle shake, is barely noticeable in the Spider, except when driving on particularly rutted roads, and even then it’s acceptable. Otherwise, it’s hard to fault. The general design and feel of the interior is very good and this compensates for any minor shortcomings. More generally, Alfa’s reputation for build and reliability has been below par for many years, but recent and significant improvements have been made to both the quality of the cars and the after sales service.
The Spider’s pair of stylish but sturdy roll-over bars, plus another built into the windscreen’s frame, should all do their job in a worst case scenario but, like its hardtop Brera stablemate, the Spider hasn’t been through Euro NCAP’s crash test procedure so there are no star ratings available. It can however be fitted with up to six airbags, four of which are standard equipment, while height-adjustable front seatbelts with pre-tensioners and load limiters, anti-whiplash front seat head restraints, anti-submarining front seats and a Fire Prevention System are all fitted as standard. There’s also ABS (with EBD and HBA) as well as VDC (Alfa’s ESP) and more. Remote central locking (inc. fuel flap), a coded immobiliser and a volumetric alarm are also all standard.
Being a two-seater, space and practicality isn’t the Spider’s strong point. There’s no storage room to speak of behind the seats – that space is reserved for the double fabric-layered, powered roof, (which, incidentally, folds away in under 25secs). This roof space also impedes on boot space which, at 200-litres, is far from huge. The top-loading boot opening is a curious half-moon shape and bags have to be lifted high, but so long as you pack reasonably light then a week away for two isn’t out of the question. There is however ample headroom, especially with the roof lowered…
For maximum fuel economy the 41.5mpg (combined) of the 2.4 JTD (diesel) scores highly (see separate test). The £26,895 2.2 petrol model manages 30.7mpg, while the V6 Q4 is somewhat juicier at 24.6mpg. The £32,395 V6 model offers all the equipment you’d expect, including climate control and leather upholstery, although it’s an extra £500 for metallic paint and a substantial £1,615 for Alfa’s satnav. The Spider also boasts a long list of hi-tech audio and communications options, but such details seem insignificant when you’re bombing along in a sweet-sounding, Pininfarina-styled roadster on a warm Summer’s evening.
Submitted: 18/05/2009 09:47:37
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