ItalianCar TestDrive - Alfa Spider 2.2 JTS
Three years ago Alfa Romeo announced the demise of the Alfa Spider, and many people – including ourselves – wailed and beat our chests at the loss of such a motoring icon. Then, like all good TV soap producers, realising their mistake...
(or perhaps it was all a cunning trick…) Alfa announced that the Spider wasn’t dead after all and it had all just been a bad dream.
The Spider has been through many iterations since the days of the car Dustin Hoffman drove in The Graduate back in 1967, and this latest one brings the Spider right up-to-date with a Pininfarina-styled body based on the same platform as the stunning and much lauded Brera.
- When we contacted Alfa Australia to see if they could loan us a car for the drive from Sydney to Canberra for the annual Auto Italia show, we were offered a choice of the Spider or the 159 Sportwagon. The choice was clear we thought, until a slight hiccup in our logistics meant most of our luggage was going to have to come with us. For about 5 seconds the idea of swapping to the Sportwagon went through our minds, and then disappeared, forever. Whatever we were bringing was going to have to fit in the Spider, and that was it.
Inside the Spider is almost identical to its siblings the 159 and Brera – a brushed aluminium panel centre console houses all the dials and the keyslot and start/stop button. Slot the key in, push the button and you’re away. The roof on the new Spider is completely automatic – no need to fiddle around with it as with previous Spiders – just make sure the engine is on, the car’s in neutral and hit the roof button. It goes from open to closed (or vice-versa) in under 30 seconds. We know this because we did it countless times over the weekend, partially for the benefit of the cameras, but also because we were subject to that other law of driving a convertible ie as soon as you put the roof down, it starts raining (probably Canberra weather).
The new mechanism is really handy of course, because you can now put the roof up/down while you’re waiting at the lights.We spent the Friday afternoon/evening driving around Sydney looking for good photo locations and managed to amuse some North Sydney residents by parking outside their house for half an hour waiting for the sun to go down (so we hope you appreciate the photos!).
Saturday was the drive out to Canberra and a chance to really appreciate a run with the top down – there’s a whole set of sensations you’re protected from in the sealed compartment of a hard top car – the tremendous noise of the fans in the tunnels in Sydney for example, the smell and, of course, the sound of the engine. You’d think that you’d notice all the exhaust fumes as well but we didn’t. You also feel a lot lower than everyone else, but that may be because almost everyone else is in a 4WD.
The engine is a delight. It is essentially the same 2.2 JTS as in the new 159 and our comments on it as compared to the old engine remain the same ie it’s much more refined than the older version but, in becoming more refined, has lost some of that Alfa howl. Note we say ‘some’ because it still does howl, just not quite the same way. The gearbox and clutch also take a bit of getting used to, as the engine is so quiet at low speeds. If you change gear by listening to the engine note you have to listen quite hard – just the same as when we drove the 159 2.2. You do get used to it though.
Is Size Important?
The new Spider is a bigger car than its predecessors, which has its pros and cons. Performance-wise –according to the figures - it’s pretty much the same as the old model and fuel consumption is also comparable. What is different is that it feels a much more solid car – when we reviewed the previous model we noticed the ‘scuttleshake’ that goes with the lack of rigidity of a convertible compared to the version with a proper roof. With this one we’re sure it’s not as rigid as the Brera, but we just didn’t notice it. Combined with the direct steering it shares with the Brera and 159 models, the Spider is a delight to drive. And of course the biggest benefit of all is an extra 143l of luggage space over the old model – something it turned out we really needed! A few other nice little touches of note – despite being larger the new Spider is easy to manoeuvre at low speed and rear parking sensors make parking a breeze. And when you park and lock up, the side mirrors also fold in.
What We Didn't Like
There wasn’t much to not like really – one of the downsides of that huge expanse of brushed aluminium in the cockpit (and something that you don’t notice in the hard top 159 and Brera) is the way the sun reflects off it in the early morning/late afternoon. Just remember to pack your sunglasses. And for some reason our test car seemed to have permanent condensation on the inside of the left rear light cluster.
OK so Alfa have really milked the ‘sexy’ tag on the Brera and rightfully so – it’s a great looking car. And the Spider is similarly striking looking and looks good with the roof up or down. It’s certainly a better car than the previous model – whether it looks better is another question altogether. The guys at ItalianCar who are meant to know about these things lament the fact that – from the front – the 159, Brera and Spider are almost indistinguishable. I remember when the first pictures of the last major redesign of the Spider came out and there was something about those headlights peeping through the holes in the bonnet – it was just a great looking car. Instantly recognisable. For some reason I’ve only just remembered that now.
New vs Old - The Facts
|Engine||2198 cc 4 in-line 16v||1970 cc 4 in-line 16v|
|Power||136 kW @ 6500 rpm||121 kW @ 6400 rpm|
|Torque||230 Nm @ 4500 rpm||206 Nm @ 3500 rpm|
|Kerb Weight||1470 Kg||1370 Kg|
|Turning Circle||10.7 m||10.8 m|
|Luggage Capacity||253 l||110 l|
|Top Speed||217 kmh||215 kmh|
|0-100 kmh||8.8 secs||8.4 secs|
|Fuel Consumption*||9.4 l/100 km||9.2 l/100 km|
*these are Alfa Romeo claimed figures for ‘combined cycle’ – we recorded 11.9l/100km on our test drive of the new model
Pricing information courtesy Alfa Romeo Brisbane
Insurance quotes from NRMA (based on 44yr old male; postcode 4178; comprehensive cover - no claims and no discounts; private use only; under finance with a finance company)
There’s something pretty decadent about owning a convertible. It implies that you’ve got a much more sensible car at home and that you can afford to own this sort of toy. At AUD$75,500 (on road) the Alfa Spider is quite an expensive toy, although you’ll find plenty much more expensive toys like it on ItalianCar and elsewhere. That said, if you’ve got it, flaunt it – and we had it for the weekend.
- We took the photo above in Canberra not knowing what this structure was. It turns out it is not a work of modern art, it’s not a rocket launch pad – it’s a musical instrument called a carillon. Here’s some background on it if you’re interested. We also took some photos of the Spider at the National Gallery, coincidentally where we shot the 147 JTD when we were in Canberra last year.
29th August 2007 (originally published in ItalianCar Club 4th June 2007)
All photos taken by James Goss www.jamesgoss.com
The official Alfa Romeo website
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How many Alfas in Australia?
Facts & Figures and Brief History of Marque
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