Alfa builds a soft-top supercar
Alfa Romeo has upped the supercar ante with a convertible version of its stunning 450-horsepower 8C coupe. The convertible, dubbed the Spider in traditional Alfa nomenclature for its droptop sports cars, debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland, and will be built in a run of just 500 – the same total as the fixed-top version. It’s the most spectacular in a line of modern Alfa ragtops that span the Giulietta of the 1950s through the GTV Spider of the 1960s through to the current front-drive softtop. The new super-Spider runs the Ferrari/Maserati-derived 4.7-litre V8, driving the rear wheels through a six-speed Formula 1-style paddle shift gearbox. Alfa has bucked the trend for convertibles to have a retractable hardtop, by fitting the 8C Spider with a double-layered fabric hood which can be ordered in several hues to suit the car’s body colour. Alfa stylists have emphasized the Spider’s sporting look with a horizontal groove at wheel level, large wheels and muscular rear fenders.
To achieve highly-efficient aerodynamics, engineers used computer modelling and wind tunnel and real world testing to optimize the bodywork surfaces, windscreen and side window profiles, and the shape and positioning of the exterior mirrors. Alfa says that has resulted in a negative lift coefficient (LC) similar to racing cars’, contributing to high speed stability. The softtop is raised and lowered by electro-hydraulic automatic control activated by a button on the dashboard. The hood is made of two overlapping sheets. The external one is made of a multi-thread textile which can withstand the elements; the interior sheet has high sound-proofing qualities. Composite materials are used extensively in the dashboard and internal panels, and the carbon fibre seats can be adjusted according to the physical characteristics of the driver (up to now, a feature only available in racing cars). Buyers can choose the style and materials used in the interior. The seats are upholstered in Frau flower leather, a weave in which the leather is bound to a natural fibre. Buyers can also choose from a selection of alloy wheels and brake caliper treatments.
Along with the ability to choose their own cabin design and treatment, that means buyers can create what Alfa calls “an unmistakable car, made to measure.” The 8C Spider is built around a rigid and light steel frame clothed in carbon fibre bodywork. Great emphasis has been placed on lightness and on achieving a low centre of gravity to enhance handling. The 4691cc V8 develops 450 horsepower at 7000rpm, and the six-speed gearbox uses computerised gear selection. The gearbox is located in traditional Alfa fashion – rear-mounted to help even out front/rear weight distribution. The 8C Spider uses carbo-ceramic Brembo (CCM) disc brakes, with 380mm front and 360mm rear rotors. Alfa says the rotor material reduces unsprung mass and improves braking. Monoblock callipers give maximum rigidity and minimal deformation under heavy braking loads. The suspension system uses wishbones and forged aluminium uprights that act as a supplementary strut for alignment control. The Spider’s 20-inch alloy wheels are shod with 245/35 front and 285/35 rear tyres. The wheel are made of fluid-moulded aluminium to ensure lightness and maximum brake ventilation. Handling aids include a VDC Alfa Romeo traction and stability system.