The very first thing to be said about the Alfa Romeo Spider 3,2 V6 Q4 is that it is not an out-and-out sports car – there, done. If you want spine-compacting power delivery and the ability to clinically spear through the twists, 575k would be better spent elsewhere. This car is a purchase ruled by the heart; its looks will seduce you and its faults may irritate, but just how much will such issues bother smitten Spider buyers who are willing to break the bank to indulge their vanity?
The subject of looks will inevitably dominate any write-up or conversation about this car; from mentions of the sporty 159–echoing nose, to the athletically sculpted flanks and a back section that could be a nominee for rear-of-the year, there is no denying this car is a stunner. It manages to transcend the masculine/feminine label often foisted upon this kind of car due to its deceptive size. Those sleek lines hide the 159 underpinnings with beguiling subtlety. Parked in a leafy suburb, we were approached by a number of suitably impressed spectators sporting the slack jaws and craning necks characteristic of those smitten with this car’s appearance. Upon divulging the price of this car to one of the gentlemen present, his response was not the expected sneer and shake of the head but rather a transfixed, blissful expression and a smiling “that’s not bad.”
The admiring glances were diluted somewhat when the interior came into view. It certainly looks sporty; with recessed dials and black switchgear set against milled aluminium trim. Ergonomically, the controls are well positioned, the reach adjustable steering wheel is just the right size and, after a combination switch pressing and lever pulling, a comfortable yet low and sporty driving position can be found. The pinch is felt when the tactile quality of the trim comes under scrutiny. The plastics were already starting to look tired and scuffed in our two-week old car, the leather seats had started to ruche and an annoying array of trim squeaks and rattles accompanied our journey. It was also disconcerting to see some of the roof sealing rubbers already beginning to kink and distort; considering the asking price, the quality just is not there.
The Alfa’s 3,2 litre V6 emits an addictive snarl when pushed, delivering its 191 kW and 322 N.m in a smooth, linear fashion. There is no real punchiness to the acceleration, however and this is not helped by a disappointing gearshift that feels like stirring a bucket of squash balls with a broom handle. The ride refinement is impressive, but the Spider suffers from progressive wind buffeting from around the 120 km/h mark (the Spider’s optional wind deflector should really be offered as standard). Steering response is sharp and, combined with a light clutch and fairly neutral chassis, lends itself to more of a Grand Tourer driving experience.
We chose a suitably grey day to drive the Spider around Cape Town and bravely decided to drive with the top down. Within ten minutes of our departure the heavens opened, providing us with a chance to test the hood. Admiring glances dissolved into laughter and pointing fingers as we turned onto the main road only to discover that the hood only operates when the car is stationary, taking a far too leisurely 27 seconds to whirr into place and restore our dignity. Hood up, the insulation is good enough to drown out the elements but not the throaty baritone of the engine.