The advertising slogan â€˜Spider is Alfa Roma’ used nearly 30 years ago sums up the eighty years of production of Alfa Romeo’s Spider convertible. An automotive manufacturer with a name always connected to motor-sport such as Alfa Romeo can only represent their freedom and passion driven values by building a convertible. We welcome the car that gets to be “the most Alfa Romeo”, the new Spider.
The Spider had an important place in Alfa Romeo’s tradition starting with the Giulietta Spider of the 1950s to the Spider of the 1990s), because it had always embodied the ‘free emotive’ expression of the car. The new model revives the same theme and gets to be a natural evolution of the convertibles created by Alfa Romeo in its long history. The 2006 Spider gets the same ‘essentially simple’ character of a true sports car, but combined with the technological superiority of the ‘new Alfa breed.
Based on the already famous Brera coupe, the Spider was developed by Pininfarina in conjunction with the Alfa Romeo style centre and turns heads for its unmistakable Italian elegance. The front end is compatible with the latest generation of Alfa Romeos, but the new car gets to be the latest stylistic interpretation of that in the Alfa Romeo convertibles manner. The car’s penetrating lines invite the eye to run over the entire length of the clean-cut perimeter. The muscular wheel-arches express the car’s sporty vocation while maintaining its elegance and lightness.
Inside, the new Spider offers sophisticated environment due to some opulent features such as dual-zone automatic climate control, steering-wheel-mounted radio controls, VDC (Alfa’s electronic stability control), cruise control, map navigator with bird-view function and the Blue&Me system.
These are the highlights that allowed the new model to attain the prestigious title of ‘Cabrio of the Year 2006’ at the Geneva Motor Show from a jury made up of 23 motoring journalists from 12 different countries. With its safety, power and attractive styling, the Alfa Spider throws again the glove in the convertible field, a specific segment where Alfa Romeo has played a leading role for quite some time.
The new roadster, derived from the attractive Alfa Brera coupé, was developed by the Pininfarina design studio and will be assembled in Pininfarina’s San Giorgio Canavese plant (from Turin, Italy).
The Alfa Spider is 72 in wide, 173 in long and 52 in high with a wheelbase of 99.5 in, although the tapered front and rear make it look more compact. Despite that, there was made no compromise between comfort and function, as often forced is done with this type of car. The luggage compartment is always available whether the hood is up or down and there are also numerous oddments recesses, including a climatised one in the central console.
In detail, the new Alfa roadster offers an appealing front end, similar to that of the Brera on which it is based, with a shield occupying pride of place in the centre, the starting point of the lines that run along the bonnet and frame the headlights, a stylistic and functional device which makes the front look even wider and more imposing, because the shoulder of the wing and the front pillar are stronger and thicker.
The combination of a short wheelbase, long bonnet and compact cabin enhances the car’s sporty and dynamic looks. The impression of temperament is further underlined by the elongated rear lights and four exhaust terminals. But the styling of the new Spider also includes some classic elements that come directly from the Alfa Romeo tradition, such as the fold-away, soft-top, and the rear shoulder design borrowed directly from the famous Giulietta Spider.
The use of a soft-top nowadays when foldable hard-tops are “the way” makes it a retro design feature, distinctive for its light appearance and the way it blends perfectly with the rest of the car. The U-shaped hood that covers the top fits in harmoniously with the body and houses a third brake light in its base.
The rear roll-bar slots perfectly into the silhouette of the car but is actually a very important safety element that tracks the line of the seat to shade off into the rear volume above the rigid hood cover. Harmonious volumes produce a beautiful but also powerful and solid car when teaming with Alfa Romeo’s mechanical and engineering excellence.
The Alfa Romeo ‘cuore sportivo’ (sportive hart) can be really felt in the new V6 195 cui JTS (Jet Thrust Stoichiometric) petrol engine, which delivers 260 bhp. It represents a significant enhancement over Alfa’s previous V6 engine, as well as its natural successor. The new JTS is capable of delivering 20 bhp (8%) more than the previous V6 and an increase of more than 11% in maximum torque; a significant increase at low speeds to improve the smooth delivery starting from 1,500 rpm. Other features as maximum revs of 6,200 rpm, minimal maintenance (hydraulic tappets and timing gear with chain drive), the low weight (aluminum cylinder head and crankcase) and the Euro-4 exhaust emissions are proof of a very modern core. With this hart, the Alfa Spider V6 Q4 can reach a top speed of 146 mph and accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7 seconds.
The new 6-cylinder engine continues the strategy begun with the 4-cylinder engines, and adopts Alfa newly developed JTS (Jet Thrust Stoichiometric) direct injection system. That would be Alfa’s original concept that injects the fuel directly into the combustion chamber with a stoichiometric mixture optimised to enhance performance, but also guarantees low consumption and respect for Euro4 emissions limits.
A lot of components have been designed from scratch for the new V6 engine. The cylinder heads are made of aluminum and have 4 valves per cylinder and 2 camshafts per bank with the ‘Twin Phaser’ (Alfa’s continuous variable valve timing, intake and exhaust) already adopted 4-cylinder engines. Variable valve timing technology allows the phase angle on both cams to be varied by 50°, maximizing performance on one hand, because the best phase can be chosen at all engine speeds, and reducing consumption and emissions with partial loads on the other.The valves are also controlled by a roller finger system, with low mechanical heat dissipation and hydraulic uptake of tappet play.
Another interesting feature is the camshaft drive system, which uses a primary chain that transmits the drive to the heads via two secondary chains. The tension is provided by several automatic hydraulic tensioners, which need no maintenance at all during the life of the engine.
A high pressure fuel pump for the direct injection system is mounted on the cylinder head and is driven by a camshaft that maintains the pressure of the injected fuel at 120 bar by a built-in pressure regulator. Inlet ports and combustion chamber assembly are designed to optimize the air-fuel mixture, to achieve the correct turbulence of the inlet air, forming a homogeneous mixture, for stable, complete combustion. The volumes and port geometry of the aluminum inlet casing are also adapted to the high air delivery of the high revs to enhance performance. Also the unusual high compression ratio of 11.25:1 guarantees excellent engine performance even with regular 95 octane fuel.
In brief the main differences between the new 3.2 V6 Q4 engine and the previous V6 are:
direct petrol injection
twin overhead camshaft with low friction drive
double continuous variable valve timing on the inlet and exhaust
cylinder head in light aluminium alloy
hydraulic tappets with automatic play uptake
engine block in light aluminium alloy
maintenance-free timing gear drive chain
Poly V automatic tensioned belt to drive the engine accessories
throttle valve with electronic drive-by-wire activation
single ignition coils
low specific fuel consumption and emissions
4 lambda sensors to control emissions
dual knock sensor to improve knock sensitivity and to optimise peak performance
high performance exhaust manifold with built-in pre-catalysts
Euro 4 emissions
The 3.2 V6 Q4 engine is equipped with an exhaust system that includes a first group of catalysing elements relatively close to the cylinder heads to reduce the emissions level at the start of operation. Another two catalysts under the floor-pan and four lambda sensors complete the system, so that the engine respects Euro 4 limits without adopting special systems such as secondary air or electric heating.
Ignition is provided in this engine by a single sparkplug per cylinder (Alfa have dropped their famous “Twin Spark” technology. And that is because direct injection combined with 4-valve-per-cylinder geometry creates a mix that tends to be more concentrated at the centre of the combustion chamber.
The new Alfa Spider equipped with the powerful V6 engine offers the same Q4 all wheel drive system with three differentials known from Brera. The central differential is a Torsen C that encloses the front differential for the first time, a solution that ensures considerable benefits in terms of dimensions, weights and also performance. It uses the forces set up by the front differential to increase its locking effect (35% during traction and 45% during release) to set up a certain self-locking effect on the front differential as well (up to 20%). By doing this it improves traction and cornering stability. The basic torque distribution of the Q4 system is mainly to the rear (43/57).
The Alfa Romeo Q4 four wheel drive system implies permanent, dynamic torque distribution over all four wheels to achieve the highest levels of active safety. The most significant benefits of the Q4 system are:
The Q4’s four wheel drive with advanced Torsen C self-locking differential (Twin Diff.) makes it possible to achieve improved roadholding, driving satisfaction and smooth responses.
Preferential distribution to the rear axle also adds to the driving satisfaction because it makes the car easier to handle while ensuring maximum stability when the car suddenly veers at top speed on the motorway, as can happen during emergency manoeuvres.
The ability to travel safely in poor grip conditions without the aid of electronics in torque split for constant driving satisfaction.
The suspension adopts a high wishbone layout for the front and guarantees a precise control of wheel movement, with a clearly defined steering axis in space. This architecture was borrowed from racing cars and endows outstanding dynamic performance and extremely sensitive steering. This type of suspension already used on the Alfa 159 and Alfa Brera offers a host of technical improvements. The steering axis was brought closer to the centre of the wheel and got an excellent ratio for an overall rotation of 2 1/4 turns of the steering wheel, which translates into a more direct response for the driver, more responsive steering and better stability control.
Great attention was also paid to the new wheel upright, exploiting the available space inside the rims in full, with significant advantages in terms of lateral rigidity. Also the size of the coaxial damper spring unit with dual tube shock absorber has been increased to improve its capacity to absorb road roughness. Finally, the suspension wass connected to the chassis by a closed geometry frame which is stiffer than the previous version, which featured a single crossbeam.
The Multilink rear suspension allows wheel movement controll in a sophisticated manner, reaching the best possible results in terms of performance. The system uses three levers and a transverse blade to highlight the performance of the various components subject to longitudinal load, in order to achieve faster responses, enhanced stability and extreme grip.
The rear suspension of the Alfa Spider features:
The power-assisted, hydraulic braking system includes two cross-over independent circuits. The powerful Alfa Spider 3.2 V6 Q4 uses 12.9 in ventilated discs with a four piston mono-bloc aluminum caliper on the front wheels and a 11.5 in disc, also ventilated, with a floating caliper on the rear wheels. This vehicle is the first application of a mono-bloc aluminum caliper with radial attachments to the front brakes of an Alfa Romeo. This solution increases caliper stiffness without increasing the weight and therefore makes for increased performance, particularly during a sporty drive.
The Alfa Spider V6 Q4 is equipped with 235/45R18 Z-rated tires
The collaboration between the Alfa Romeo style centre and the Pininfarina Design Studio continues inside the vehicle where a sporty look has been achieved by the general layout. The dash features an array of controls and instruments that all face the driver. The seats flavor the distinctive Alfa piping, but are customized by incorporating the head-restraints into the structure and by side strips that connect the 4-point seat-belts and give a personality boost to the seat.
The Alfa Spider also surrounds the driver and passenger with technologies that ensure a high acoustic and climatic comfort. The result is an enveloping environment, free from vibration thanks to the careful soundproofing and the outstanding rigidity of the body-shell.
It also features Alfa’s Blue&Me info-telematic advanced system of voice commands; a bi-zone automatic climate control system with differentiated temperature and air distribution; a Connect NAV+ with 6.5” display and bird-view function, and a Bose Sound System. Also there is offered a rain sensor, which automatically activates the windscreen, a dusk sensor which turns the headlights on when the car enters a tunnel and a parking sensor that conveys acoustic and graphic information about the distance between the car and any obstacle
As for the 159 and Alfa Brera models the new Spider features the innovative ‘Blue&Me’ system, based on Windows Mobile technology, and developed jointly by Fiat Auto and Microsoft, which changes the communications, information and entertainment paradigms in the car, improving the comfort and quality of the time spent on board. This device is extremely simple to use, and allows you to make/receive telephone calls and to listen to music simply and safely as you drive thanks to Bluetooth technology.
The Bose Sound System produced for Alfa Romeo by the US company leader in the Hi-Fi sound sector, offers exceptional listening quality for each passenger under all driving conditions. It has a power output of 570 Watts and includes six speakers and a subwoofer with a 6-channel digital amplifier (200 Watts) built into the rear bench seat, which plays the lowest frequencies.
A special concern of Alfa engineers was given to passive safety. It includes the new chassis designed to absorb impact with maximum efficacy. Occupants are also being protected by the body and doors, without forgetting the Isofix attachments for carrying the tiniest occupants with maximum safety. The Spider also offers innovative restraint systems and an extensive armada of airbags: front with two-stage activation, side-bags and new devices to safeguard the knees. These knee-bags prevent contact with the dashboard surface and help achieve the highest safety levels.
The two front airbags have two-stage activation: for the driver and passenger. Their operation is controlled by an electronic unit on the tunnel that evaluates impact severity by means of sensors that are calibrated by conducting crash tests in the laboratory. The airbags will not be activated by low speed accidents (for example, a slight shunt or a bump while parking) or by stresses that are not due to impact (e.g. driving fast over a pothole). The front passenger airbag may be deactivated manually so that a baby can be carried in a seat with its back to the direction of motion.
The Alfa Spider is fitted with two side-bags to protect the pelvis and chest of occupants when the car is struck from the side. They are located inside the front seat squabs. This solution ensures the best possible protection for passengers regardless of their stature, sitting position or seat setting. If an accident occurs, the sensors controlling activation of these airbags receive a side acceleration signal which is sent to the electronic control unit that is also responsible for operating the front airbags and seat-belt pretensioners
A complex and sophisticated creature, the Alfa Romeo Spider V6 Q4 both recalls the glorious Alfa tradition in this sector and puts out some cutting edge solutions in terms of mechanical specifications and engines. With style and elegance guaranteed by Pininfarina, nerve and muscles guaranteed by its genes, the new Spider is about to shake the roadster world.