One of the most famous automotive names of all time, the Alfa Romeo Spider, is re-born at the 2006 Geneva Motor Show (28 February to 12 March 2006) with the launch of the all-new Alfa Romeo Spider.
The Spider or convertible has an important place in Alfa Romeo tradition (starting with the Giulietta Spider in the 1950s and going on to the Duetto and the Spider launched in the 1990s), because it has always embodied the ‘free emotive’ expression of the car. And the new model reiterates the same theme, a natural evolution of the convertibles created by Alfa Romeo in its long history, cars that have always produced strong emotions, guaranteeing extremely entertaining driving and combining superb styling with the performance of powerful, elastic engines. And the new Alfa Spider is no exception: it has the same ‘essentially simple’ character of a true sports car, combined with the technological superiority of the ‘new Alfa breed.
Developed by Pininfarina in conjunction with the Alfa Romeo style centre, the model turns heads for its unmistakable Italian elegance, an absolutely unique and unrepeatable style that promises the satisfaction of a sporty drive with full respect for Brand traditions. While maintaining a front end compatible with the latest generation of Alfa Romeos, the new car is nevertheless the latest stylistic development of the Alfa Romeo convertibles that have written the history of world motoring. Take for example the car’s penetrating lines that invite the eye to run over the entire length of the clean-cut perimeter. The side is made more dynamic by the concave surface that runs across it. Brawny wheelarches express the car’s sporty vocation while maintaining its stylistic elegance and lightness. The rear is also made lighter by fins and the round plan view of the boot and bumpers.
Inside, the Alfa Spider offers a welcoming and highly sophisticated environment due to the use of top-quality materials and the adoption of opulent features (standard on some versions). From dual-zone automatic climate control to steering-wheel-mounted radio controls, VDC and Cruise control, a map navigator with bird-view function and the Blue&Me system.
The car is offered in a choice of two outfits, and the customer can also choose between two JTS petrol engines (2.2 delivering 185 bhp and 3.2 V6 Q4 delivering 260 bhp), combined with a sporty, mechanical, 6-speed gearbox. The new car guarantees the temperament of an Alfa and excellent dynamic performance thanks to high double wishbone suspension at the front and a Multilink system at the rear. The Alfa Spider combines superb comfort with a sporty trim and an evolved ‘Alfa Romeo Q4’ four-wheel drive system (on the 260 bhp 3.2 V6 Q4 version). And in the safety field, the new Alfa Romeo is fitted with the most sophisticated electronic devices to control the car’s dynamic behaviour: from braking to traction.
These are the winning features that allowed the new model to run off with the ‘Cabrio of the Year 2006’ prize at its first outing (at the recent Geneva Motor Show). This prestigious title was awarded by a Cabriolet Committee made up of 23 motoring journalists from 12 different countries. With its safety, power and attractive styling, the Alfa Spider marks step forward in the convertible field, a specific segment where Alfa Romeo has always played a leading role. The new vehicle has been designed for quality without compromise. This concept has been pursued throughout all stages of the car’s development process, from product design and including the innumerable tests that the car underwent before production. The Alfa Spider’s quality is also expressed in the choice of opulent interior materials; in the tuning of its Alfa Romeo engines to achieve top-level performance, engine note and driving comfort – and in the optimisation of the sophisticated suspension systems. The term ‘quality’ also describes a world of financial services and products to meet all needs.
Italian style with respect for tradition
The new convertible, derived from the attractive Alfa Brera coupé, was developed by Pininfarina in conjunction with the Alfa Romeo Style Centre and will be assembled in Pininfarina’s San Giorgio Canavese plant (Turin).
A byword for sportiness, Italian flair and quality, the model is confirmed as a stylish and generously proportioned 2-seater. The Alfa Spider is 183 centimetres wide, 439 cm long and 131 cm high with a wheelbase of 253 cm, although the sharply tapered front and rear make it look more compact. Despite this, we have not had to stoop to compromise by choosing between comfort and function, as you are often forced to do with this type of car. The luggage compartment offers 253 dm3 (always available whether the hood is up or down) while there are numerous roomy oddments recesses (including the climatised one in the central console).
In detail, the new Alfa Spider offers an up-to-date appealing front end, similar to that of the coupé 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, ‘suspended’ on an air inlet: a stylistic and functional device that Alfa Romeo reserves for its out-and-out sports cars, which makes the front look even wider and more imposing, because the shoulder of the wing and the front pillar are stronger and thicker.
From the side, the combination of a short wheelbase, long bonnet and compact, rear-mounted cabin enhances the car’s sporty, dynamic looks. This impression of great temperament is underlined by the elongated rear lights and four exhaust terminals. But the styling of the new Spider also includes some ‘romantic’ elements, in the best Alfa Romeo tradition, such as the fold-away, light hood, and the design of the rear shoulder muscle that is borrowed directly from the famous Giulietta Spider.
The collaboration between the Alfa Romeo style centre and Pininfarina continues inside the vehicle where a sporty look has been achieved by the general layout and one-off features such as the armrest area of the door panel or the band that wraps around the surface above the rear bench. Without mentioning that the dash features an array of controls and instruments that all face the driver. The seats, while maintaining an area with distinctive Alfa piping, have been customised 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.
And finally, the Alfa Romeo soft top, an irresistible design feature, is distinctive for its light appearance and the way it blends in perfectly with the rest of the car. For example, the U-shaped hood cover fits in harmoniously with the body and houses a third brake light in its base.
Last but not least, the rear roll-bar is a safety element that slots perfectly into the silhouette of the car which tracks the line of the seat to shade off into the rear volume above the rigid hood cover. And everything is embellished by the two ‘bosses’ set behind the roll-bar and enriched by some high-tech details.
Sportiness and elegance combined in unique, exclusive styling. Harmonious forms and volumes which produce a beautiful, powerful, solid car, when they are supported by Alfa Romeo mechanical and engineering excellence. All this without ever stooping to compromise in terms of comfort and on-board wellbeing.
Maximum in-car wellbeing
The Alfa Spider surrounds the driver and passenger with technologies that ensure the very highest acoustic and climatic comfort. The result is an enveloping environment, free from vibration thanks to the careful soundproofing and the outstanding torsional and flexural rigidity of the bodyshell. And more: The Alfa Spider offers the sophisticated Blue&Me infotelematic system and its 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.
The equipment on the new model is completed by a number of significant technological devices that enhance life on board. For example, the rain sensor, which automatically activates the windscreen wipers at the first drops of rain; the dusk sensor which turns the headlights on when the car enters a tunnel; and the standard parking sensor that conveys acoustic and graphic information about the distance between the car and any obstacle. And again, the customer can appreciate the attention to detail, the use of sophisticated, top quality materials (from Frau leather to aluminium parts) and the wide choice of shades for dashboard, seats, hood and external bodywork. In a word, the new car sees off all its rivals when it comes to comfort.
And finally, the Alfa Spider includes a sophisticated ‘built-in protection system’ that comprises the volumetric, anti-lift, anti-break-in, anti-theft Safe Lock device. This can mechanically disconnect the lock and the inside and outside handles of the doors, making it impossible to open them from inside, even if the window is broken.
The sophisticated ‘Blue&Me’ system
As for the 159 (Sportwagon and saloon) and Alfa Brera models, the latest addition to the Alfa Romeo stable also 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.
The 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. And thanks to Bluetooth® technology, you can also communicate with the outside world from the car using your own personal mobile phone or handheld.
The system on offer will be supplemented in future with more evolved devices giving access to the many new products that technological progress has in store for the coming years: from a complete multimedia system to satellite navigation. In addition to which there is a whole range of services that will make all your journeys more comfortable, safer and easier.
The ‘Blue&Me’ device incorporates a sophisticated hands-free system with voice recognition that guarantees maximum driving safety in all conditions, and respects the law because the driver can use the system without taking his hands off the wheel. The system allows drivers with a Bluetooth® mobile phone to use the telephone even if it is in a jacket or a bag, automatically lowering the radio volume (when this is on) and routing the interlocutor’s voice through the stereo speakers. The system is also extremely compatible with all cell phones currently on the market and can be updated to comply with new standards and future telephones.
The ‘Blue&Me’ device is built into the car and the control keys are positioned on the steering wheel for immediate, safe access to the system; the driver can find a number in his phone book by scrolling the control panel display, or ‘mute’ the call for confidentiality.
One interesting feature is the fact that the mobile phone only has to be registered with the system once. And more: It is also possible to transfer one’s personal phone book to the car, automatically updating it every time the system recognises a cell phone.
Privacy is guaranteed because access is only granted to the phone book if the telephone registered with the system is in the car. The number or name of the caller is shown on the display if it is in the phone book and the number can be called ‘vocally’ by dictating the numbers or pronouncing the name if it has been memorised.
The evolved voice recognition process means that the voice does not have to be ‘learned’, The system also allows you to manage and store up to five mobile phones at the same time so that more than one passenger in the car can make direct use of the handsfree set. The programming may be modified whenever you want. And finally, the hands-free system with voice recognition can also reproduce a ‘personal’ call tone using the radio speakers.
These are the features of the hands-free system with voice recognition, but there is more to the innovative ‘Blue&Me’ system: it allows the motorist to listen to his favourite music when it is recorded on a mobile phone, one of the new smart phones, on an MP3 player or on a USB key drive. This is made possible by a USB port in the glove compartment, to which any digital device with a similar connection can be connected, allowing musical audio files (MP3, WMA and WAV) to be reproduced directly through the stereo system. And because all the information is visible on the instrument panel display, the client can scroll through the system archive (divided by type, album, artist, etc.) either vocally or using the steering wheel controls, and select the piece he wants to listen to by the controls on the steering wheel.
Interior climate is one of the main comfort factors during a trip and is also very important for interior safety because temperature, humidity and ventilation affect the driver’s well-being and thus his or her level of alertness. And of course the heating and ventilation system is also responsible for demisting the windscreen and side windows. This is why the Alfa Spider offers a choice of two climate systems according to the specification and market (automatic dual-zone and manual).
The dual zone device is equipped with a control system that automatically controls temperature, air flow, air distribution, compressor activation and recirculation by means of an electronic control unit. The Alfa Spider also implements an equivalent temperature climate control strategy. It records internal and external temperature by means of certain sensors and assesses the sensation of thermal well-being experienced by passengers, i.e. the energy exchange between human body and passenger compartment that is affected by humidity, temperature and treated air flow. Another sensor located in a central position at the windscreen base records solar radiation on the car and the angle at which the rays strike the passenger compartment. This allows the system to prevent an excessive increase in temperature inside the car caused by the sun and thus to inform the climate control system in time. The automatic dual zone climate system can provide two different temperatures and air flows simultaneously: one in the right part of the passenger compartment and the other in the left.
The Alfa Brera also offers a sensor that verifies air quality in addition to the dual zone climate control system: the Air Quality System (AQS). This system allows occupants of the Alfa Spider to breathe clean air at all times, even when driving through town or in traffic jams and tunnels. The sensor controls the recirculation function that is turned on automatically to block the intake of outside air into the car when driving through places with high smog levels.
The fully concealed Alfa Spider hood is equipped with a hydraulic system for automated movement. The hood comes with improved looks, streamlining and acoustic comfort. Its practical details have also been improved with mechanisms specially designed to make folding and unfolding operations easier, faster and safer.
In detail, the first of its five steel and aluminium arches is shaped to mould to the upper edge of the windscreen thus continuing the exterior shape seamlessly and making the car more aerodynamic with its hood closed. The hood consists of two skins: the outer skin is a multiplayer cloth with good flame propagation resistance while the inner skin effectively soundproofs the passenger compartment. Special features have also been designed and applied to prevent wind noise during driving with the hood closed, even at high speed. Examples include the special shape of the window retaining channels.
Aboard convertibles driving comfort must be guaranteed both with the hood closed and with the hood open: hence the continuous quest for various individual performance aspects, such as body stiffness, individual frequencies, weight optimisation, aerodynamics, suspension settings and many other features that may be less well known to the general public but all add up to create a top quality product that can be used to best effect in both configurations.
The hood action is also electric and the fold/unfold operations take place automatically. To set the hood in motion, all you have to do is press a button after parking the car and applying the handbrake (this single manual operation has been maintained for safety reasons, since accidental system operation is prevented in this way). In detail, electric hood opening is performed by a specific hydraulic circuit co-ordinated by a special electronic control unit.
Lastly, the car may also be equipped with a transparent wind stop that limits air turbulence in the passenger compartment with the hood open to make it possible to enjoy an equally comfortable trip even at high speed.
Bose Sound System
The Bose Sound System produced for Alfa Romeo by the US company Bose, a leader in the Hi-Fi sound sector, offers each passenger exceptional listening quality under all driving conditions. The Hi-Fi system has a power output of 570 Watts, an acoustic system with six speakers and a subwoofer with a 6-channel digital amplifier (200 Watts) built into the rear bench seat, which plays the lowest frequencies.
The Bose Sound System arouses the same emotions as you feel when you listen to a live concert. The system offers realistic reproduction with crystal clear high notes and full, rich bass tones. It does not fall into the trap of creating unnatural sounds that are initially appealing but are tiresome for the listener in the long run. The credit goes to the new arrangement of the tweeters, on the facia with a central diffuser. The sound also wraps around all the occupants and gives them the sensation that it is travelling through a much larger environment, because the sound system and the passenger compartment have been designed together to ensure perfect harmony between the technical specifications of both.
To achieve this result, the Bose engineers carefully chose all the parts of the stereo system and established the best possible speaker position in relation to the listeners with the aid of advanced design software.
An integrated signal processor automatically adjusts bass tones so that they are always perfect at any volume. The device is more sophisticated than ordinary volume controls on conventional devices and ensures a high-quality sound that is always natural. An active equalisation circuit also ensures an excellent automatic electronic balance of all output frequencies, great stability and clarity of tone throughout the audio range. Which means being able to enjoy impeccable musical reproduction in all driving conditions.
Sound clarity is also aided by active compressor circuits that ensure the system does not display any distortion, even when the volume is turned up high. The interaction between all these sophisticated components gives rise to the extraordinary sound that has made the Bose® brand famous throughout the world.
Outstanding automotive engineering
The new Alfa model is equipped with two JTS direct injection petrol engines with Twin Phaser technology: a 260 bhp 3.2 V6 Q4 unit and a 185 bhp 2.2 JTS unit. Both power units represent Alfa Romeo’s interpretation of the direct injection petrol engine, which means driving satisfaction and high performance for the customer. Both engines adopt the direct injection JTS (Jet Thrust Stoichiometric) combustion system. Both engines deliver the quality one expects from Alfa Romeo, having been fine tuned on the Balocco test track, while final assembly takes place in the Alfa Romeo plant in Pomigliano The JTS engines naturally meet Euro 4 limits.
Both engines are combined with six speed manual gearboxes with short spacing, crisp shifts and low loads.
The new 260 bhp 3.2 V6 Q4 engine
The Alfa Romeo ‘cuore sportivo’ really beats in the new V6 3.2 litre JTS petrol engine, which delivers 260 bhp. It represents a significant departure from Alfa’s previous V6 engine, as well as its natural successor. The new JTS engine is capable of a power delivery of 260 bhp (20 bhp or 8% more than the previous 3.2 V6 Q4); peak torque of 322 Nm at 4500 rpm (+ 33 Nm, an increase of more than 11%); a specific power of 60 kW/l and specific torque of 100 Nm/l; a significant increase in torque at low speeds to improve the smooth delivery (approximately 30 Nm more than the previous 3.2 V6 engine, starting from 1,500 rpm); maximum revs of 6,200 rpm; minimal maintenance (hydraulic tappets and timing gear with chain drive); low weight (aluminium cylinder head and crankcase); and Euro4 exhaust emissions limits. With this equipment, the Alfa Spider can reach a top speed of 235 km/h and accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 7 seconds.
Main technical features
The new 6-cylinder engine fitted to the Alfa Spider continues the strategy begun with the 4-cylinder engines, and adopts the JTS (Jet Thrust Stoichiometric) direct injection system. This is an original Alfa Romeo 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.
Numerous important components have been designed from scratch and are exclusive to the Alfa Romeo V6 engine. To start with, the cylinder head is aluminium and has 4 valves per cylinder, 2 camshafts per bank with the ‘Twin Phaser’ (continuous variable valve timing, intake and exhaust) already adopted on Alfa Romeo 4-cylinder engines and now applied on a 6-cylinder engine for the first time. Variable valve timing allows the phase angle on both cams to be varied by 50°, maximising 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.
At the same time it is possible to optimise the volumetric efficiency of the engine over the whole operating range, exploiting the degrees of freedom offered by variable valve timing: this means a very favourable torque curve, with 90% of peak torque available from 1,800 rpm (290 Nm) and maintained over a broad range (from 1,800 rpm to 6,250 rpm). The valves are controlled by a roller finger system, with low mechanical dissipation, and hydraulic uptake of tappet play.
Another peculiar feature is the camshaft drive system which uses a primary chain that transmits the drive to the heads via two secondary chains. Tension is provided by automatic hydraulic tensioners, which need no maintenance at all during the life of the engine.
The high pressure fuel pump of the direct injection system is mounted on the cylinder head, driven by a camshaft, maintaining the pressure of the injected fuel at 120 bar by a built-in pressure regulator.
The inlet ports and combustion chamber assembly is designed to optimise the air-fuel mixture, to achieve the correct turbulence of the inlet air, forming a homogeneous mixture, for stable, complete combustion that produces fewer pollutants. The four valves per cylinder with diameters of 33.4 mm on the inlet and 28.4 mm on the exhaust guarantee suitable permeability to enhance engine performance.
The volumes and port geometry of the aluminium inlet casing have also been adapted to the high air delivery of the high revs to enhance performance. The electronic throttle body with a 72 mm throttle valve is mounted on this casing. And lastly, the compression ratio of 11.25:1 guarantees excellent engine performance even with regular 95 octane fuel
Briefly, the main technical features that distinguish the new 3.2 V6 Q4 engine from the previous V6 engine are:
- twin overhead camshaft with low friction drive;
- direct petrol injection;
- 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;
- minimum maintenance;
- Euro 4 emissions.
The 3.2 V6 Q4 engine features 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. Two catalysts under the floorpan 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.
Another feature of the 3.2 V6 Q4 engine is the direct injection system (the fuel is supplied directly to the combustion chamber) whose main advantage is that it improves evaporation and this increases the engine’s volumetric efficiency. As a result, the supply of air and petrol is both denser and colder, which allows the compression ratio to be increased to 11.25, even if Euro Super petrol is used, with an octane index of 95 RON: a high compression ratio is useful because it makes it possible to increase both the performance and the energy efficiency of the engine.
Lastly, ignition is provided by a single sparkplug per cylinder. 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 ignition system features a single ignition coil per cylinder.
2.2 185 bhp JTS
The 4-cylinder engines fitted to the Alfa Spider are extremely light because they have aluminium cylinder heads and crankcases (they are approximately 20% lighter than the engines they replace). The timing gear control is also particularly advanced, featuring a system of rocker arms and rollers, which significantly reduces dispersion due to friction in the cylinder head, and the ‘Twin Phaser’ continuous variable valve timing system on the intake and exhaust valves, which optimises power output, torque and fuel consumption.
In detail, the 2.2 JTS delivers 136 kW (185 bhp) and peak torque of 230 Nm (23.4 kgm) at 4,500 rpm, taking the car to a top speed of 217 km/h and accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.8 seconds
Main technical features
To start with, the Twin Phaser system adopts new cam lobes which allow the phase angle to be varied by 50° on both axes. This makes it possible to improve performance on the one hand because the best phase can be chosen at all engine speeds, and to reduce consumption and emissions with partial loads, by the Miller cycle. This combustion system, which is based on the postponed opening and closing of the inlet and exhaust valves – extends the expansive phase (converting more heat into energy), guarantees internal EGR (by preventing the release of the last exhaust gases, full of unburned particles) and postpones the closure of the inlet valve (reducing pumping losses).
Another peculiar feature of the 2.2 JTS engines that equip the Alfa Spider is the chain-driven camshaft system: unlike a conventional belt drive, this system has the advantage of not needing to be replaced during the lifespan of the engine.
And to guarantee the performance one expects of an Alfa Romeo, the timing curve has also been reviewed, adopting larger profiles which made it possible to achieve a maximum power output of 6500 rpm (the system is fine tuned to operate at over 7,000 rpm, the maximum rev speed allowed by the electronic speed limiter).
And more. To achieve the best volumetric efficiency, the maximum lift reaches 10.3 mm, while to enhance vibrational and acoustic comfort, the engine is equipped with two counter-rotating balancer shafts which virtually eliminate the second degree alternate forces that are typical of straight-4 engines. The generous power delivery of the engine (80 bhp/l on the 2.2 JTS) made it necessary to adopt sodium-cooled exhaust valves.
The combustion chamber is shaped like a roof with four valves per cylinder: with a bore of 86 mm, the large inlet valves measure 35.3 mm and the exhaust valves 30.3 mm, guaranteeing excellent permeability to enhance engine performance. And, in spite of the stroke of 94.6 mm, in order to limit the overall height of the engine, the engineers have modified the piston height, achieving a compression value of just 28 mm, which is excellent in view of the high power delivery.
Where the exhaust, injection and ignition systems are concerned, the two 4-cylinder JTS engines both adopt the strategies and features illustrated for the new 3.2 V6 Q4 engine.
Driving satisfaction, Alfa Romeo style
The new Alfa Spider is self-avowedly an Alfa through and through in its uncompromising sense of control and driving satisfaction. Driving comfort and dynamic behaviour have always been specific features of Alfa Romeo cars: on this car, they amount to a real strength. First and foremost, the Alfa Spider is fitted with suspension systems that are the outcome of a new design that aims to achieve truly outstanding results: the front suspension is high double wishbone type and the rear is multilink. Hence a greater capacity to absorb road roughness; maximum linearity and precision in the steering response – and great roadholding, maximum stability in high-speed manoeuvres and the agility of a true Alfa Romeo over tight mixed routes. In detail, the products adopted and the benefits immediately perceptible to customers are as follows:
Front suspension and steering
The new high wishbone layout adopted on the front suspension is the ideal solution to guarantee precise control of wheel movement, with a clearly defined steering axis in space. The architecture was borrowed from racing and endows the car with outstanding dynamic performance, and extremely sensitive, pinpoint steering. The high double wishbone already used on the Alfa 159 and Alfa Brera offers a host of technical improvements on the new vehicle.
First of all, the steering axis was brought closer to the centre of the wheel, increasing the Ackerman level (to increase parallel wheel movement when steering) for better response when cornering, thanks to the steering which is the most direct in its category. The steering of the new Alfa Spider has an excellent ratio (12.7° steer for every degree of wheel steer) 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.
Painstaking analysis of the matching between steering geometry and wheelarch volume has also made it possible to achieve high steering angles even with the largest tyres, and this has significantly improved the turning circle between kerbs (10.7 metres).
Great attention was paid to the new wheel upright where it connects to the levers, exploiting the available space inside the rims in full, and this has significant advantages in terms of lateral rigidity; the size of the coaxial damper spring unit with dual tube shock absorber has been increased to improve its capacity to absorb road roughness; the aluminium lower wishbone combines excellent structural characteristics and a much lower weight; the upper aluminium arm fits a pair of dry friction sliding bushes, a solution chosen because it is stronger and more reliable, and guarantees a more progressive steering action. And finally, the suspension is connected to the chassis by a closed geometry frame which is stiffer than the previous version, which featured a single crossbeam.
The new Multilink rear suspension allows wheel movement to be controlled in a sophisticated manner, reaching the best possible results in terms of performance. The system with three levers and a transverse blade highlights the performance of the various components subject to longitudinal load, to improve the filtering of roughness and under a lateral load, achieving faster responses, enhanced stability and extreme grip.
The rear suspension of the Alfa Spider now features:
- A higher anchorage point for the longitudinal link, which is now positioned higher than the centre of the wheel, allowing the suspension to perform a longer, more flexible stroke, with an optimal response when negotiating an obstacle.
- The aluminium upright, fitted with a third generation, extremely rigid hub, supports the connection bushes for the camber lever and the longitudinal link.
- The bi-tube spring-damper unit is larger than other conventional solutions; this achieves a better compromise between handling and comfort.
- The camber link, which allows the static camber to be adjusted and produces a geometry capable of guaranteeing a good camber recovery with wheel shake to ensure that the wheel rests perfectly on the road and wear is thus uniform, even when the car is pushed to the limit.
- The rear hydraulic bush guarantees excellent filtering of roughness, and allows the wheel to retract slightly when negotiating an obstacle.
- A high yield steel crossbeam isolated from the bodyshell by four elastic bushes that dampen high frequency vibration.
The Alfa Romeo Q4 four wheel drive system
The new Alfa Spider with the powerful 3.2 V6 Q4 offers the same 4x4 system with three differentials. This takes the form of the ultra-new Twin Diff system that represents the latest development of the Torsen C.
The Spider’s 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 exploits 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%). The consequence of this is improved traction and cornering stability.
The basic torque distribution of the Q4 system is mainly to the rear (43/57) for greater sportiness. Due to its locking effect, the central differential is able to send drive torque to the axle with the best grip on the ground moment by moment. This allows the system to switch from the initial torque distribution pattern to a distribution pattern focused on the front (72/28) or a distribution focused on the rear (22/78) in a fast, automatic and continuous manner according to the grip and slip levels of all four wheels.
The Alfa Romeo Q4 four wheel drive system implements permanent, dynamic torque distribution over all four wheels to achieve the highest levels of active safety. The Q4 system is four wheel drive, Alfa Romeo style: an essentially mechanical system complemented by the most advanced electronics to assure maximum driving comfort together with optimum performance and total safety.
The vehicle is absolutely cutting edge as far as engineering is concerned and offers significant benefits:
- 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.
- a Body computer that constantly exchanges information with the ABS, engine management unit and automatic transmission unit;
- an electronic throttle (that communicates with the ABS in turn);
- a control panel (active warning lights);
- the steering wheel and steering column (via the steering sensor);
- a gyroscopic sensor installed on the passenger compartment floor to record car yaw and lateral acceleration.
- conventional instalment plan lasting from 12 to 72 months;
- leasing, designed for business and professional people and the self-employed, lasting from 24 to 60 months;
- innovative packages that offer a tailored finance plan with a down-payment and very low monthly instalments and guaranteed minimum buy-back price. When the plan expires, you can choose one of three options: replace the car with a new one; purchase it by paying the final settling payment; re-finance the remaining amount.
The most sophisticated engineering at the service of safety
As far as safety is concerned, the Alfa Spider offers the most sophisticated electronic devices to control the vehicle’s dynamic performance (from braking to traction) and push its dynamic limits still further. These devices are not intrusive for the driver but greatly benefit safety. These devices have been developed operationally through simulations and meticulous track testing with the aim of ensuring maximum driving satisfaction.
The power-assisted, hydraulic system comprises two cross-over independent circuits, and is particularly effective, guaranteeing prompt, smooth braking combined with minimal stopping distances. The system naturally differs according to the engine version (in terms of weight and power): vehicles equipped with the 2.2 JTS are fitted with 305 mm self-ventilated discs on the front wheels and cast iron floating calliper with piston; the rear brake discs are solid (278 mm diameter) while the calliper is aluminium with a piston.
The powerful Alfa Spider 3.2 V6 Q4 is fitted with 330 mm ventilated discs with a four piston monobloc aluminium calliper on the front wheels; a 292 mm disc, also ventilated, with a floating calliper on the rear wheels.
This vehicle marks the first application of a monobloc aluminium calliper with radial attachments to the front brakes of an Alfa Romeo: this option increases calliper stiffness without increasing the weight and therefore makes for increased performance, particularly during a sporty drive.
ABS with EBD
In addition to a high-performing brake system, the Alfa Spider also comes with one of the most advanced ABS antilock brake systems on the market today. It features four active sensors and a hydraulic control unit with 12 solenoids. The ABS contains an electronic brakeforce distributor (EBD). This device apportions braking action over all four wheels to prevent locking and ensure full control of the car under all conditions. The system also adapts its operation to wheel grip conditions and brake pad efficiency to reduce pad overheating.
VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control)
The VDC is Alfa Romeo’s version of the ESP (Electronic Stability Program), a system that cuts in under extreme conditions when car stability is at risk and also helps the driver to control the car. As befits a true Alfa, the VDC is a sporting device that allows outstanding roadholding. It allows the driver the full satisfaction of controlling the car as long as conditions are normal but cuts in just before things become critical. The VDC is permanently engaged.
The MSR (Motor Schleppmoment Regelung) cuts in when the gear is shifted down abruptly under conditions of low grip. This device restores torque to the engine to prevent the wheel skidding as a result of lock. To achieve this result, the VDC continually monitors tyre grip in both longitudinal and lateral directions. If the car skids, it cuts in to restore directionality and ride stability. It uses sensors to detect rotation of the car body about its vertical axis (yaw speed), car lateral acceleration and the steering wheel angle set by the driver (which indicates the chosen direction). It then goes on to compare these data with parameters generated by a computer and establishes – via a complex mathematical model – whether the car is cornering within its grip limits or if the front or rear is about to skid (understeer or oversteer).
To restore the correct trajectory, it then generates a yawing movement in the opposite direction to the movement that gave rise to the instability by braking the appropriate wheel (interior or exterior) individually and reducing engine power (via the throttle). This is the key attribute of the device designed by Alfa Romeo engineers. It acts in a modulated fashion on the brakes to ensure the action is as smooth as possible (and the drive is not therefore disturbed). The engine power reduction is contained to ensure outstanding performance and great driving satisfaction at all times.
As it carries out its complex task, the VDC stays in constant communication with the brake sensors and engine control unit but also with:
ASR (Anti Slip Regulation)
The ASR (Anti Slip Regulation) system, an integral part of the VDC, optimises traction at any speed with the aid of the brakes and engine control.
The device computes degree of slip on the basis of wheel rpm calculated by the ABS sensors and activates two different control systems to restore grip: when an excessive power demand causes both drive wheels to slip (e.g. in the case of aquaplaning or when accelerating over an unsurfaced, snowy or icy road), it reduces engine torque by reducing the throttle opening angle and thus air flow; If only one wheel slips (e.g. the inside wheel following acceleration or dynamic load changes), this is automatically braked without the driver touching the brake pedal. The resulting effect is similar to that of a self-locking differential. This allows the Alfa Spider to get out of trouble easily on road surfaces with low grip.
The ASR is activated automatically whenever the engine is started but must be turned off by means of a cut-out switch on the central console. The ASR needs be turned off only when snow chains are used because the wheel must be able to slip by tiny amounts to pile up the snow so that force can be transmitted to the ground and the ASR tends to prevent this occurring.
HBA and Hill-holder
The equipment array on the Alfa Spider is completed by the HBA system, the hydraulic electronic hydraulic braking assistant which automatically increases the pressure in the braking circuit during emergency braking. And by the Hill-holder system, which maintains the braking pressure for a few moments after the driver removes his foot from the pedal, to simplify hill starts and prevent the car from slipping backwards.
Cutting-edge systems for total protection
Passive safety also benefits from state-of-the-art technology. And goes on to include a new chassis designed to absorb impact with maximum efficacy. Occupants are also protected by the body and doors, without forgetting the Iso fix attachments for carrying the tiniest occupants with maximum safety. The car also offers innovative restraint systems (pretensioner on the buckle and a degressive load limiter on the seat-belt) and airbags: front with two-stage activation, sidebags and new devices to safeguard the knees. These kneebags prevent contact with the dashboard surface and help achieve the highest safety levels (depending on markets and outfits, the passenger kneebag may be optional).
In detail, the two front airbags have two-stage activation: for the driver (with capacity of 60 litres) and passenger (120 litres). Their operation is controlled by an electronic control unit on the tunnel that evaluates impact severity by means of sensors that are calibrated by conducting crash tests in the laboratory. The system comes with a diagnostic circuit for checking components electronically. The components are tested by a processor that monitors their operation continuously. 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 (depending on the market) so that a baby can be carried in a seat with its back to the direction of motion (the pretensioner remains active).
The Alfa Spider is fitted with two sidebags 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. For geometrical reasons, it is also possible to use a 12 litre airbag: this volume is lower than an airbag housed in the door would require to offer the same protection. 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. All systems are managed in an integral manner in accordance with a strategy of total, progressive occupant safety.
‘Spider is Alfa Romeo’
The four words ‘Spider is Alfa Romeo’, an advertising slogan in use nearly 30 years ago, neatly sum up eighty years of Alfa Romeo spider convertible production (in both technical and emotional terms). An automotive manufacturer such as Alfa Romeo whose name has always been a byword for motorsport, can only give free rein to its idea of freedom and passion by building a convertible.
Like many historical icons that have passed into the common consciousness over the course of the decades, the Alfa Romeo convertible was created without a specific name to identify it. The period was the beginning of the twentieth century, spoked-wheeled cars created in Portello, such as the 40-60 HP, the 20-30 ES, up to the RL (Alfa Romeo’s first creations) were put through their paces against the chequered flag over circuits such as Targa Florio, Brescia, Modena and Parma. The management of the day were quick to realise that they could never come up with a better advertising slogan than that of offering customers a car that could boast such a wealth of sporting accolades.
Through the intuitions and passion of designers and engineers such as Merosi and then Jani, Alfa Romeo became speed champions on the track and style icons on roads throughout the world, due to their impeccable engines and the artistry of bodybuilders such as Zagato and Touring, who channelled the power of the 1500 and 1750 engines into sleek, open-topped shapes.
The English-speaking world looked on with great interest at these open-topped cars whose streamlined shapes allowed them to reach much higher speeds than saloons. The vehicles were therefore described as ‘speeders’ and the term became corrupted into ‘spiders’, even though they had nothing whatsoever to do with the eight-legged insects of the same name.
Throughout the 1930s, the already cutting-edge engineering and styling of these cars underwent further refinement. The engines were upgraded to eight cylinders and their capacities were increased: the difficulties posed by circuits throughout Europe (from Le Mans to Monza) and the toughest adversaries did not deter the all-powerful 8C 2300 Spider Corsa or the 8C 2900 A and B.
At the wheel of these racing cars, with his habit of hurtling headlong into the middle of bends and skidding out, was perhaps the greatest of them all: Tazio Nuvolari.
The interlude of World War II brought a temporary halt to Italian automotive production. The first signs of recovery came at the beginning of the Fifties, but the clamour for coupés and convertibles did not really begin to make itself heard until the time of new prosperity in the Sixties. Alfa Romeo responded to this need with a car derived from a coupé version but with a shape that belied its great personality: thus 1955 saw the advent of the Giulietta Spider.
Though Zagato and Touring had built the bodies of previous convertibles, for the Giulietta Spider, the powers that be at Alfa Romeo decided to commission two prototypes from Bertone (the Giulietta Sprint that was the forerunner of the coupé) and from Pininfarina . Graceful, regular proportions coupled with suave yet razor-sharp design assured the victory of the model produced by the factory set up by Giovan Battista Farina, who referred to his car affectionately as ‘la signorina’.
The Giulietta Spider was initially launched only on the US market, where that well-proportioned design oozing artistic culture and the brandname redolent of so many racetrack triumphs symbolised a different way of life. The small cars (very often white) from Milan caused a sensation when they were first seen driving down the avenues of New York.
In Italy, convertibles (Alfa Romeo in particular) became a must-have phenomenon: these fast cars had the pick-up to burn up heavy saloons at the traffic lights and competition was beginning to arise between opposing ranks, as Giulietta drivers took on the British open-topped sports cars. Italian national spirit and pride, based on well-founded awareness of the product’s attributes, always won out and it was not by chance that the Giulietta Spider entered the world of advertising with Domenico Modugno at the wheel.
But the Giulietta was no ordinary style icon and amounted to much more than a status symbol: like any other Alfa Romeo, this car was put through its paces on the race track (in a 12 hour race at Sebring in 1960 for example) and in the world of competitive motorsport. The most original race and the one that aroused most press attention was won by a Giulietta Spider Veloce driven by Sanesi that came in 20 minutes ahead of the Settebello train (pride of the railway industry at that time) on the Milan-Rome line.
The Touring body introduced between the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s was no less admired. This look, where elegance was more important than racing muscle, typified the 2000 and 2600 convertibles and proved itself perfectly attuned to the jetset lifestyle. It stood as a model of refinement and good taste, immortalised by memorable performances by actors such as Rossano Brazzi and Ugo Tognazzi, whose style blended perfectly with that of the Touring class.
So far the Spiders we have examined were essentially open-topped versions of saloon or coupé models, but at the Geneva Motor Show of 1966, Alfa Romeo introduced a Spider so original, it was viewed in an entirely different light to any other model in production at that time.
The Fiat top-management decided that they needed to get away from the Giulietta shape, which they considered outdated and commissioned Pininfarina (now inseparably linked with the Alfa Romeo name) to build a new car on the 1600 engine.
1966 saw the advent of the 1600 Spider, with a double convex shape that was drawn out harmoniously to give the car a cuttlebone form contained within a wraparound rounded shape with a quintessentially mannerist flavour. Such shapes were actually nothing new to Alfa Romeo convertibles: fourteen years earlier, the 1900 C 52 convertible known as the ‘Flying Saucer’ had aroused much curiosity and interest.
After cars with evocative names such as the Giulietta and Giulia, this 1600 spider could hardly remain restricted by such a dry-sounding technical title. The Alfa Romeo top management, led by Giuseppe Luraghi, therefore announced a competition: anyone who came up with a name good enough to satisfy a special jury would be given a 1600 Spider. Many more people entered the competition than Alfa ever expected. So many, in fact, that once the jury had chosen the name ‘Duetto’, they had to pick a winner from all the entrants who had suggested this name. Mr Guidobaldo Trionfi was the lucky contestant: he based his entry on the number of passengers, the engine tone and the inseparable harmony of shape and feeling.
The Duetto had only just entered the stage: then the young Dustin Hoffman arrived on Italian cinema screens aboard a red Duetto, driven in dashing style on the set of the film ‘The Graduate’, to the accompaniment of ‘Mrs. Robinson’ by Simon & Garfunkel. The film and the car were so popular that a special series of the Spider in the US was given the name of ‘Graduate’.
The Seventies ushered in another look entirely and the car underwent a radical restyling. This mainly affected the rear end, with the disappearance of the cuttlebone shape in favour of a cut-off rear end. Different engines also came and went over the years, from the 1300 to the 2000 with the 1750 in between.
And so production of Alfa Romeo spiders has continued in an unbroken strand up to the present day, a sign of the importance and awareness of Alfa Romeo’s place in the world of convertibles, i.e. in the world of passion, motor racing, wind and asphalt.
After all, Spider is Alfa Romeo.
The range and services
The new model range is created by cross-matching two engines, 2 specifications, 10 body-colours – and 4 interiors in needle-punched fabric, Alfatex, Frau leather and grosgrain leather. The Alfa Spider range offers all customers, even the most demanding, the opportunity to choose between a range of features that emphasise the versatility of the model while also meeting the practical and emotional needs of all customers.
In detail, the original equipment includes as standard an on-board computer, manual climate control system, electric rear view mirrors, electronic key and dash-mounted starter button, VDC, 16” alloys, needle-punched fabric interiors, kneebag (for the driver) and radio with CD player.
The second specification complements this already extensive list with an automatic climate control system, 17” alloys, radio controls on the steering wheel, electric fold-down mirrors, Alfatex interiors, screen-printed aluminium trim, rear parking sensor, cruise control and rain sensors, dusk and demisting sensors.
Innovative services and custom purchase packages
On the major European markets, Fiat Auto Financial Services offers a wide range of custom finance packages for purchasing the Alfa Spider. These products include the following essentials:
Sava has also developed a new and flexible system for the Italian market known as ‘Alfa Più’. The package was created through cooperation between a company specialising in retail finance products and the Alfa Romeo brand. It allows customers to drive a new car at all times and pay only for its actual use. In detail, the advance may range from zero to 50% of the sales price (as the customer prefers), while the instalments are low and last 25 or 37 months. At the end of the contract, Alfa Spider customers can choose one of thee alternatives: replace the car and buy a new one; keep the car and pay the final settlement payment – or return it without any obligation to buy a new one.
Another innovative product is a long-term rental product designed specially for professional people and individuals who wish to appreciate the sportiness and style of their Alfa Spider without having to deal with all the formalities related to direct management of the car. Because it is the rental company that deals with them: insurance and management of claims, ordinary and extraordinary maintenance, towing, roadside assistance and motor tax. All this comes in return for payment of a monthly fee without the need to pay out capital sums. For the Italian Market, Savarent has introduced two new insurance services designed to safeguard your driving licence against any inconvenience that you may suffer from losing some/all of your points or the withdrawal/suspension of your driving licence. In particular, ‘SOS driving licence’, a policy that pays a daily compensation/reimbursement in the event of suspension/withdrawal.
The Alfa Spider may also be optionally equipped with a satellite radio navigation system, including bCONNECT infomobility services designed to put technology at the service of drivers and make life on board the Alfa Spider even more convenient and easy. All this comes courtesy of the GPS/GSM network and the benefits of satellite communication: one press of the green key allows customers to communicate in handsfree mode in their own language with an operator who can meet all their information and service requirements. Drivers may, for example, request the address or phone number of an individual or company (Drive Me service) and also benefit from a 24 hour on-line Medical Consultancy and Roadside Rescue service.
Last but not least, many services are available in Italy on a single credit card that is totally free of charge to Alfa Romeo customers and packed with benefits: credit up to 1500 euros on purchases in 25 million shops throughout the world, 1500 euros of credit on special terms for purchases from and servicing at Alfa Romeo authorised workshops, zero commission on refuelling and flexible repayments - and 24 hour roadside assistance.
The credit card participates without charge in the Targa Program, the system of accumulation that adds value to what you buy all over the world, and enables you with each purchase made with your credit card, to enjoy a bonus of from 1% to 15% of the amount spent. The Bonus can be used as a discount on the price of a new car and services. The bonus can be used as a discount on the price of a new car and services.