Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Return Of The Alfa Spider?

The PininFarina-styled concept car as it made the rounds of auto shows in 2010 and after.

Apparently this car is "on" for the 2015 model year, in the sense that it hasn't had its plug pulled yet, and is well-along in development.  Fiat and Mazda signed a joint deal which will result in an upscale car for each marque.  Both cars will be based on the architecture of the next-generation MX-5 (Miata) and thus front engine rear-drivers.  They apparently will also share a twin-clutch sequential gearbox controlled by a central lever (not paddles).  But each will have its own proprietary "powerful" engine and distinctive exterior sheet metal.  The Alfa Romeo is "said to closely resemble the concept car."  (I wonder how the concept car's great-looking front end will translate into crashworthy bumpers.)

Normally I do not get excited about concept cars.  Too many of them are just teases for focus groups, or stillborn, or badly compromised as production models.  They tend to be more attractive than a car that can be certified to regulations in major world markets.  Consider, for example, how much more attractive the Porsche Boxster concept car was than the car that eventually went on sale.  The Boxster concept had a strong 550 Spyder vibe.  It turned into a ho-hum but crashworthy production car with long and awkward overhangs.  The concept's "integrated" look was lost.  But if the Alfa is built on the small (yet crashworthy) MX-5 unit body's internals, it should be light, agile, and agile-looking.  Like the Giulietta/Giulia.

The Alfa Spiders of 1954-66 sold for about 2.25 times the price of a Chevy, or about $60,000 in today's Impala money.  That sounds about right: in the Boxster's power and price territory.  With CAFE standards tightening, I'm guessing there won't be a 2+ liter turbo V-6 but probably a high-revving, advanced-materials, 1.5+ liter turbo I-4.  And, while this post uses the Boxster as a market-segment benchmark, I suspect the new Alfa Spider (which I seem to insist on calling it  ;-) ) would not compete head-to-head. A potential Spider customer would more likely be looking at a Lotus Elise or Exige.  Or lamenting the departure of the Honda S-2000.  Or have been waiting for decades for a worthy successor from Alfa to the 1954-1966 Spider.  Welcome, son-of-Giulietta-Spider-Veloce!  Welcome back, Alfa!

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