Alfa Romeo 2uettottanta

Auto Express gets exclusive access to Pininfarina’s showstopping new Spider. Does it deliver on the promise of its sensational looks?

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

THE UK loves Alfas and open-tops, so if bosses build this car, they would have no shortage of buyers. But first, the company needs to repair its image, and work to improve its cars’ poor residual values. Even so, our drive suggests the Fiat Group needs to find the resources to make the 2uettottanta. If it did, the car wouldn’t appear until 2013 – but we’ll wait however long it takes for it to come up with a great new Alfa to replace the less than wonderful Spider.

It’s pronounced ‘duet-o-tanta’ – and rarely has a name meant so much for Italian sports cars. The 2uettottanta is Pininfarina’s beautiful Alfa Romeo-badged star of the Geneva Motor Show back in March.

But the complex name is more than just a ploy to draw crowds to the stands. It pays tribute to the firm’s glorious past, plus looks to the future – and Auto Express got behind the wheel during an exclusive photoshoot.

First, we should explain that tongue-twisting badge. The 2 refers to the two-seater configuration, the 2uetto to the influence of Alfa’s classic Duetto model and ottanta – 80 in Italian – to the number of years Pininfarina has been coming up with such stunners.

We drove the 2uettottanta fresh from its show debut, and there were no seatbelts fitted. But our time with the car wasn’t so much about pushing it hard on the open road – instead, we were keen just to get a taste of the car insiders say points to the look of the next-generation Spider.

Contrary to speculation, Pininfarina says the Mazda MX-5-sized newcomer is production ready. It’s also keen to scotch rumours that it’s based on the 8C Competizione, pointing out that the underpinnings are not from a current Alfa model.

Power comes from an all-new 1.8-litre turbocharged engine, while the 2,500mm wheelbase is identical to that of the four-wheel-drive Fiat Sedici and Suzuki SX4.

The bodywork’s soft curves are set off perfectly by the bold metallic paint. Red is the colour, of course, and the 2uettottanta features a blood-like shade that sparkles in the sunshine during our drive.

The form-fitting sports seats give outstanding support, and our arms are held at a perfect distance for us to clutch the small 14.2-inch-diameter retro-styled three-spoke steering wheel.

It’s a special place to sit. The driving position is low to the ground and the seatback steeply raked. Plus, with your backside suspended inches above the tarmac, it feels just as unique as an original Duetto spider.

As there’s no roof, and only a slender windscreen surround, visibility is excellent, while the car is incredibly aerodynamic.The major controls are placed logically around the steering column and on the central tunnel, as well as across the upper dash.

As you’d expect, the detailing is simply sensational, with glowing white Alfa Romeo badges on the centre of the speedometer and rev counter needles. The gearlever is finished in machined aluminium billet, and is great to hold. Beautifully integrated into its design is the bright red start button.

But while we love the cabin’s architecture, we should mention that not everything you see here will make production. The thin, column-mounted paddleshifters for the seven-speed TCT twin-clutch box are only for show. Another little jewel that feels too finely finished to make dealers is the new design for the lever of Alfa’s DNA adaptive chassis system – it’s unlikely to stand up to daily use.

On the other hand, the seatbelt appendages, extending off the outside edges of the flying buttresses, are a really pleasing touch. They embrace you as you settle back into the seats, and are likely to make production.

Overall, the 2uettottanta’s cabin is as accommodating as the latest BMW Z4’s, and the swooping lines are not unlike those of the blue propeller car.

Under the bonnet, the turbocharged engine is very much showroom-ready – it’s set to feature in the Giulietta Cloverleaf, which goes on sale in the summer. Amazingly, this ultra-efficient 232bhp 1.7-litre four-cylinder motor delivers just as much power as the gas-guzzling old 3.2-litre V6 in the 147 GTA.

Alfa says the finished version of the 2uettottanta will use this same unit, as it targets class-leading rivals such as the Porsche Boxster and Audi TT Roadster. In the two-door – which tips the scales at a featherweight 1,220kg – it promises a 0-62mph sprint time of less than six seconds.

This impressive power output will be delivered to the rear wheels through the slick-shifting TCT box. Add that to the gorgeous barchetta styling, plus the detailing inside and out, and the 2uettottanta will make summer anywhere in the world like something from an Italian romance.

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