We’ve been waiting for a proper convertible sports car with the Italian brand’s extensive heritage for a long time and the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider does not disappoint. There have of course been other sports cars in recent years, not least the Alfa Romeo 8C Spider but this was a limited edition car with reputedly wayward handling. The Brera based Spider was a great looking car but the front-wheel drive chassis didn’t make it a true driver’s car. A new Roadster model has been long expected and planned for some time based on the next generation Mazda MX-5 however this was recently thrown into doubt with the Fiat Group CEO Sergio Marchionne stating that as long as he’s in charge, there won’t be an Alfa Romeo built outside of Italy.
The 4C Spider Design Preview shown at Geneva this year is built in Italy and clearly intended to revive the brand’s sporting past. Let’s remember, Alfa were winning races before any Ferrari had turned a wheel. This car has an ultra-lightweight chassis and rear wheel drive. The mid-mounted all-aluminium 1750cc Turbo Petrol engine is potent enough to give the feather-weight car the power to out-perform many rivals. A dual dry-clutch 6-speed paddle-shift transmission gives the fast gear changes needed for a 4.5 second sprint from 0 to 62 mph.
While the Alfa 4C Spider is undoubtedly quick it is on the focussed driving experience that the Alfa Romeo engineers have spent most of their time. The monocoque chassis is constructed from carbon fibre while the bodywork is low density SMC (Sheet Moulding Compound) which helps to cut down weight without deforming as easily as aluminium.
Compared to the Coupe, the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider features more conventionally designed headlights, carbon fibre rollover bars, spoilers and windscreen frame, and a new exhaust system. The later made from carbon and titanium is produced by a company making competition motorcycle exhaust systems. The design features an electrically-operated valve system which can improve performance and enhance the exhaust note at the push of a wirelessly-linked button.
It also gains the benefits of the convertible roof – open air driving in an environment where the driver is closer to and further involved in the sounds and movements of the car. The roof comes in the form of a small, lightweight canvas soft top although we are yet to see how this folds away.
While the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is a throughly modern sports car it takes its influence from the brands iconic performance cars of the past. It has more in common with a Lotus than recent Alfas but is larger and perhaps more modern in its execution. It isn’t the affordable roadster that we still hope for but it should be priced at a level to sell in significant numbers. Details of the production model have yet to be released but calling this a ‘preview’ rather than a concept suggests that little will change.
McLaren’s latest car is a convertible version of the 650S, itself launched just a few weeks ago. First shown in public at the Geneva Motor Show the McLaren 650S Spider is clearly influenced in deign by the P1 hypercar.
It fits in between the P1 and 12C in the range. McLaren are so confident that the 650S will take the majority of sales over the McLaren 12C Spider on which it is based that they have temporarily ceased production of the lower range car to concentrate on demand for the new car.
In addition to the obvious styling changes the McLaren 650S Spider has a 641 bhp (650PS) version of the M838T twin turbo 3.8 litre V8 engine. This gives a 0-100 km/h (62 mph) time of just 3.0 seconds and a maximum speed of 204 mph (329 km/h) – identical figures to the coupe. The 650S was designed with a carbon fibre MonoCell chassis that provides all the car’s strength without the need for a structural fixed roof. The result is a convertible car with a two-piece folding composite hardtop, that weighs only a few pounds more than the coupe.
When lowered, the roof is stored under the rear tonneau body panel complete with twin buttresses. The heated glass rear window operates independently of the roof to allow it to be kept in position to act as a window deflector. When the roof is up the window can be lowered to let more of the musical tones of the V8 into the cabin.
Despite the performance figures this isn’t a stripped-down track car like last year’s Ferrari 458 Speciale. Instead it has a full Alcantara interior, carbon-ceramic brakes, an electric adjustable steering wheel and an impressive new infotainment system.
Priced at £195,000 GBP the McLaren 650S Spider is £20,000 more than the 12C Spider however McLaren don’t consider this to be a problem for their growing customer base. If it is too much to bear, customers can wait for the new P13 – due to launch in 2015 at two thirds of this price.
GM appear to be trying to fill all the niche markets with one car as they launch the new Adam Rocks at the GenevaMotor Show. Pitched as an ‘urban mini-crossover convertible’ the new car has a more chunky look compared to the supermini on which it is based.
The design stands out from the range with rugged looking anthracite coloured cladding running from the bumpers around the wheel arches and across the sills. Suspension and steering systems have been updated to fit with the taller, wider style along with 17 or and inch alloy wheels. It also gets a new one litre three cylinder turbo-charged petrol engine and lightweight six-speed gearbox that promise low emissions and great economy.
The folding roof is restricted to a three-quarter length three layer fabric top that rolls back between the window frames. It is acoustically lined comes in a choice of three colours – Black, Sweet Coffee or Light Oak. The roof is power operated in 5 seconds with the rear of the roof fixed in place, featuring an integrated roof spoiler. LED daytime running lights, chrome details, front and rear silver skid plates and chrome exhaust trim complete the exterior finishing.
Inside the character features continue. Two unique interior colour schemes include the leather steering wheel, gearshift and handbrake. One is taken directly from last year’s concept car in ‘Peanut and Morrocana’ while the other has rich dark brown seats trimmed with bright blue stitching.
The Adam Rocks brings another level of funky to the small convertible car sector. Whether the mostly superficial design will win hearts we are yet to see but crossover car designs have proved very successful in larger formats.
While details of the new Aygo are yet to be released, both the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108 will be offered with a roll-back convertible roof. The fabric roof will be offered in several contrasting colours and works in a similar way to the Fiat 500C and Citroen DS3 Cabrio that we recently reviewed.
These compact convertibles will revive two categories that has been quiet for some time – small convertibles and Four-door convertibles. That that’s right, these tiny drop-tops will be offered with either 2 or 4 doors making them even more practical. Add to this the low purchase cost and it really is hard to find an excuse not to opt for the sunshine-friendly alternative.
Citroën C1 Airscape and Peugeot 108 Top! offer a 800 mm x 760 mm power operated top over a nimble hatchback city car chassis. Each brand offers 3 different roof colours. Comfort and equipment levels are improved over the previous generations.
Designed to be agile and easy to drive and park even in the tightest city streets the B-Zero city cars combine funky styling with surprisingly spacious interiors and peppy economical engines. A pair of 3 cylinder petrol engines are offered along with a 5 speed manual gearbox. The standard 1 litre engine is good fun as it stands while the new 82 horsepower 1.2 litre option promises more performance while keeping emissions under 100g/km.
The rear windows do not fold down and while purists may say that this leaves them more of a big sun-roof than a proper convertible roof we found in other cars that the folding rear windows to be impractical in use, leaving the roof blocking rear vision and the roof opening only a few inches wider. The result may also provide a lighter, stiffer chassis improving performance and economy.
Ride comfort should be further improved with new suspension components and a revised electronic power steering system.
Expect to see these cars on roads across Europe from July 2014.
We have known a Ferrari California Turbo was coming for quite a while with various disguised cars seen and heard in testing on road and track. Despite the hype this looks like an impressive step forward that makes an already exciting car even more appealing.
The hardtop convertible Ferrari has been updated in all areas inside and out but most importantly under the bonnet. There is a new engine based on the unit developed by Ferrari for Maserati but now taken further to make the California T considerably more potent than the car that came before it.
The use of low inertia twin-scroll turbines with the V8 engine produces sharp responses, an even power band and masses of torque all the way to a 7500rpm red line. Rather than the old naturally aspirated 4.3 litre V8 the new 3855cc twin turbo engine produces a peak of 570 horsepower and 557lb ft of torque. The latter figure an increase of close to 50%. In addition to performance gains the new engine is designed to cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions with a combined mpg of 26.9 and emissions down 20 per cent to 250 g/km.
Ferrari’s traditional customers will be more interested in the performance figures however and these are equally as impressive with a 0-62mph time of 3.6 seconds and a 196mph top speed.
The bodywork is refined with a new prettier front end design that fits better with Ferrari’s current range. Penned by the Ferrari Styling Centre in collaboration with Pininfarina it is clearly closely related to the outgoing California while being refreshed and made more purposeful. The new new triple-fence diffuser at the rear giving clear intent of the car’s performance pedigree.
Inside the handsome interior now features a turbo boost gauge in the centre of the dashboard and a new touch-screen infotainment system to finish off the updates.
The new Ferrari California T will be launched to the public at the Geneva Motor Show in March of 2014.
With classic Aston Martins fetching prices steadily heading into the stratosphere getting behind the wheel of something like a DB5 is becoming restricted to the privileged few. One alternative now comes in miniature. The DB Convertible Junior sold by Nicholas Mee & Co a West London Aston Martin dealer is a fully functioning petrol engined car but in reduced size.
Although designed for use by children over 10 years of age, there is enough room in the cockpit for an adult and can be driven comfortably by people of all sizes thanks to adjustable pedals. The top speed of 46 mph can be restricted downwards to keep boy-racers of all ages under control.
The DB Convertible is produced to an impressive standard with an 1100cc four-stroke petrol engine started by a key operated electronic ignition. There are hydraulic Brembo disc brakes and a 3-speed semi-automatic gearbox within the steel chassis and this is clothed in composite bodywork styled to replicate classic Aston Martins of the 1960s. It is the stuff childhood dreams are made of and likely to appeal to parents who perhaps own the full sized equivalent.
Customers can choose from a wide range of colours and the interior can be trimmed in vinyl or leather and is finished with a wood-rimmed steering wheel. There is even a fully operating set of horn, lights and indicators to ad authenticity.
Discerning young drivers will have to find £16,500 (GBP) to get their hands on this stylish baby sports car as well as a suitable private road or track on which to use it.