The official launch of Alfa's latest Spider model Wednesday contained no new surprises, but some absolutely delightful eye candy. And it's coming to America! (Probably. Well, maybe. Perhaps. If you're good.) Plenty of pictures and excerpts from the press kit after the jump. Enjoy!

[Source: Alfa Romeo]

Official Press Release:

Alfa Spider

The model in brief

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.

'Spider is Alfa Romeo'

The four words 'Spider is Alfa Roma', 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.

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.

[Source: Fiat]

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