There were two world premieres on the Alfa Romeo stand, the first of which was apparently the 147 Q2, distinguished from the lesser 147 by a locking front differential (which is paired exclusively with the enormously torquey 150-hp JTDM turbodiesel engine) and also offering a few cosmetic tweaks, both inside and out.
There were various special editions and reappearances of old favorites, too - but the other world premiere was the only car on the stand that really mattered to anyone except the most serious tire-kicker. And even the announcement that they only intend to build it in a strictly limited edition of 500 cars didn’t change its status as the one Alfa that mattered. Because far from being just a new model for a handful of lucky (and wealthy) buyers, the 8C Competizione represents a big statement of intent for the Italian company that, (a) says it can still do a major league sports car, and (b) says it is about to relaunch the brand in the USA, where it hasn’t been seen for more than a decade.
The “production” version of the 8C Competizione concept first shown at the Frankfurt Show in 2003 has stayed pretty true to the original layout and look – and like the music that overlaid the unveiling, its shape and engineering are a fusion of classical and contemporary that is fresh and distinctive but without being too challenging. So it’s a softly curvy, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive two-seat Grand Tourer, designed by Alfa Centro Stile near Milan, with hints of older Alfa classics like the Giulia TZ and the 33 Coupe Stradale competition car. But it also has a clean modern feel in areas like its lights, grille and odd splashes of dull-alloy brightwork, and it has that desirable aura of simmering performance on a short leash.
It has the power to back up the looks, with 450 hp and 347 lb-ft of torque from its all-aluminum 4.7-liter four-cam V8 engine (with Ferrari and Maserati cousins), a claimed top speed of around 190 mph and a sub-4.5-second 0-62 mph time.
The compact engine and six-speed gearbox sit well back in the chassis for excellent weight distribution. Alfa describe the all-wishbone suspension and massive disc brakes as race-track derived, and 20-inch rubber ought to deliver enough grip even for that much performance, but a choice of gearshift modes and a sophisticated stability and traction control system mean it should be protective as well as entertaining. They promise plenty of choice in terms of interior trim and equipment and they say the order book opens now.
They just have to hope that America remembers the good stuff about Alfa and doesn’t dwell too long on the downsides that have kept them off the block for too long.