“There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion”. With this Francis Bacon quote, Alfa Romeo enthusiast Jeremy Clarkson described the incredibly beautiful 8C Competizione. He couldn’t better describe such a car: its proportions and sense of exceptional beauty are so unique that may seem strange to some but perfect to most.
Whether you want to put it, the 8C might just be the most gorgeous car of the 2000’s. I normally hate superlatives and avoid making absolute statements, but in front of the 8C I cannot write otherwise.
It is the quintessential form of beauty of XXI Automotive design and every time you see one, just feels like the first time. The sound of the engine, the wonderful smell of the leather, the carbon fiber…everything is designed to catch your attention: it is a sensory overload experience that you won’t ever forget.
If Michelangelo would sculpt a car, that would probably be the 8C. It’s no exaggeration: this Alfa is a combination of classic design with the freshness of new and young ideas. It is a thrill just to look at and to drive…I always wanted to find out.
With just short of 500 made it wasn’t the newest offering in the Alfa Romeo line up so we had to find one on our own to make an escape in the hills of Brianza and a very generous owner either. No one would let you play around with their artistic possessions, right? After the Delta S4, we made that happen, again.
We found a black one with the red leather interior. Pure elegance. That’s how you define such a color combination. The car was equipped with its gorgeous original luggage and it made me and Federico look like the rich, male, Italian XXI Century version of Thelma and Louise, with beards instead of long hair and makeup. Nevermind, we enjoyed the trip to one of the most beautiful regions of Northern Italy driving like normal men. Sort of…
We started from the southern region of the Province of Como and toured all the way up to one of my favorite places on Earth, the sleepy yet glamorous town of Carimate, where we stopped for a coffe. The roads there may not just be the best as it is a costant mix of crowded industrial places and curvy stretches of road with amazing scenery. It sure feels strage for me, a native of this area pretending to make an escape in my own backyard. It isn’t when you’re looking at home from the windscreen of an 8C. I never felt so much happy to loose myself in the scenery of my home, travelling up to Como. I always wanted to drive such a car in my favorite b-roads the same where I learned how to drive at 18 years of age. I tickled my bucket list once again. Lucky me!
The 8C is a Gran Turismo. Outright performance is not the word, just like for the Maserati Gran Cabrio. To understand these cars you need to think about enjoyment and pure aesthetic exhilaration. Inside the cabin you marvel at the details and the complete absence of plastic. It’s the sort of car that when driving it you never care about your destination and just want to floor the pedal to hear the glorious sound of 4.7 liter V8. The car has its own mannerism and it comes together in its own way, and it is far from perfect. The chassis is not super stiff, the transmission is slower than you would expect from such a car. When cornering, it has a pronounced oversteer in the middle of the corner and has pronounced roll and pitch.
The engine is fabulous: torquey, sonorous, angry and with a sharp response. Would you say otherwise for a Ferrari developed Maserati engine? Each car should have its glorious sound, deep at idle and ferocious at high rpm’s. From distance, it sounds like Augustus cavalry charge, coming right at you. It’s pure magic and elegance that makes you forget about its flaws, and truly enjoy it. It’s got charisma, soul and that human feeling that many manufacturers have lost.
The steering is the opposite of the contemporary feather-light ones, it’s hard and has a wooden feeling. It’s direct and responsive though even if it is not very communicative. Holding the thick rim covered in leather is such a joy that it just makes you fall in love with the car even more.
Brakes are good, and throttle response is perfectly balanced, allowing you to be smooth and gentle with the delivery. The seats are thin and made out of carbon fiber. They’re supportive and not very comfortable for long distance touring, but the leather stitching is so good you’ll forget about comfort in no time.
Marveling at the mechanical gauges makes me wish these sight may not be the last we’ll see on a car: the era of digital displays has just begun and I feel the nostalgia for more classic instruments. There’s an inexplicable pleasure in fooling yourself about the car top speeds and seeing the speedo going up and down. It is a direct representation of what the car can do.
The good old days of proper cars are gone. As a matter of fact, the 8C is technically a dinosaur with the most and elegant and contemporary dress you can imagine.
However, no one of its flaws will restrain you from falling deeply in love with this car. Despite all of its flaws, it’s just so engaging and well styled that after spending a full day with it you’ll just want to drive it even more.
When you drive it, you push on the throttle to hear the wonderful scream of the engine, feel the acceleration, find new roads, travel with no limits. It’s a proper Escape car: It is able to turn your daily commute into a journey and making anyone who sees it on the road, fell instantly in love with its curvy and original lines.
It’s a real-world, true Alfa Romeo, no matter what argument you may have on this Manufacturer. I just want to drive one again and again, with no regards of how many horses I have or lap times or how quickly I should drive it on a mountain road.
I once spoke to one of the men who worked on the first prototypes. He told me that he asked Alfa Romeo that he was willing to renounce his entire payment and receive the car new from the Factory. Money never talks when it comes to Alfa Romeo.