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Alfa Romeo 159
Patchy build quality, dodgy electrics, cheap 'n' nasty cabin materials-Americans don't need that stuff from an Italian car. Not with the domestic industry the way it is. These are the issues Alfa must confront head-on and resolve if it is to stand any chance of succeeding Stateside. Buying an Alfa used to be a sign of bravery, a kind of Devil-may-care attitude. Things are a little more serious these days.

The good thing is that Alfa is one of the few car companies that still creates beauty. Bertone, Giugiaro, Pininfarina-these are legendary names in the world of car design, yet they are still available from Alfa Romeo at a price the working man can afford.

Not only that, Alfa knows how to make cars that drive and sound great. Even its 159 sedan and Sportwagon can be thrilling. But a family car has to be reliable and affordable. Right now it seems impossibly exotic. Although things are improving for Alfa little by little, if reports from Europe are anything to go by. The buzz at the moment is that a high-performance GTA 159 is being developed.

Alfa Brera/Spider
Even though the 8C Competizione will get all the headlines by virtue of its extreme sexiness, all 500 built to satisfy homologation regulations (so, yes, Alfa is taking the 8C racing) have been pre-sold. Therefore, anyone wanting to buy an Alfa (and editor Bidrawn counts among them) should look long, hard and lovingly at the Brera or the Spider.

These cars are based on the same platform as the 159 (a joint project with GM, so that might make re-entry a little easier), they run on a double wishbone suspension at the front with a multi-link arrangement at the rear. The Spider was deliberately given a canvas roof, making the Brera more of a focused driving machine.

Producing a coupe/cabrio with a folding metal roof is all very fashionable, but involves too many compromises for the enthusiast. And the enthusiast is traditional Alfa territory, with that enthusiasm often winning over cold, hard logic-such as the kind of withering residual values normally reserved for old PCs.

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