Well I have owned my first Alfa for ten days now and covered approximately 550 miles.
First impressions were not good. Car felt big and unwieldy, engine felt underpowered and cheap dash and stereo made me question whether I should have got rid of my old Golf which was much better quality. The long cheap plasticy gear lever seeming to have been lifted from a Ford Transit van didn't help matters.
I soon learnt what people mean when they say Alfa's have 'character':
The interior has virtually no storage and the cubby holes that have been created are not big enough to house anything that the average human being might have about their person.
The floor mat isn't anchored in place so slips up behind the pedals every time you get out.
Speaking of getting out, the doors are so bloody long as to make it almost impossible to alight with any degree of grace and dignity and narrow spaces are a definite no no. That said, with a turning circle rather like that of a hovercraft parking in anything other than an empty car park is a serious undertaking.
One sunny morning I wound down the window and the first corner I went around delivered a bucket load of crisp morning dew from the roof directly in to my lap making it look like I had wet myself.
The windows don't quite fit properly into the doors meaning that with the window open you cannot rest your arm comfortably on the door frame.
Oh yes, what delightful 'character'.
Whilst the cruise control is excellent the car always feels a bit lacking in punch on the motorway. Also I find around town the turbo lag is annoying when trying to dart into gaps in traffic in rush hour.
Yet all this ill feeling melted away with some quality time with the Alfa on some proper drivers roads. I am lucky enough to live on the edge of the Peak District and tonight I took her for a good blast this evening.
On some of the best twisty B roads in the country, the car suddenly made so much sense. The car no longer felt sluggish and underpowered; quite the contrary. The lovely swell of torque in third and fourth mean that fast progress can be made through sequences of tight bends without constantly having to rifle through the gearbox to stay in the power band.
The suspension is simply phenomenal, allowing cornering at high speeds with barely a hint of body roll. Hugely impressive for quite a big car. Even wearing 18" wheels the car never felt anything less than composed. The steering feels perfectly weighted - a quick rack allowing for excellent control and poise without ever feeling numb. I criss-crossed through the hills attacking a number of stunning twisting mountain roads and with every mile my confidence grew. The car just feels so responsive and planted. Come into a corner fast, dab the brake to scrub off excess speed, drop to third, feather the throttle then open up at the apex and the car just hurtles through with the minimum of fuss. Inspiring stuff! I have been driving these roads for years in a number of previous cars including 2 MR2s, 2 MR2 turbos (one putting out nearly 300bhp) and a Golf V5 and I have never enjoyed any of them as much as I enjoyed the Alfa GT this evening and never felt as confident pressing on either. Amazing considering I have only had the car for just over a week.
Suddenly I feel I 'get' the whole Alfa thing. On a demanding B road suddenly everything comes together and you really do feel at one with the car. It may be a tired cliché but it really is true. What an incredible driving machine.
And the 'piéce de resistance'? On pulling up outside my house I checked my average consumption..................and it had gone up by nearly 2 mpg! God I love this car...