Taking a ride with my dream lover

Advertising is seductive - but Gina Cowen was happy to be taken in by the Alfa Spider
I have always disliked red cars. Flashy, agressive, unsubtle. If anyone ever told me they'd got a new car the first question would always be "What colour?" Red was a serious turn-off. But then I saw the ad. A quite irresistible creature carving its way up a mountain road perhaps somewhere in the Appennines or lower Alps, the road blurring behind it in a wide speed-softened curve. Underneath it said simply "Alfa Spider. Ever had a recurring dream? You will". Very clever. A sort of poetic double entendre. Both a desire that haunts you before you have it and a repeatable pleasure once you do. I was in love. And the colour? Yes.

The Spider first bit the world in 1966 in the form of the Duetto. Almost immediately, it became an icon of strada and screen (giving a fine performance in 1968 with Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft in The Graduate). There have been some nips and tucks and a few facelifts as it grew older and then, a couple of years ago, a kind of total rebirthing was planned between the styling houses Pininfarina (which also designs for Ferrari) and Alfa's in-house team. Enter not one but two gorgeous babes. The new Alfa Spider arrived on these shores just over a month ago alongside the new sleek, hard-top GTV. There's already a waiting list for both models.

Imagine you've been quite happy with chicken liver pate and a glass of table wine and then you're served a slice of pure foie gras with some Chateau d'Yquem. A palate revolution. I'm married to a C-reg plonk Peugeot Diesel (we still love each other) but for 24 hours I was to have a serious affair with a Sauternes Spider. I remember once trying on the couturier dress of an aristocratic friend in Ireland. It fitted like a glove and I suddenly felt a strange mixture of beautiful, desirable and successful. Driving the Spider had the same effect. A kind of state where you expect to be worshipped. Raaather pleasant. Actually. And yes, people do stare.

My companion chose the grilled sea bass - sorry, chose to wear his new hideous and expensive Italian sunglasses in honour of the occasion. It rained. We wanted to drive out al fresco with the sun and wind in our hair. We went to Acton instead and got stuck in a traffic jam. But it was a great car to be stuck in and Acton was seriously impressed. You could say we were idoling in the traffic. Very comfortable seat. Excellent posture for the back (orthopaedically designed). Surprisingly spacious. Faultless except for one problem, which may well be the same with all soft tops and I just haven't driven them before: the reversing visibility when the top was up. Let's just say it was indistinct. Part of the Spider's striking design is a high back. This made things quite a strain when parking. But perhaps by the time I afford one I'll also have someone to park it for me. This problem went away with the top down (tried during a brief rain-lull) and it's definitely a car to be driven topless, as it were, whenever possible.

The bonnet is quite beautiful, with two small circular headlamps, two either side, set in like sunken jewels, keeping the sleek nose unruffled. The power steering lets you turn with finger touch. It's got a 16-valve Twin Spark engine - apparently one of the most sophisticated engines ever produced, including timing variator, steel crankshaft with eight counterweights and torsional damper, counter rotation balancer shafts, hydraulic tappets, platinum spark plugs ... Do you think I have a clue what that means? When you're in bed with someone do you really consider their cardiovascular pump? It looks good. It feels good. It's great to go out with and it doesn't talk back. What more could a woman ask for?

Fact: The ratio of women buying the Spider is almost 50:50. Across the whole Alfa range the proportion is 80 per cent men to 20 per cent women.

Alfa Spider pounds 22,000; GTV pounds 19,950. Optional extras including leather interior and air conditioning a further pounds 2,500. (All include VAT). Alfa Romeo: 01753 690693.

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