Review 2002 Alfa Romeo 916 Spider 2.0 TS Phase 2b Lusso

April 2024 – In the beginning of October 2023, I found myself in need of a car. Considering how well our 2006 two-litre Alfa Romeo 147 TS has served us for over seven years, I opted to search for a similarly powered 916 GTV.

Plus, the 147 belongs to my wife, and it seemed time to get myself a car of my own. What can be more cool than two Alfa Romeo cars parked in front of our house? Exactly…

After two phonecalls my urge for a GTV changed when a decent Spider came across my path. As I write this practical youngtimer review I racked up about 8,000 kms since, and without issues. There’s a fair chance this Bella Nero will be the last car I own.

Because of the practicality of this impractical car – and because so many have weird ideas or no clue what a 916 is about – I decided to honour it with my basic review.

Summer Vreddies and Teardrop originals


Many have no idea what to expect of a 916. The perception regarding a front-wheel drive sportscar or GT is negative. Which is a bit strange, because Alfa Romeo did such a good job finding out what would suit their cars. They looked at the Honda Civic and Lotus Elan underpinnings and found proper benchmarks. The result may surprise both friend and foe.

In brief a 916 Spider TS is a well built and intelligently constructed car. Also it’s a typical early 90s product which developed into the new century just because there were no alternatives. As the Alfa Romeo Arese facilities closed in the year 2000 both Spider and GTV production moved to the Pininfarina plant in San Giorgio Canavese (Turin). The last batch of 916 cars were built there, and in small numbers.

It’s a thing to say something about quality, but general opinion is some were worse and some were better than those which left the Arese plant. I guess the good ones survived. Anyway, a 916 is a now 30 years old design and a phase 2 iteration was and is the preferred choice. With a Twinspark hauling 1,350 kgs you’ll get decent pace but don’t expect a street racer.

2006 147 and 2002 Spider are the best duo in our street

Bodywork & hood

The distinctive Enrico Fumia (164) penned body is a clean and practical shell. A hand wash is a 15 minute job and only the edges of the rear light bar need a toothpick to get the hidden bits out. The hood is quite weighty and a structural part of the crash zone. During routine oil checks, it’s important to take care that the lid remains open and doesn’t accidentally fall on your hands or tools. Just saying…

Door locks are mechanical bits, which may need a greasing when recluctancy plays up. The boot logo flips away to unveil a simple lock. No inside button, just an old-fashioned ‘turn the key’ procedure. I guess two medium sized bags and a bottle of water are all the luggage allowed in there. No spare! The cosy cockpit hides a compact compartement behind the seats. Think spectacles, two beanies and a can of 10w/60.

In the armrest sits a button to operate the power hood, preferably pressed with the engine running. Mine has bits of green on top but I don’t mind. The fabric is waterproof, and surprisingly effectively blocks out both cold and noise too. As the tech is hydraulic it’s vital to keep the lines in good shape. Also, leave the electric motor to cool down before stressing it again. It’s a smart thing to keep the hood closed below 10C.


Noise is a distinctive Alfa Romeo feature. Many 916 are spoilt with noisy aftermarket exhausts which may sound great but won’t improve performance. Also they tend to drone, since the long legged gears will keep the fourpot around the 2,000 revs mark all too often. To keep things standard is a bit of a challenge, but many parts are shared with period FWD Alfas. You will find NOS or new parts around the corner, the online markets and forums. Some Alfisti like to leave the middle damper out. I need to find out what works for me. The original German owner choose a tatty end damper, which I will ditch any moment now.

It’s important to check oil every 500 or 1,000 kms and top up when needed. At idle a healthy TS sounds a bit mechanical and almost diesel like. Under 2,000 revs it may search a bit (header, plugs, airfilter) but torque should be good up till 4,000 when power takes over. Don’t be shy and let the mill see 6,500, when it’s properly warmed up and every now and then. That really will be appreciated and will indicate smooth power delivery, at best like a turbine.

About 35mpg is a real world figure. Unlike the more powerful Busso siblings. Oil consumption can be harsh and it’s up to you if or when pistonrings should be replaced. Think 1 litre every 2,000 to 5,000 kms, and keep in mind most cars are 20+ years old and have decent mileage under their belts. So far I’m happy to buy a litre every 4,000 kms. In the meantime I think about the bits to see a 180ps/230Nm future upgrade.

Speaking of belts, plus waterpump when you’re at it: every 60k kms or when your mechanic says so. The twolitre truly is the Spider’s Cuore Sportivo and it’s rewarding when everything you want is right there when you want it. Cutting corners on 916 tech is not a good idea and you will be punished sooner or later.

Simple protective hood against bird droppings attracts cats


I said long legged. At 65mph the rev counter says 3,000 in 5th, making it a tad longer than the 147 box. Passing 3k will improve the soundbyte. Those who tried say a sorted TS runs out of puff at 6,500 in 5th, which is 140mph/225kmh. Gear changes beg for a slow hand. You will like to use third and fourth more than you think and still get your 35mpg. I like to think the box suits the TS pretty good. There’s no need for a limited slip diff because of the lack of power.

Interior & electrics

My Spider is a Lusso spec car. Interior bits are leather combined with hard plastic. Both seats are good but I swapped mine for a cloth version. The passenger will have a comfortable time because of the quality seats and ample legroom and headroom. When the top drops the wind stays out, at least until 60mph. The cockpit is surprisingly comfy and warms up within minutes. Airco keeps the damp out. Wipers are sturdy, lights need a proper set up to help you in the dark, odo is an lcd and will not work, both ABS and airbag lights will show when there’s no reason… Ah well.

Chassis & driving

They say a GTV offers a more tight driving experience, and I can imagine. Don’t expect a Spider TS to be a street racer. It’s a happy GT with decent cornering capacities. Quality tyres make all the difference. I choose Vredestein to fit the 205/55/16 wheels: Wintrac and Ultrac. Maybe Michelin will work too, but I’d rather opt for a Goodyear Eagle F1 or any type focussed on comfort. Too hard rubber may spoil the ride, which is already pretty hard. And you will need grip and feel on that light frontside.

Scuttle shake there is little but you will notice rattles here and there. Sporty tyres and stiff sprung underpinnings won’t work on today’s potholed grounds. Unless you are prepared to pay the price or visit trackdays now and then. I do not and I’m thinking to upgrade to BC Racing Turismo coilovers and strut bars.

It’s good to know a 916 has an 11 metre turning cycle: better be prepared!

The 916 is a sturdy unit and it can take some beating

Practical daily

The galvanized body will keep most rust out. The quality hood keeps the water out. The built quality won’t dissapoint. Still, you need to take good care of the car. Especially when parked outside. I’m happy so far and I will keep this webpage up-to-date to inform you lot.

Final word: I couldn’t have chosen a better car for a daily. It suits me pretty well. Also: two youngtimer Alfa’s in front of the house is such a cool sight.

User timeline

Overview from date of purchase to today.