Forget those Minis and Michael Caine in The Italian Job. And look beyond glamorous Charlize Theron in the remake. The real star of the 1969 original classic shines brightest in the opening credits.
Suave criminal mastermind Roger Beckermann (played by Italian actor Rossano Brazzi) drives a gorgeous orange Lamborghini Miura along the twisting alpine roads between Switzerland and Italy.
Of course it all ends messily as the Miura collides with a Mafia bulldozer in a tunnel. But what unforgettable magic!
Pole position: The new Ferrari Portofino M was launched in September with a starting price of £175,000
Although Italy remains off limits for a holiday, we can at least admire its spectacular cars at all prices — from classic and current Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Maseratis, to sporty Alfa Romeos and affordable Fiats.
And it’s perfect timing to marvel at Italian engineering as Ferrari only yesterday launched a new supercar, the plug-in hybrid V6 296 GTB.
So let’s take a look at some of the finest cars this country has to offer.
Ferrari – the top of the pile icon
Arguably, the most famous car brand in the world, the classic elegance of Ferrari sums up Italy for many.
And yesterday the company unveiled a new mid-engined V6 plug-in hybrid sports car.
Ferrari’s new supercar, the plug-in hybrid V6 296 GTB , can accelerate to 62mph in just 2.9 seconds up to a top speed in excess of 205mph
Thoroughbred: The new 296 GTB is the Italian marque’s second ever plug-in hybrid and the first road-going model with a V6 engine
With prices expected at around £250,000, the 3.0 litre 830 horse-power supercar accelerates to 62mph in just 2.9 seconds up to a top speed in excess of 205mph.
Ferrari’s first full production hybrid supercar, the SF90 Stradale, was launched in May 2019 with prices starting at £375,000.
Classic lines: The Ferrari Roma is the firm’s first front-engined V8, and is priced from £170,984
The company is also about to dip a toe into the SUV crossover market with the Purosangue which was spotted in spy-shots and is due around 2022/2023. A fully electric Ferrari is also planned by 2025.
Recently I drove the new Ferrari Roma, the firm’s first front-engined V8, which bears more than a passing resemblance to an Aston Martin and is priced from £170,984.
Powered by a turbo-charged 3855cc V8 front-mounted petrol engine developing 620 horse-power, the car accelerates to 62mph in just 3.4 seconds and up to a top speed in excess of 200mph.
It’s also practical, thanks to a 272-litre sized boot which expands to 345 litres. But expect a gas-guzzling 25.2mpg with CO2 emissions of 255g/km.
Lamborghini – the raging bull
Bold, fast and eye-catching, Lamborghinis have a wild reputation. So it’s only fitting the brand’s logo is a bull.
Appropriately, chief executive Stephan Winkelmann is also renowned as one of the sharpest dressers in the motor industry.
Screen idol: The Lamborghini Miura which featured in the 1969 film The Italian Job
I recently asked him, what comes first – designer suits or his love for Lamborghini? He laughed: ‘I cannot run around naked.
But it’s the cars. It’s always the cars.’ Although born in Germany, Italy is his home.
He led the firm for more than a decade from 2005 to 2016, and took the reins again last December.
Lamborghini’s existing line-up currently comprises Aventador, Huracan (pictured) supercars and the capable Urus SUV
Based in the small town of Sant’Agata Bolognese in Northern Italy, the company was founded in 1963 as a rival to Ferrari. Amazingly, Britain is the brand’s fifth-largest market and ahead even of Italy.
Winkelmann’s plans include adding a delayed fourth model into the existing line-up which currently comprises Aventador, Huracan supercars and the capable Urus SUV.
He’s also accelerating plans to launch Lamborghini’s first pure electric car.
Maserati – the comeback kid?
Maserati, meanwhile, is seeking to recapture its supercar mojo with a new two-seater MC20.
Powered by a 630 horse-power twin-turbocharged 3.0 litre V6 petrol engine and weighing just 1,500kg, it accelerates to 62mph in under 2.9 seconds up to a top speed of 202mph.
Maserati’s two-seater MC20 is powered by a 630 horse-power twin-turbocharged 3.0 litre V6 petrol engine. It accelerates to 62mph in under 2.9 seconds up to a top speed of 202mph.
The first electric Maserati, the 330 HP Ghibli Hybrid GranSport saloon, combines a 2.0 litre 4-cylinder petrol engine with a mild hybrid and will accelerate to 62mph in 5.7 seconds up to a top speed of 158mph.
Base price was £63,700 but more than £20,000 of luxurious extras can take the final price to £85,785.
Fiat – the people’s brand
Founded in 1899, Fiat is Italy’s oldest car company. And those of us with more modest means can be thankful the reborn Fiat 500 super-mini (a modern recreation of the original Cinquecento) saved the company which is now part of the giant Stellantis conglomerate.
The sporty Abarth brand adds venom to the Fiat mix.
The track-focused but road legal limited edition GTA version of the Giulia with an aero-wing costs a whopping £181,000.
Alfa Romeo – the one with the history
An Alfa Romeo Spider, as driven by Dustin Hoffman in the movie The Graduate, was the classic open-topped car I desired as an impoverished young trainee reporter in the Midlands.
And Alfa was the original racing star: Enzo Ferrari cut his teeth creating racing Alfa Romeos before he went on to found Scuderia Ferrari.
Alfa Romeo’s current line-up comprises two models, with a third in the pipeline. The sporty Giulia four-door saloon starts from £35,710 for the 2.0 litre 4-cylinder 200hp in ‘Sprint’ trim.
The car accelerates from 0 to 62mph in 6.6 seconds with a top speed of 146mph.
At the top end is the Giulia Quadrifoglio costing £68,055 and powered by a 510hp 2.9 litre V6 petrol engine that propels it from 0 to 62mph in 3.9 seconds (top speed of 191mph).
A track-focused but road legal limited edition GTA version with aero-wing costs a whopping £181,000.
It’s all a far cry from Michael Caine’s greatest line in the original movie, as the gang tests the explosives: ‘You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!’
Alfa Romeo’s sporty Giulia four-door saloon starts from £35,710 for the 2.0 litre 4-cylinder 200hp in ‘Sprint’ trim
Five more revved up masterpieces from Italy that still raise the pulse
Ferrari Portofino M
The new Ferrari Portofino M was launched in September with a starting price of £175,000.
An upgraded 620 horse-power V8 turbo engine propels it to a top speed of over 200mph with acceleration to 62mph in just 3.45 seconds and up to 124mph in 9.8 seconds — with ‘zero turbo lag’.
Maserati Levante Trofeo SUV
I recently drove the first electric Maserati, the 330 HP Ghibli Hybrid GranSport saloon.
Powered by a mighty 580 horse-power 3.8 litre V8 engine, it accelerates to 62mph in 4.1 seconds, and up to a top speed of 188mph.
New FIAT 500
The first all-electric ‘New 500’ is on sale now as a cabriolet priced from £20,495 and with a choice of ranges up to 118 miles or 199 miles.
The car has 85kW fast charging battery which reaches 80 per cent in 30 minutes or receive a 30-mile boost in around five minutes.
I recently drove the Lamborghini Urus SUV (right). It’s a big beast with a powerful 650hp 4.0 litre V8 twin-turbo engine that propels it from rest to 62mph in just 3.6 seconds up to 190mph.
Priced from around £170,000, mine also had an astonishing £50k of ‘extras’.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
The Milan brand is sporty but practical: as well as its Giulia saloon range, Alfa Romeo has the five-seater Stelvio SUV priced from £44,510 to £74,065. A small plug-in hybrid SUV called Tonale arrives next year.