I get a lot of feedback about the cars I critique with a common complaint aimed at their overwrought complexities. It seems as though some of you simply want a raw, elemental machine that’s only about 2 things: car and driver. Well that’s exactly the point of the Alfa Romeo 4C…now available in a vitamin D formula.
It’s been a year or so since I tested the new 4C Coupe…the little mid-engined 2-seater that ushered Alfa’s return to the U.S. market. So singularly purposed, I claimed it to be one of the most enjoyable cars I’ve ever driven. And now I’m with the convertible or Spider, if you will. For an extra $10,000 you can get a little closer to nature and the exhilarating sounds from the sport tuned dual exhaust.
Watch Steve test drive the Alfa Romeo
Fancy retractable hardtops and power mechanisms be damned. This guy unclips in 6 places and rolls up for storage in the back.
It’s not something you can do in a flash and it’s a bit cumbersome for just 1 person, but because of its flexible nature it stows away easily and more importantly its simplicity still keeps the Spider’s weight under 2,500 pounds. And though I’ve spent only a little time with it fixed in place, it keeps the cabin quieter than expected. It doesn’t seem to seal too tightly but I didn’t give it the old car wash treatment to see if leaks.
The glass deck lid is gone, which is sad because you can’t see the engine anymore without lifting the hatch, but the black halo adds to rather than detracts from the 4C’s seductive styling. A carbon fiber halo is optional. Speaking of that state-of-the-art material which is 3 times stronger and 7 times lighter than steel, you’ll also find it used on the windshield frame…exclusive to the Spider. And of course the monocoque chassis is made from it too and weighs only 236 pounds. And then optionally, you can add it to the interior trim. This F1 inspired approach to engineering adds to the driving enjoyment and also lends a very technical look. Metal sheets, carbon fiber and exposed fasteners immediately convey the feel of a race car. This isn’t for the luxury roadster set…far from it. This is for the driver with enough expendable cash to afford a second car that can be driven hard on or off the track.
I love convertibles and the Spider removes the ceiling to even more fun from behind the wheel. But this car is laser focused on driving and nothing else so any fantasies you may have about weekend getaways and such should be eradicated. The ride is firm, the cabin is loud and creature comforts are few and far between.
The 1750 cc engine is a turbocharged, remarkably fuel efficient hooligan making more from its 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque than any other car. Harnessing that output is a 6-speed twin clutch transmission with a fully automatic mode that brilliantly simulates manual shifts, or you can do it yourself. And the DNA selector makes those shifts even more aggressive in Dynamic and Race modes, the latter also killing electronic safety nets and providing a launch mode resulting in the same 0-to-60mph run of 4.1 seconds as in the Coupe. Speed builds rapidly with only a hint of lag and the resulting sounds are purely Italian…it’s not Lambo loud but it’s in the ballpark. My car’s already glued to the road handling is enhanced by the optional Track Package with higher performing shocks, larger sway bars and Pirelli P-Zero racing tires…18” in the front, 19”in the back. This also includes a flat-bottom steering wheel, carbon fiber side mirrors and black leather performance seats with microfiber inserts. The absence of power steering is perhaps the 4C’s most distinguishing feature, requiring some muscle early on but then connecting you to the wheels like none other. And braking is ridiculous…60mph to 0mph in under 100 feet. Everyday ride quality is stiff but not the back breaker you’re imagining. You’re much more likely to twist your spine simply trying to get in and out…not easy. Plus the seat is not height adjustable.
Inside, there’s a new Alpine stereo with premium speakers but this is a terribly poor environment for music listening, plus it’s off-the shelf look and usability basically renders it as decorative. The front doesn’t open…at least not for you…so the rear cubby is the full extent of luggage room and stuff it space is at a premium. You can place your phone in this little holder and then it’s time to focus on driving. Gas mileage on premium is rated at a true 24mpg city/34mpg highway…how about that? The as-tested price of this model is $79,495.
Alfa only sells 30 or so 4Cs every month largely because its hard-and-fast nature appeals to a very small group of drivers. But for those who can, the 4C Spider would make for one heck of a summer toy.