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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is an Awesome Ragtop: First Drive

Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider track photo

It dawns on me on my ninth pass on the famous corkscrew at Laguna Seca, that I’m driving the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider convertible on this iconic track. And it handles as well as any sports car I’ve ever driven.
It’s a combination of carbon fiber, super-imposed double wishbone suspension upfront, and an engine that just won’t quit. It’s hard to believe a handcrafted vehicle costing less than $75,000 can achieve so much. But it does. It’s an open-air roadster that combines strong track handling and on-road civility thanks to its ultralight carbon fiber monocoque and aluminum chassis.

2015 Alfa Romeo 4c spider sideview photo

The 1.75-liter, inline four-cylinder liquid-cooled engine with turbocharger is snappy quick. Just think about passing slow tourists on the Pacific Coast Highway outside of Monterey and it’s done. Don’t these people know I’m on my way to Laguna Seca? Move dammit!
The 237 horsepower doesn’t sound like much. Combine it with 258 lb. ft. of torque and a curb weight of 2,487 lbs., though, and you have a car that hits 60 mph from a dead stop in 4.1 seconds (with launch control). As Reid Bigland, head of Alfa Romeo North America, likes to point out: that’s faster than the 2015 Porsche 911 Targa 4s. It’s timed at 4.2 seconds from 0-60 and has an MSRP starting at $116,000.

Alfa romeo 4c spider front fascia photo

That’s kind of the underlying message of the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. It’s a great sports car at an even greater value. It’s the story FCA has been fond of telling lately with vehicles like the Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger Hellcat with their horsepower at 707.

Sure there are 61 different convertibles on sale in the U.S, but only a handful are like the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider with its carbon fiber and aluminum chassis and they can cost hundreds of thousands more.

Alfa Romeo 4c wheels brakes photo

The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider comes with four drive modes: all-weather, natural, dynamic, and race. The first three can be done in full automatic model while race mode makes you use the paddle shifters. Race mode puts the driver in total control with the electronic steering control and anti-slip regulation deactivated. In race mode, launch control can be activated. Alfa asks that we not engage race mode on the track, preferring the Spider be kept in dynamic mode.

Would it have been fun to try out the launch control? Sure. Am I a good enough driver to tackle Laguna Seca with no stability control? Hell no. I was plenty happy having it there through certain turns.

Alfa Romeo 4c spider rear fascia image

I’m unusual in that I’ve never driven the Alfa Romeo 4C coupe. Complaints I had heard about the manual rack-and-pinion steering struck me as odd (even from my other editors). Minimal effort was required to turn the wheel in a parking lot. It especially performed well on the track with good feedback. Maybe I never drove it hard enough but I always found it on center.

So, how does it perform on the road? Great if you’re the driver: not so much for the passenger. I’m almost 6’1” and I found the passenger foot well uncomfortable with my feet forced into awkward angles. No such problem was detected once I got behind the wheel.

It’s a surprisingly quiet cabin, even with the top off and stowed in the trunk. (By the way, you could stow the top and a couple backpacks for a weekend getaway.) I was able to conduct a conversation with my co-driver without resorting to yelling.
Also, in spite of its performance, the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is a legitimate tourer. Don’t abuse the gas pedal and you can achieve an EPA estimated 34-mpg on the highway. That doesn’t suck.

Alfa Romeo 4c spider interior photo

There’s no denying the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is a good looking vehicle inspired in part by the 1967 33 Stradale. It’s well proportioned at 157 inches tall, 73.5 inches wide and 46.7 inches high. Sculpted air intakes on both sides add to its muscular look. The carbon fiber windshield frame adds both strength and lightness to the Spider helping it maintain only a 22-pound weight gain over the coupe.

The best part of the interior is the 7-inch full-color driver information display that illustrates info through sharp graphics. It’s clearly presented, which is a nice feature when barreling down the road. It also has a new Alpine premium audio system that replaces the much reviled Parrot system. How’s the new system sound? Haven’t got a clue. Who turns on the radio when you’re cruising the PCH in a convertible?


Horsepower: 237
Engine: 1.7-liter turbocharged inline-four
Price (as tested): $73,395


Gorgeous design
Strong handling
It’s a convertible


Uncomfortable passenger seat
Getting in and out