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Lightweight Class

<< Back to Robb Report, Robb Report October 2015

Alfa Romeo’s 4C Spider is a feisty little roadster.

It has been said that in 1968, no production car could cover a kilometer faster than the V-8-powered Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale—not even the Lamborghini Miura or the Ferrari Daytona, each of which was equipped with a V-12 engine. Alfa Romeo engineers understood that speed is a function of weight as well as engine power, and with its tubular aluminum frame and aluminum body panels, the 33 Stradale weighed less than 1,600 pounds, making it far lighter than its higher-powered contemporaries.

The same principle of lower power and lesser weight guided the design of Alfa Romeo’s new 4C Spider—the convertible counterpart to the 4C Coupe, which was a Robb Report Best of the Best honoree this year. The mid-engine two-seater features lightweight construction, an efficient power train, and plenty of flair. Like the coupe, the 4C Spider is equipped with a 1.75-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that produces 237 hp and 258 ft lbs of torque. The specs are modest, but the 4C Spider weighs only 2,487 pounds, largely because its monocoque tub and body panels are made of carbon fiber. 

Alfa Romeo compares the 4C Spider to the Porsche Boxster—the Boxster’s power-to-weight ratio is slightly better—but it is more reminiscent of the Lotus Elise, a small 4-cylinder sports car that, although rough around the edges, is a pleasure to drive because of its perfectly balanced chassis and dialed-in handling.

On coastal roads in Central California, the 4C Spider’s go-kart-like handling made it easy to dart around curves, and the engine provided enough power to pass rubbernecking tourists. Fitted with the optional race exhaust, the roadster emitted a cantankerous cackle at full throttle. The mechanical steering enables the driver to feel connected to the road, and it is so direct that the car tends to follow every contour in the pavement. The ride is firm but not overly stiff. 

On the track at the Laguna Seca raceway, the 4C Spider handled even the most demanding turns with only a little wiggle from the rear end. The selectable driving modes change the throttle response, shift points, and stability-control threshold, but the steering and suspension remain fixed. The Dynamic mode shifts the gears at high revs and wrings the most out of the 4-cylinder engine. Race mode maintains all the parameters of Dynamic mode, but it turns off the dynamic stability control (although the system will engage automatically in extreme circumstances). 

Alfa Romeo’s 6-speed, twin-clutch transmission is so good that drivers will not miss the absence of a manual-transmission option. The shifts are quick and arrive at just the right time. The brakes are superb: They delivered a firm bite on the road, and after several laps at Laguna Seca, they did not show any fade. 

Alfa Romeo offers a choice of seven exterior colors, including a canary-yellow Giallo Prototipo that is exclusive to the 4C Spider. The fabric top is standard; a carbon-fiber hard top is a $3,500 option. The cabin features leather sport seats and is available in six color schemes, including black with red or yellow stitching. 

In addition to its speed, the 33 Stradale was distinguished by its high price; it was the most expensive car on the market in its time. The 4C Spider, however, with a starting price of just under $64,000, costs far less than any other carbon-fiber-bodied sports car. 

Alfa Romeo, alfaromeo.com

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