You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider First Drive Review

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 6/17/2015 Nate Martinez

We let loose around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for our 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider First Drive - get the review and plenty of Alfa Romeo 4C Spider photos here.

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider First Drive Review

I've got a task for you: Name a great open sports car that began life as a sports coupe.

The 911? Nope. The Nissan 370Z? Oh my gosh, no.

But in the case before us – the transformation of the Alfa Romeo 4C into the 4C Spider – the Milanese manufacturer is making a very strong argument. While the loss of the roof has added some visual complications to the coupe's attractive roofline, from an engineering standpoint, few cars have doffed their tops as expertly as Alfa has with the 4C Spider. Even fewer cars in this price range ($65,495) have gone topless without dulling their dynamism and style

Alfa Romeo 4C pricing

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Front Three Quarter 02© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Front Three Quarter 02

On paper, teensy-weensy Alfa (which is selling 70 cars per month here in America) didn't do much to the existing 4C foundation. Just 22 pounds were added to the coupe's weight, putting the Spider at around 2460 pounds. With the added mass come a heftier windshield frame as well as a redesigned aluminum rear rollbar, upper body brackets, and engine bay bracing — all necessary for maintaining torsional rigidity. Mitigating the gain in mass is the windshield's carbon-fiber frame, which is bolted and glued to the coupe's sturdy 236-pound carbon monocoque chassis (without any veneers to disguise it), 10 percent thinner window glass, and a featherweight cloth top that rolls up like an extra-large cannoli and takes up a good majority of the rear trunk's space. (A removable carbon-fiber top will be available later this year.) While carbon-fiber construction is gaining on steel and aluminum in manufacturing speed and production cost, producing the 4C is gloriously inefficient – the Maserati factory in which it's built needs six weeks to assemble each car.

Of course, you can't really feel the 22 extra pounds. Let loose around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the 4C Spider (with its optional Track package: tauter dampers, larger diameter anti-rollbars) jinked and pivoted with the same nimbleness, flatness, and impeccable balance as its fixed-top sibling. Dip its unboosted steering wheel into a corner and it'll change directions like a fighter jet, which is to say instantaneously. It's the same when you stomp its floor-mounted aluminum brake pedal, or dab its seamless six-speed twin-clutch's paddles (130-millisecond shifts at full throttle), or stab its throttle stab on corner exit.

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Front Three Quarter 08© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Front Three Quarter 08

Unsettling the car takes dedication. In Dynamic mode (its DNA selector has two more choices: Natural and All-Weather), the electronic stability control cuts in less and quickens the throttle, allowing the 4C's blunt butt to wag a little, but only when you're really cooking. In fact, all-out oversteer is hard to induce because of the high-limit thresholds of the Pirelli P Zero AR tires and 12-inch Brembo brakes. (You'll need to be in Race mode to nix ESC and all anti-slip nannies completely; the electronic Q2 differential remains active.)

The familiar all-aluminum 1.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder had the Spider hauling up to the Corkscrew and then down the hill again. Despite its teensy size, the little mill seems to have ceaseless low-end pull — 80 percent of its 258 lb-ft of torque is accessible at 1500 rpm. By 6000 rpm the entire herd of 237 horses arrives, then screams on to a 6500-rpm redline. Factory testers say it'll hit 60 mph in 4.1 seconds and 1.1 g of lateral acceleration, and that's entirely believable.

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Rear End 11© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Rear End 11

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Front Three Quarter 17© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Front Three Quarter 17

On picturesque Highway 1, the Spider's comfort surpassed the coupe's; dare I say that it might even be possible to make it your daily driver? With no roof affixed, ingress and egress are easier, and small road imperfections and tire noise seem to be better absorbed. Granted, much of what's going on still is broadcast into the cabin, and the un-boosted steering setup will have your hands constantly correcting the small tugs left and right, but I found this to be endearing. And if the beautiful, operatic strains from the standard exhaust (or the $3,000, late-availability center-mounted Akrapovic titanium pipes, or even the optional race exhaust) grow tiring, there's a new Alpine audio system with AUX/iPod/satellite radio that'll bump your tunes. The 4C's cabin is notoriously stark, but it's got all you need for a day of pure driving: cubbies, a new mobile phone holder at the side of both seats, and terrific, unobstructed forward visibility. Its trunk? Ah, let's say it's small.

Of course, if you own a car like the 4C, you don't want to see another one at every intersection. So beyond its four new wheel choices, six interior leather colors, and seven exterior paints, it can be individualized with a Track package that encases the side mirrors in carbon-fiber housings and adds a carbon gauge bezel, and composite, black leather-wrapped seats with either yellow or red stitching. Want more carbon? The option Carbon Fiber Trim package fills the cabin with even more, while a carbon-fiber "halo" cover above the engine compartment will be available later this year.

Understand, the 4C is a sports car that will make you work a little, will have you feeling as though you're woven into the very carbon-fiber fabric of the monocoque, and in the process, will mold a permanent grin on your face with its Olympian showcase of athletic ability. Want an Alfa Romeo with comfort and convenience? Wait a few years for the brand's upcoming midsize rear-wheel drive sedan. But if what matters is a smile on your sunburned lips, this little Italian has your name on it.

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Seats 02© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Seats 02


2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider
BASE PRICE$65,495
VEHICLE LAYOUTMid-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door targa
ENGINE1.7L/237-hp/258-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION6-speed twin-clutch auto.
CURB WEIGHT2,500 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE93.7 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT157.0 x 73.5 x 46.7 in
0-60 MPH4.1 sec (mfr est)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON24/34/28 mpg
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY140/99 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.70 lb/mile
ON SALE IN U.S.August 2015

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Front Three Quarter 14© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Front Three Quarter 14
AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Motor Trend

Loading...

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon