If you’ve been reading this website over our past five years, you’ve come to realize that we’re car enthusiasts. While we appreciate, and even embrace, some of the modern conveniences found in most cars today, they are by no means on the top of our list of requirements. The Alfa Romeo 4C, then, was a wonderful surprise when it was launched. No power steering, a carbon fiber monocoque chassis, and a peppy four cylinder engine all seemed like a recipe for something special. The question that remained was whether or not that was the case.
First thing’s first. This car is for someone who has more than one car. It’s a point and shoot weapon that has no business being an everyday driver. Leave those aspirations to a Cayman. This is meant for your favorite backroad, autocross circuit, or racetrack. It’s meant for a warm day with the top down and nowhere in particular to go. Our tester was finished in our personal favorite Giallo Prototypo, otherwise known as yellow. It’s not a subtle car, and that becomes immediately evident when you turn the key.
Turning the key, which the Alfa shares with Fiat, unleashes a very loud bark from the twin exhaust. Putting the car in drive isn’t as straightforward as most, either. You press the button labeled 1 and you proceed. That gets the six-speed dual clutch transmission into gear, moving in the correct direction. You quickly realize that in low speed situations, such as parking lots, the lack of assisted steering isn’t ideal. Once you find an open road though, all is forgiven.
That aforementioned open road is something that exists for this car. Never have we driven something that is so visceral and alive that you feel every piece of dirt on the road. The steering is incredibly precise; direct in a way that makes that almost feels telepathic. The car is telling you everything, awaiting your every command. And yet, sometimes it feels as if it has a mind of its own. The 4C delivers the ultimate form of automotive euphoria…right up until the point it doesn’t.
Traffic, poor weather, and freeway cruising. All those things are not friendly to the 4C. The tiny Italian has some trouble coping with the monotony of traffic. The transmission gets jerky and the constant drone of the sport exhaust gets to the point of having a headache. The seats become uncomfortable after an hour and the stereo does not completely drown out the exhaust noise at any speed. The head unit itself looks like something that was purchased from Best Buy 5 years ago. Looking for satellite radio, heated seats, a glovebox, or even a trunk that doesn’t cook your belongings? I’m sorry to say, you’ll have to look elsewhere. For nearly $76,000, some people expect that. Thankfully, all was remedied when it decided to snow.
Yes…snow. See, Alfa Romeo equipped the 4C with DNA. It’s actually a set of drive modes, Dynamic, Natural, All-Weather, and Race, that adjusts the transmission, throttle, differential, and stability control. It should be noted that our time with the 4C was not in ideal conditions. The car was on summer tires and it reached 40 degrees just once during our time with the car. And on one special day, it snowed. It was less than 2 inches, which was just enough to create some challenging road conditions. We’re proud to assure Alfa Romeo 4C owners that, should the need arise, your car is absolutely fantastic in the white stuff. Putting the switch into All-Weather mode relaxes the sensitivity of the accelerator and uses the differential, brakes, and stability control system to meter out power to the rear tire with the most traction. We covered 25 miles across snowy parking lots, snowy local roads, and a snowy highway. Not once were we caught out. That speaks volumes to the engineering of this car. The chassis tuning, the weight distribution, and the tuning of the control systems are all spot on for any condition.
Is it easy to forgive and forget? Sometimes. Have we ever met a car with a more boisterous personality? Definitely not. The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider absolutely exudes character. No other car confounds modern expectations more. No other car feels quite so special. The 4C is completely and utterly useless at any job you would expect a modern car to do, and yet it is one of the greatest driving experiences at any price. It strips away everything but the bones of the automotive experience, leaving only the experience itself. Even with all of its quirks, and factoring in the unfavorable weather, the 4C Spider won our heart. We just wish we could have it back again when the weather permits.
|2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider
|Spider Track Package||$1,400|
|Spider Convenience Group||$900|
|Dark Alloy Fan Spoke Wheels||$2,500|
|Sport Tuned Dual Exhaust||$500|
|Yellow Performance Brake Calipers||$500|
|As Tested MSRP||$75,595|