How much are you prepared to sacrifice comfort for style, convenience for coolness, practicality for fun?
Those are a few questions that might come to mind — maybe should come to mind — as you contemplate springing for a new Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. This is not a car for everyone and, in fact, should come with a warning label stating just that.
But if you have always wanted a performance roadster with eye-catching design that will make your neighbors jealous when you pull up in your driveway but couldn’t afford the often six-figure price tag that often came with such a vehicle, then Alfa Romeo’s return to the U.S. market for the first time in nearly two decades has come at the right moment for you.
The Italian automaker showed the all-new Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe at the 2014 New York Auto Show, noting that the 4C designation recalled the company’s great racing tradition with 8C and 6C models of the 1930s and ‘40s.
The Spider is the open-air version of the same vehicle, though it is not a “convertible” in the sense of lowering or raising its roof but has instead a targa top.
The cloth version is manually removed by releasing a couple of snaps at the top of the windshield and then squeezing a couple of catches on either side. You can roll it up and, assuming you have nothing else back there, put it in the small stowage space at the rear. If you have much of anything back there bigger than a handbag, there may not be room, however. It’s a tight squeeze when it comes to stowage.
There’s also an available hardtop, but no room to stow it. If you leave it in the garage and take off and it rains, so be it.
It was mentioned this is not a car for everyone, even someone who likes small two-seat sports cars, like say Mazda’s MX-5 Miata.
First, you notice the noise. With the 1.75-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine sitting right behind the passenger compartment in the mid-engine layout, the 4C Spider is loud, very loud, with all the engine sounds essentially targeted right at your ears. Conversations are not impossible, but are restrictive. (“Take the next turn.” “Huh?” “I SAID TAKE THE NEXT TURN.” “No, my forehead’s not burned.”
This is especially the case if you go for the racing exhaust system that replaces the muffler with what the company says is an asymmetric Y-shape system after the catalyst. It’s a $500 option. (Yes, you are paying for something to be removed, an interesting concept. Maybe it’s an Italian thing.)
The engine is mated to a twin-clutch transmission that can be operated as a full automatic or be put in manual mode for gear selection via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters through six speeds. You select from one of four buttons arranged in a diamond shape on the console — A/M to set it for automatic or manual, 1 to get it going, N for neutral and R for Reverse. You may have noticed that there is no P for Park. You have to set the hand brake via the lever on the console to keep it from rolling on a slope.
There’s also no power steering, which saves on weight. The lack of power steering is no big deal when the vehicle is in motion, but there is a grunt factor when parallel parking or when turning the wheels when it is sitting still.
Getting in and especially out of the cabin requires some twisting and contortions, and take care of your head if the targa top is on, but once in, the 4C Spider is comfortable enough, at least for the driver. The passenger side is a bit snug.
You’re not going to find such niceties as satellite radio, but with the engine’s drone, you’re probably not missing much. A more critical absence is the lack of a backup camera as the view out the back is very restricted. A rear-park assist system is offered in an optional Convenience Package that also features cruise control, vehicle security alarm, and a premium sound system, but adds $1,800 to the MSRP.
But enough of the negatives. If you are still sold on the 4C Spider because of the sexy Italian styling and overall design, there are some plus attributes as well. Fuel mileage is fairly impressive at 24 miles-per-gallon city, 34 highway and combined 28 while delivering an exhilarating performance. With a curb weight of only 2,487 pounds, the less-than-impressive horsepower and torque figures of 237 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque can propel the 4C Spider from zero-to-60 mph in just 4.1 seconds, as tick faster than a Porsche 911 Targa 4S.
The stiff suspension sends every little bump through to those inside, but also provides a wonderful handling experience when zipping around corners. This may not be good choice for an everyday driver, but it is an excellent vehicle of you spend some of your weekends in racetrack environs.
Yes, overall the 4C Spider falls in the “toy car” genre, but it is a toy for big boys (or girls).
It also is an affordable entry in the “exotic” class. Base MSRP is $63,900, and destination and delivery is a hefty $1,595. When you begin adding features like the aforementioned Convenience Package, bigger wheels, the racing exhaust, and other features, however, your cost is going to approach the $71,000 level.
And it doesn’t appear much in the way of discounts will be forthcoming.
For a look at the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider and more details, check out the accompanying slide show.