The other result is that none of the mechanical specifications needs to be revised specifically for the 4C Spider. The suspension setup is all the same, as is the powertrain tune. That means 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged 1.7-liter engine mounted amidships in the 4C’s chassis and a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox. In a car that weighs just 2,487 pounds, that equates to a 0-60 mph time of just 4.1 seconds and a top speed of 160 mph. If ever the “go-kart on steroids” cliche was deserved, it’s by this Alfa.
Before we set off on the road, we decided to stow the 4C Spider’s fabric targa-style roof panel. Removing and installing the panel is easy enough — it’s attached to the front and rear window frames with a series of sliding pins — and the whole thing rolls up and fits into a storage bag when it’s not in use. The bag, top inside, fits in the trunk. Be warned: Stashing the top takes up about three-quarters of the trunk’s volume and, unlike in some mid-engined cars (the Porsche Boxster comes to mind), there’s only the rear trunk available. The Alfa’s “frunk” space is taken up with componentry and cannot be accessed.
So what’s it like to drive the Spider? Pretty much just like the coupe version. It’s a manic, always-on thrill machine. Calm just isn’t what this Alfa likes to do. The unassisted steering is always alive, writhing around with road imperfections and tram-lining on certain types of pavement. It takes a certain amount of attention just to keep the Alfa pointed straight ahead, which is all part of the fun. The single-turbo four-banger gets on boost quickly (80 percent of max torque is reached at 1,700 rpm), and the turbo’s impeller whistles and whooshes away behind your head, threatening to drown out even the fairly sizeable growl from the optional muffler-less race exhaust system.
Shifts come quick enough in manual mode from the paddle-shiftable dual-clutch gearbox (borrowed with some improvements from the Dodge Dart and Alfa Giulietta) when you don’t feel like dictating every shift, the auto mode does a reasonable job of predicting when you’d like to drop a cog or shift into top gear. In fact, besides the constant steering input, the Alfa can settle into a sort of mellower, long-distance vibe where miles can be eaten up with a fair amount of calm. Those planning on doing more mellow driving should opt for Alfa’s new dual-mode, center-exit exhaust, which keeps the noise down in the drive system’s Natural mode when you’re not romping on the throttle.
But the best part of the Alfa 4C Spider is the Spider part. That removable roof panel makes a wonder of difference to the car’s in-cabin demeanor. With the sun and breeze wafting in, the cabin of the 4C is simply a nicer place to be than that of the slightly claustrophobic coupe. The roofless design also allows a place to escape for all the sound and resonance that tends to rattle around the many hard surfaces of the interior.
During lapping sessions at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the car’s Dynamic drive mode, the 4C Spider never felt disadvantaged by its missing roof section. Quite the contrary, the car feels as taut and direct as ever before, except driving sans roof makes all that exhaust noise even more visceral. Handling behavior felt much the same as the 4C coupe, with a hint of initial understeer giving way to neutrality, then a touch of power oversteer throttling aggressively out of Laguna Seca’s tight left-hand turn 11. Under braking for the famous turn 7 corkscrew, pedal firmness and modulation is also a strong suit. The 4C’s brake feel is about as close to a race car as you can get on the road. It’s a baby supercar, this one. A radical racer for the street.
2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Specifications
|On Sale:||Summer 2015|
|Engine:||1.7L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/237 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 2,200-4,250 rpm|
|Transmission:||6-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Layout:||2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA Mileage:||24/34 mpg (city/hwy)|
|Suspension F/R:||Control arms, coil springs/strut-type, coil springs/td>|
|Brakes F/R:||Vented discs|
|Tires F/R:||205/45R-17 / 235/40R-18 Pirelli P Zero AR|
|L x W x H:||157.0 x 73.5 x 46.7 in|
|Headroom F/R:||38.0 in|
|Legroom F/R:||42.7 in|
|Shoulder Room F/R:||49.8 in|
|Cargo Room:||3.7 cu ft|
|Weight Dist. F/R:||41/59%|
|0-60 MPH:||4.1 sec|
|Top Speed:||160 mph|