2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Quick Take
The 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider has two clear advantages over the 4C coupe. First, it's much easier to get into and out of when it's topless, and second, the Spider comes in an exclusive and awesome Giallo Prototipo yellow paint scheme.
Otherwise, they're essentially the same car. The Spider weighs a scant 22 pounds more than the coupe, thanks to the fact that so few physical changes were needed. There's a new, lighter carbon fiber windshield frame, a new muffler, and a new trunk lid. Otherwise the structure is untouched. The top mechanism is your two hands and about 2 minutes of your time spent unlatching it; a carbon fiber hardtop is available, but it must be left in the garage. The cloth toupee of a roof rolls up into a bag and resides in the trunk, where it cuts the already tiny cargo space in half, leaving little room for a helmet unless you're an expert at luggage Tetris.
Helmet space is important, because a racetrack is where you'll want to drive the 4C. Sure, you could use it as a daily driver, but it gleefully reminds you what a terrible idea that is at every opportunity. On our drive down California Highway 1, it was loud, stiffly sprung, and the bolt-upright seating is downright uncomfortable. The power steering is whatever your upper body strength can manage, and Spartans would whine about the lack of creature comforts. Even the most carefree, wind-in-the-hair enthusiast would have a hard time living with the 4C Spider as a daily driver.
At home on the track
Instead, you do what we did: Drive it to a racetrack -- in this case Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca -- and push it to its limits. Every. Chance. You. Get. Here, the Alfa Romeo 4C's on-road foibles help it transform into the most tactile and immediately responsive car available. The manual steering transmits every single nuance of the road surface, and what the front tires are doing on it. The brakes are powerful and resolutely linear in their operation. The 6-speed paddle-shift transmission snaps off gearchanges in an eyeblink, letting you avoid turbo lag from the little 4-cylinder's 237 highly turbocharged horsepower. Yeah, a Camry V6 has more power, but the Alfa Romeo 4C weighs less than 2,500 pounds, hits 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, and tops out at 160 mph. Don't worry, it's plenty fast for you.
Yet the Alfa Romeo 4C is forgiving enough that you needn't be an expert to enjoy it. Dynamic mode loosens up the electronic stability control restrictions, allowing you to pitch the 4C around while still providing a good safety net as you improve your skills. Eventually, you can really explore the limits in Race mode, which essentially shuts off stability control entirely. With enough power and handling in reserve, the 4C will continue to excite and delight you as your skills improve -- from good, to very good, to expert -- in a way few other cars can. If you're ready for a fourth car that's track-only, and you have an extra $65,500 lying around, it's the perfect car.
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