The 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C is one of the purest sports cars you can buy right now.
Focusing on the singular purpose of unmitigated driving engagement, this car shouldn’t exist, but I can’t express how happy I am that it does. The people who don’t like this car simply don’t understand it, don’t deserve it, and can’t be considered true automotive enthusiasts. Yes, the 4C Spider has a bunch of flaws, it’s not practical, and it’s a special kind of crazy, but this is precisely why I have fallen in love with it. There is nothing else like this car on the market right now that distills the essence of a sports car so clearly.
People said a lot of interesting things to us while we were driving this Italian exotic, and it gave us a lot of insight into the sports car. Here’s what people said:
“Woah, it’s a Ferrari!”
We also got “Is that a Lotus?” and “WOW a Lamborghini!” One of the cool things about the 4C is that no one knows what it is, but everyone knows the moment they see it that it’s something exotic. From the outside, the 4C looks much more expensive than it actually is, and people are intrigued by it. The little Alfa gets looks and attention everywhere it goes, so get used to catching people trying to sneak photos and wanting to talk to you.
“It feels like an F1 car.”
My dad, who has somehow driven F1 cars in the past through his previous employment with Honda, said to me that the 4C feels just like an F1 car. How the steering feels, the way it handles, and how it accelerates feels exactly like a race car and he was shocked by how fast it was.
Powered by a turbocharged 1.75-liter four-cylinder engine, the 4C outputs 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers don’t seem that impressive, but when you consider that the 4C Spider weighs 2,487 pounds (1,128 kg), which is about the same as a Fiat 500, the 4C doesn’t need huge horsepower numbers — its power to weight ratio is phenomenal. The 4C goes from zero to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, a time that beats a base Porsche 911 and a V6 Jaguar F-Type.
It’s not just objectively fast, but it feels fast — the kind of fast that resets your definition of speed and feels like a roller coaster going down a drop. You hear the turbo spooling behind your head, you feel the punch in your gut as you’re catapulted forward and, sitting so low to the ground, you feel every inch of pavement wooshing by.
ALSO SEE: 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Review
More importantly, every time you throw it into a corner, you think to yourself, “I probably could have taken that corner much faster.” And that type of grip and confidence is what real sports cars are all about.
For your consideration:
How I felt after driving the Alfa Romeo 4C for the first time pic.twitter.com/7NwI3Kiyw8
— Jodi Lai (@DrivingMissJodi) September 9, 2016
“It should be manual.”
When I told my dad it was a twin-clutch six-speed automatic in the Alfa, the first thing he said was, “It should be manual. Everything else in the car is.” He’s not wrong — no power steering, a manual roof, no voice controlled anything. Although he was correct that the people who would buy this car would want the extra involvement a manual transmission provides, his mind was changed after he drove it and he was impressed by how responsive the automatic was.
“When I heard it, I knew it was something Italian.”
Even though it’s powered by a little four-cylinder engine, it still sounds like an angry Italian. My dad and I parked the 4C to take some photos and moments after, a mechanic named Dan came out and said, “I thought it was a Ferrari or Lamborghini or something. When I heard it, I knew it was something Italian.”
Although some people think it sounds flatulent, I think the 4C sounds just right. It can be grating during long highway drives, and there is basically no sound deadening or insulation, so you hear everything. I think it just adds to the visceral nature of the 4C.
“That’s SO cheap.”
When hearing what the 4C costs, Dan the mechanic was shocked by how affordable it was. You can get into a 4C Spider for $65,900 in the U.S. ($78,495 in Canada), but you can tell someone it costs $200,000 and they might believe you. It’s basically the most affordable Italian exotic car you can get and is a huge bargain if you consider what you’re getting. Nothing else in this price bracket offers this much carbon fiber construction, sexy looks or driving engagement.
Although you can’t really live with a 4C as a daily driver, the car makes a lot of sense when you consider that for many 4C drivers, it’s the second or third car in their garage. It’s a toy you drive on the weekends.
“You drove it to work?!”
A co-worker was shocked that I drove the 4C to work, and found it funny that such an exotic car was given such an unremarkable, mundane task. It’s like using a Blackbird fighter jet to deliver groceries. Commuting to work in the Alfa, I couldn’t help but feel I was doing it a huge injustice. The 4C deserves so much more than commuting duty because it’s so much more capable.
“It’s like seeing your old girlfriend.”
My dad and mom spent much of the 1970s modifying Alfa Romeos and racing them. They were part of their local Alfa Romeo owners club and loved driving their GTVs and Alfettas. After going for a drive in the 4C Spider, I asked my dad how it felt, and he said, “It’s like seeing your old girlfriend!” He explained that although the 4C is completely different from the Alfas he used to drive, “You can still feel that it’s an Alfa in its bones.”
For Afla Romeo to take that feeling people got driving its older sports cars and to distill it so well that they still recognize it in a modern car is really special, and it’s something automakers just don’t do anymore. While other automakers are stuck on squeezing out unusable horsepower and stuffing their cars full of computers, processors, and technology, the Alfa is refreshingly pure and simple. Yes, its interior is seriously lacking, but I didn’t turn the radio on once, and I was too busy driving and laughing to care.
“No, I don’t like it.”
That was from my mom, who at first glance actually loved the 4C, but didn’t like trying to get in and out of it. She’s nearing the age where she can brag about getting seniors discounts, and I can see why climbing into the cramped and low cabin can be frustrating for people who aren’t as limber.
The 4C is built around a carbon fiber tub to help keep weight low, so you have to step over the high sill and drop yourself into the low seat. I’ve been trying to find a way to do this gracefully, but it can’t be done.
The seats are also only adjustable by sliding it forwards or backward. The steering wheel blocks most of my view of the digital gauges, and ergonomics definitely aren’t its strong point. There is zero storage space, the audio head unit looks like it’s 20 years old, and the manual roof can be tricky to use. This car makes no compromises, and a lot of the things we come to expect in cars have been scrapped here in the interest of weight savings. Comfort and convenience take a back seat to unadulterated driving enjoyment, and that’s OK because as a second car, it doesn’t need to be practical.
The Verdict: 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider
The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is a driver’s car through and through. As a second car, it’s a bargain, and this rare gem of a sports car has the most engaging drive I’ve ever experienced.