Falling leaves, woodsmoke, Italian exhaust and a hint of leather upholstery: these are the impressions you get when driving the sensational Alfa Romeo 4C Spider along country roads in early autumn, and there is no finer feeling.
In 2008, Alfa thundered back into the U.S. market after a 13-year absence and several years later, the launch of the two-seater 4C Coupe confirmed it was well worth the wait. With the further development of the Spider, however, and with it the return to classic Alfa-style open-topped motoring à la Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, there is definite cause for raising an Aperol Spritz.
For a starting price of just $65,900 you get something inimitably Italian, imbued with all of Alfa’s impressive DNA. Two hundred and thirty-seven ponies go a long way in something this small and light: the 4C Spider has a carbon-fiber body of the type usually seen in cars costing three times as much. That means it can do 0-60 in 4.1 seconds, and indeed there is plenty to like about putting pedal to metal.
Alfa Romeo 4C Spider (4 images)
But for a sporty compact convertible, the 4C Spider is conspicuously well-rounded, to the extent that you start imagining what it would be like to drive one every day. That’s down to the mid-engined Alfa’s DNA system, offering All-Weather, Natural, Dynamic or Race modes, another nifty bit of kit borrowed from the supercar world. The 4C Spider isn’t really comfortable enough to get beyond the speculation stage — it’s strictly a second or third car — but did you really expect anything different?
Of course, the true test of any new Alfa has to be: “How does in look in red?” And the answer is "molto bene" or maybe just “f*cking amazing.” Any car crafted by hand at the Maserati workshop in Modena, Italy — as the 4C is — should be a shoo-in, but that in no way lessens the visual impact of its lines.
Alfa Romeo 4C Spider 2 (4 images)
Italian roadsters can exist for pleasure alone; there is no expectation that they be fuel efficient, easy to drive or any of that other claptrap. And the 4C Spider is particularly aimed at purists, to the point that it does not have power steering. But that bit of discomfort and reconnection to the road (along with the noise of the engine, which fills the tiny cabin in an utterly absorbing if ear-splitting way) makes for both more work and more freedom. One expects the interfaces and infotainment to be primitive at best, and there really is no radio that can or should compete with the engine’s snarl, particularly when you remove the roof.
If you want comfort and cupholders, buy a Boxster. Most people do. The 4C Spider isn’t for most people. Which, if you’re half the man we’d all like to be, is what makes it the right car for you.