2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Review
Small, loud, impractical and utterly desirable
Published: July 11th, 2016
The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is about as niche of a production car as you can find in America. It's a tiny, raucous sports that's painfully loud (and intoxicating at the same time), fast enough to cause you serious legal concerns and actually shockingly affordable for something this exotic. The fact that it's even available for large American consumers who love cupholders and strip malls is downright shocking, really. And we just love Alfa Romeo for it.
At a hair above 2,600 pounds, the 4C Spider is a track hound's dream. Purpose built and still with enough exterior panache to make your average human think it's a Ferrari, the 4C Spider will never be anyone's daily driver or even second vehicle. This is pretty much a weekend backroads car that will never see the light of a grocery store lamppost unless it's there after hours to do donuts. Alfa Romeo hardly sells any of them and likely makes a pittance of profit, but this is the car's 4th year of production, and there's no word that it will come to and end. Enthusiasts join hands and sing "Kumbaya".
Make no mistake. This is a seriously angry car. Not only does its presence shout performance, the sound of the engine is positively furiour. It breathes hard and loud with every blip of the throttle, and under full bore, it's like a coked up weasel screaming into a megaphone. The Spider removable top makes it that much louder to driver and passenger, but rather than annoying, it was a pleasure to listen to from an adrenaline pumping perspective. We can't imagine hearing it for hours on end (without a bottle of Excedrin), but we'd never sit in it for that long, anyway.
Acceleration is blistering thanks to the super-light curb weight. Throttle response is immediate and full with barely any hint of lag. Too bad the dual clutch transmission is jerky, and there's no manual option anymore (for the life of us, we can't figure out why Alfa would do this to such a niche sports car). Another harsh aspect is the manual steering, which makes pulling out of a parking lot or turning the wheel while not in motion a workout for your forearms. At least once you start moving, the effort decreases significantly. At the end of the day, this is a car for driving enthusiasts, plain and simple. The rest of you wouldn't understand.
- Ride Quality: Jarring, jarring and jarring. But the car never rattles or loses composure. It's just a harsh ride that's meant for pure sporting. Make sure you have good dental insurance. You're gonna need it.
- Steering: Challenging at very low speeds due to the lack of assist, but it's super-precise with a bit of deadness on center. You can pretty much place it anywhere you want it, anytime.
- Acceleration: Very fast, indeed. 60 mph comes in 4.2 seconds. And you feel all of it in the seat of your pants and in your ears.
- Braking: Very strong brakes meant for the track. The pedal feel and progressiveness are excellent.
Technology and Safety
- Infotainment Screen Size/Quality: There's no screen to speak of. Keep wishing. Their "Media Hub" is a tiny screen with information and small buttons for audio operation. Pretty much useless.
- Bluetooth Phone Pairing: Nonexistent. This car's too loud to conduct phone calls, anyway.
- Voice/Sound Quality: Not applicable.
- Controls: Controls are decent for a car of this purpose. Dials and toggle switches for HVAC controls are pretty easy to use and large. The central instrument cluster is a useful 7.7-inches and very legible. Transmission is operated via pushbuttons in the center console. They take getting used to but are easy to use once you become accustomed.
- Safety: Not robust by any means, but the standard traction and stability control are must-haves. Emergency brake assist is only needed by those with no attention span or reflexes. This car will stop on a dime.
Exterior Design & Styling
No one will call the car beautiful because it's size betray and handsome proportions. It's creased, vented and bulged like a car that's been stung by a thousand bees, but we won't call it ugly. It does look like a Ferrari that's been tossed in a giant dryer and shrunk.
- Front: Big vents that flank the Alfa shield grille look good but lack any real adornment. We would've like to have seen horizontal bars in the grille that mimic the small Alfa Romeo MiTo that's not sold here, of course.
- Rear: It's the 4C Spider's best angle. Big fender bulges and some of the best taillights in the industry. The integrated lip spoiler and the hatch/engine cover are near perfect, too.
- Profile: Stubby but still good-looking in an odd sort of way. Its big rear vent and body crease come together to make the car look like a small Ferrari 599.
Driver and Passenger Comfort
Nothing about the car is comfortable except for the fact that it's pretty much free of rattles thanks to remarkably good build quality and a stiff carbon fiber tub (the least expensive and smallest of its kind in a production car). The rest is like an exercise created by the Marquis du Sade.
Getting in and out of the Spider requires flexibility and probably some Ben-Gay afterwards. The sill is thick thanks to the carbon fiber tub, and the car is so low that you really have to plant yourself deliberately into the car. If you're 200+ pounds and a bit round, this is not the car for you. As a six-footer, our reviewer found it barely manageable from an ingress-egress standpoint.
- Front Seats: Pretty much unadjustable except up and down, barely. No fore and aft adjustment. The seats have good bolstering but they're small and the back is very upright. At least they look amazing in red.
- Rear Seats: Nope.
- Visibility: Not bad out the front given the fact that you sit pretty deep in the car with a high beltline. The sensor is unreliable, so you end up guessing where the back is because there's just no way to get around the rear engine.
Storage and Cargo Room
If you have to ask about either of these, this is the wrong car for you. Of the miniscule number of people who buy the 4C or 4C Spider, not a single one of them does so for practical reasons. It's not for overnight trips, even. Everything but the storage compartment in the rear boot just aft of the angry little engine is a complete afterthought, and that space is really reserved for roof storage.
- Storage: Your hipster wallet has more space in it. Let's just put it that way. Bizarre removable floor mounted foam pockets can't even hold an Egg McMuffin.
- Trunk/Cargo Room: The rear space behind the engine can hold the roof, car cover and a bag of Skittles.
It's a car that just doesn't need to exist for anyone who gives a damn about practicality because the 4C Spider is all about driving enjoyment (not comfort). The car is as fast as you need anything to be, and the experience of driving it is visceral. Plus, it won't break the bank like a Porsche or a Ferrari, and the fun per dollar quotient buries those cars easily.
We love the fact that this car is still made, albeit without a proper manual transmission. Sure, this car might be a hair quicker, but the manual car was way better for the purist. The soft targa roof is a joke in our opinion. Sure, it lets people know who's driving the car, and it provides unfettered access to the engine's whirr and wail, but it's a royal pain to use. Removing it isn't awful, but putting it back in when it starts raining is like bomb defusion. Nervewracking and requiring too much skill. If it's an awesome small sports car you want, and you need it to have exotic brand cache, the 4C coupe is the car to go with. Just leave your gear and bags at home.
Price & Specifications
Engine: 1.7-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed automatic twin clutch with manual shifting
Drivetrain/Layout: rear-wheel drive, mid-engine
Power Output: 237 hp / 258 lb-ft of torque
Fuel Economy (mpg): 34 city / 34 highway
Base Price: $63,900
As Tested: $74,895 (incl. $1,595 destination)
Standard Features: traction control, electronic stability control, hill start assist, remote keyless entry, driver airbag, passenger front airbag, side front door airbags, power windows, power locks, power heated exxterior mirrors with manual fold-away, rearview day/night mirror, air conditioning, capless fuel filler, leather-wrapped steering wheel, tilt/telescoping steering column, cluster 7.0-inch TFT color display, AM/FM sterero radio with Media Hub, 12-volt aux power outlet, 17"x7" and 18" x8" Spider Alloy wheels, 205/45R17 235/40R18 BSW 3-Season Tires, Pirelli P Zero brand tires, halogen headlamps, LED daytime running lights, LED taillamps.
Options on our test vehicle: Basalt Grey Metallic Exterior Paint, Customer Preferred Package 22A-Convenience Group: premium speaker package, rear parking assist system, cruise control, security alarm; Spider Track Package: carbon figber exterior mirrors, racing leather and microfiber steering wheel, race tuned suspension, carbon fiber cluster bezel, Alfa Romeo red car cover, carbon fiber shift bezel, bi-Xenon headlamps, sport-tuned dual exhaust, 18"x7" and 19"x8.5" Dark Fan Spoke wheels, tire pressure monitoring system, Red Performance brake calipers
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C, click here: 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C.