Alfa Romeo returns with 4C Spider

The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider in Denver’s City Park. (Bud Wells photos)

The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider in Denver’s City Park. (Bud Wells photos)

Most impressive in style at the Denver Auto Show last spring, in my observation, were the Nissan Maxima and the new Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe.

The Spider (roadster) version of the Alfa Romeo came my way recently and provided one of the most fun drives of the year.

The Spider was the fourth consecutive rear-wheel-drive model on my schedule, following the Mazda Miata, Cadillac ATS and the Infiniti Q50 in Seattle. More than 90 percent of the cars I review are front-drive or all-wheel drive.

The 2015 4C Spider and Coupe are the first Alfa Romeos sold in the U.S. in 20 years. I last drove one in 1995, the 164 Saloon (sedan), a heavy four-door with a 3.0-liter V-6 engine.

The Alfa 4C is small and light and exciting to drive. What it lacks in comfort (it is a rough ride) and power, it compensates in style – it is one of the world’s best-looking sports cars. It sits low, with wide, muscular rear haunches.

A mid-engine, 237-horsepower, 1.7-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission send the Spider 0 to 60 in 4.1 seconds; it has been tested at 160 miles per hour tops. It is rated at 258 lb.-ft. of torque, a fact loudly proclaimed by the racing exhaust setup. Large Brembo four-piston brake calipers lend great stopping power.

It has no power steering, which removes much of the oversteer tendency in performance maneuvers. An attempt to turn the wheel, though, from a dead stop can become a test of muscle power.

Throttle response and quickness of shifts can be adjusted with switches between natural, all-weather, dynamic and race modes.

Cruise moderately and the 4C will deliver high fuel mileage. It is rated at 24/34 miles per gallon; my overall average was 25.3.

The Alfa Romeo 4C, part of the Fiat and Chrysler Group, is built in the Maserati plant in Modena, Italy.

Alfa Romeo has capacity to build only 3,000 of the 4Cs per year. Only 1,000 per year will be sold in the U.S.

The two-seater Spider’s tight cabin is tough to access and exit, compounded by the very high side sills.

Though its wheelbase is only 2.5 inches longer than the new Mazda Miata, the Alfa’s turn circle is over 40 feet, 10 feet wider than the Miata. Sport suspensions take a toll.

Directly behind the Alfa’s rear engine is a small trunk.

Directly behind the Alfa’s rear engine is a small trunk.

The Alfa features a roll-up targa-type top, which can then be stowed in a small 3.7-cubic-feet trunk, directly behind the engine. Of course, with the top on, it is difficult to see out the back, and there is no rearview camera.

A carbon fiber monocoque adds to stiffness of the Alfa’s body; aluminum is used in the front and rear frames. The Spider weighs only 2,487 pounds.

A sticker price of $77,195 included rosso (red) tricoat exterior finish, sport seats, Pirelli racing tires, racing exhaust, red brake calipers and Spider track package.

Here are the specifications for the ’15 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider:

  • Capacity 2-passenger
  • Wheelbase 93.7 inches
  • Length 157 inches
  • Width 73.5 inches
  • Height 46.6 inches
  • Curb Weight 2,487 pounds
  • Track 64.5 inches front, 63.2 rear
  • Ground Clearance 4.4 inches
  • Turn Circle 40.7 feet
  • Drivetrain Rear-wheel drive
  • Engine 1.7-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower/Torque 237/258
  • Transmission 6-speeed dual-clutch automatic
  • Steering manual
  • Suspension double-wishbone front, MacPherson strut rear
  • Fuel mileage estimate 24/34
  • Fuel mileage average 25.3
  • Fuel Tank 10.5 gallons, premium unleaded
  • Wheels 18-inch front, 19-inch rear
  • Tires Pirelli 18×7 front, 19×8.5 rear
  • Cargo Volume 3.7 cubic feet
  • Warranty 4 years/50,000 miles basic, powertrain

Competitors Porsche Boxster, Chevrolet Corvette, Lotus Elise

Assembly Plant Milan, Italy

Parts Content N.A.

Base Price of Lowest Model $63,900; Base Price of Review Model $63,900; Destination Charge $1,595; Sticker Price $77,195.