Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

Pretty drop-top blows. Fly the coupe instead

STEPHEN CORBY

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

THERE will be no such thing as heading out for a quiet drive in your 4C Spider. Many modern convertibles do a great job of guiding airflow up and over the cabin, while some claim you can talk without shouting at speeds of 160km/h, but the new drop-top Alfa is not one of them.

The only good thing about the rush of wind noise you get at anything over 80km/h is that it almost drowns out the constant suck-blow-whoosh noises from the hardworking turbos and the slightly tractor-like grumble from the engine.

To be fair, at city speeds there’s a sweet spot where the car’s angry bark – which you could only hear if you were standing outside the original 4C – finds its way into your ears with the roof down. But drive it with any sort of aggression (or on a highway for any distance) and the noise levels assault your senses. Conversations, especially via a Bluetooth phone call, feel like they’re being conducted in a tin shed during a hurricane.

That’s a shame because the Spider has much to commend it over other roadsters. A carbonfibre windscreen frame brings more strength, saves weight and looks fantastic, and the all-carbon tub means the chassis is already so stiff it needed no heavy reinforcement work.

So the vital power-to-weight ratio has been maintained, with the Spider just 10kg heavier than the hardtop at 1035kg, so its 177kW and 350Nm are still enough to hurl it to 100km/h from rest in 4.5sec, just as fast as the coupe.

There’s also a good amount of mid-range grunt and on the speed-friendly Italian autostrada there was plenty of surge on hand from 100km/h.

Unfortunately, saving weight also meant an automatic folding roof was out of the question; what you get instead is a manual system that involves getting out of the car, messing around with catches, levers and bolts, then folding the whole thing away into a bag that halves your already pitiful boot space. Even when this temporary-feeling roof is up, you get a bit of wind noise and annoying booming.

While there’s no sense of scuttle-shake with the roof off, you do get more bump-steer.

Overall, the unassisted steering divides opinion, some experts deriding it as beyond awful to the point of dangerous. It’s certainly annoyingly heavy at parking speeds, but there is some feel to it when cornering, along with disappointing understeer when you press on.

The Spider feels far more flawed than the original 4C, yet it looks no less beautiful, so it will still find plenty of buyers among the Alfisti come November, even with a lofty $100K price tag. ves round ts, way dy

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Alfa Romeo 4C Spider 1742cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 177kW @ 6000rpm 350Nm @ 2200-4250rpm 6-speed dual-clutch 1035kg 4.5sec (claimed) 6.9L/100km (EU) $100,000 (estimated) November

PLUS & MINUS

Noisy; wind intrusion; fiddly roof; heavy steering; no manual Looks; stiff chassis; little added weight for a convertible; performance

Out of the box

IT’S mystifying why Alfa launched this car without the When the new Giulia was unveiled, every car we were shown was a manual, yet the 4C Spider makes do with a six-speed dual-clutch that lets the whole car down. Ask it to down-change with big revs on board and the computer simply says “No”, beeping as if you’ve asked it to do something rude. manual gearbox that would so clearly suit it best. And the Italians love to use a clutch. veiled, wn der d le ar i e he co