PICK your description of Alfa Romeo’s 4C Spider: the world’s fastest, most sophisticated gokart or most affordable supercar.
Priced at $99,000 — $10,000 more than the 4C coupe — the Spider shares its drivetrain, mounted on an aluminiumalloy frame behind an F1-style, hand-layered carbon-fibre monocoque, in which you sit.
Three times stronger and seven times lighter than steel, carbon-fibre is an exceptionally handy material to be surrounded by if you happen to have a big prang, as Fernando Alonso gratefully noted after barrel-rolling his Honda at the Australian GP.
The Spider gains only 10kg over the coupe because the monocoque, unlike steel choptop body, is so strong it requires no additional reinforcement.
At just 1035kg, the Spider weighs the same as a Toyota Yaris — but has nearly three times the power. So it’s fast. Alfa claims 4.5 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint.
That’s HSV GTS territory, though the Spider flies around corners quicker than the 1858kg Holden, generating race-level lateral g-forces of 1.1g and up to 1.25g of brutal, eyeball-popping deceleration when you stand on the brakes, which have fourpiston Brembo calipers up front.
With no power assistance, you have to use much more muscle to steer the 4C than any other modern car; the payoff is an intimate, unadulterated connection with the road that power assistance can’t replicate.
Suspension is similarly uncompromising. Double front wishbones directly anchor to the monocoque, open-wheeler racer style, while a compact strut layout is used at the rear.
Lots of rubber for a lightweight completes the 4C’s pure performance proposition. Staggered wheels — 17-inch front/18-inch rear — wear Pirelli PZeros respectively 205/45 and 235/40.
As per its speed thrills brief, then, frills are few. You’re supposed to drive this car, not do social media, texting or emails in it, so there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, no navigation, voice control or touchscreen, just Bluetooth and a single DIN audio head unit. Aircon, cruise control, alarm, rear parking sensors and lovely Italian leather are standard. The driver’s seat, more road than race, looks like the real deal but at 4C cornering speeds upper body support is inadequate.
A ribbed fabric Targa-style soft-top clips into place between the carbon fibre windscreen frame and the monocoque. There’s a big Eskysized load tub in the back, behind the engine. We didn’t drive the Spider on the road at its local launch near Sydney, so I have no idea how comfortable the ride is — or, more likely, isn’t. Instead, we let the Alfa frolic in its natural habitat — the track.
The turbo delivers like an old-school force-fed four. It’s got nothing below 3000rpm, at which point serious boost and peak torque of 350Nm arrive with an almighty wallop.
The car lunges forward, accompanied by a fat, rasping note and what sounds like a hurricane of air being rammed through the intercoolers. Roofless, the Spider is the loudest car I have ever driven — I’ve ridden quieter motorcycles.
The action continues unabated all the way to about 6400rpm, so you have a wide,