Alfa, bravo

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige - BILL McKIN­NON

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,

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