In 1995, when a gallon of gas cost $1.09, Alfa Romeo pulled out of the US market. Now, gas is hovering at $2.35 and Alfa Romeo is back stronger then a caffè doppio. The Italian automaker sells two different sport cars in the US and, at the Washington Automotive Press Association’s Rally this year, I drove one of them. It’s the most underrated sports cars in the market today, it doesn’t make any logical sense at all, and it’s called the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider.
The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is full of character, and it’s not shy about it either. Think about current sport cars like the Ford Focus RS, BMW M3, and Scion FR-S – all amazing sport cars that lack that certain something, what Italians call “il personaggio”. It’s that something intangible, but you know it when it’s there. What makes a car great is its character, its story, and the appeal of it not being perfect.
The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is the quintessential car that doesn’t make any sense at all, but it’s everything that you want and need. Its carbon fiber chassis (can you say mini-Ferrari?), lack of power steering, lagging turbocharged four-cylinder engine, frantic automatic transmission, JC Whitney Alpine stereo, and bold Italian design all make it one of the best cars to drive in the world.
You can feel the specialness of the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider when you are driving it, looking at it, dreaming about it and paying the expensive monthly payments on it (oh, I wish I could afford one). From the moment you wedge yourself into the driver seat to the moment that you un-wedge yourself, it’s a unique experience that you don’t feel in most sport cars today. Most cars want to take you away from the driving experience, but the Alfa Romeo draws you in and puts you in charge. You make a mistake, it’s your fault; you crash the car, it’s your fault; you drift the car perfectly around a turn, it’s your talent.
Also, have you noticed that I haven’t mentioned any kind of statistics? That is because this car isn’t one that you need to rattle off its horsepower figures, 0-60 times, lap times, and meaningless numbers – not that they aren’t great numbers – but this is an Italian sports car, it’s all about the feel and involvement that it brings you.
And I’m not the only car journalist who feels this way, apparently Aaron Robinson and John Phillips of Car and Driver felt the same way during their annual 10 Best test: “It’s like driving a Group B car [1981–92] with airbags / It’s like driving a track car that is always on the track.”
And let’s not forget that the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is downright sexy! There isn’t one bad angle on this car. Look at the front, look at the rear, look at the side – it’s stunning. Well, the CD player sucks – that’s one interior design ding. But if you care about the CD player in an Alfa Romeo, you’re doing it all wrong. Plus Jeremy Clarkson on an episode of The Grand Tour only needed Italian music, and a black and white lens to describe the essence of the Alfa Romeo 4C.
And that rare feeling, talent, character is what makes the Alfa Romeo 4C special to drive and own. I only had 20 minutes of seat time in the car, but in that time the car spoke to me. And, boy, did it speak to me when I had to do a K-turn. The lack of power steering made it laughable how hard it was to maneuver at low speeds.
But that’s the best part about this car, it has faults, it’s not perfect, and it doesn’t make sense. Sometimes the things that don’t make sense in life are always the best.