By Derek Price
When you drive a new car every week, people often ask you which is your favorite one.
This week, I’ve got a new answer: the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider.
The 4C isn’t the most expensive car I’ve ever driven, not by a long shot. That honor belongs to a Rolls-Royce. Nor is it as fast and powerful as a Corvette or Viper, both cars I’ve loved in their own unique ways.
But it is my all-time favorite car to drive for reasons that don’t make any logical sense.
For one thing, it’s full of “Italian quirks,” that euphemism Alfa Romeo fans use to describe problems that could leave you stranded on the side of the road. At one point in my test drive, it threw a temper tantrum and refused to start for about three tries, each time giving an error message saying service was required because it couldn’t go into gear. On try No. 4, it forgave me and fired right up with its glorious, mid-engined roar.
I forgave it, too, after hearing that sound.
It has no glove box, no power steering, hardly any place to store your luggage and offers lousy visibility out the back window. It’s noisy and uncomfortable on the highway and would make my back hurt after an hour of sitting in its stiff seats.
That didn’t stop me from driving up to six hours at a time in this amazing machine while I had the chance, thrilled at every moment to enjoy the experience and share it with friends. I loved explaining how it was built around an incredibly lightweight carbon fiber chassis, like a Formula One car, and had an engine mounted right behind your back with a turbocharger that sounds like it’s going to suck your head right off when you step on the gas.
In fact, it’s so exhilarating that it killed my productivity at work. All I wanted to do all week was drive the Alfa, nothing more.
This is the second time I’ve tested a 4C, and this time it was the Spider version with a removable top to let the wind blow in your hair. That top is a bear to take off and put back on, though, with lots of little pins and clamps that have to be lined up perfectly — the antithesis of most modern sports cars with their one-touch power up and down convertible tops.
And still, the drop-top version is the Alfa I’d want to own. It’s just too much fun to roll the soft top up, stow it in the trunk and take friends for joyrides in the sunshine.
Everyone I knew wanted to ask how fast it was (0-60 in 4.1 seconds), how much it cost (over $73,000 for the one I drove), and what I thought about it (I love it more than life itself).
And that begs a question: Why? How on God’s green Earth can I love a car that’s so obviously imperfect and impractical?
I’ve got a theory about that.
There are the obvious things, like how it’s one of the prettiest cars in the world and feels so right over the road. It provides that whole man-and-machine-as-one sensation better than any car I’ve driven before.
It’s also about purity. At a time when most cars are built so perfectly that they feel like sterile, hermetically sealed transportation appliances, it’s nice to drive something that lets you feel its mechanical guts for a change. This car is so gritty and raw feeling that it turns everyday drives into real adventures.
But there’s also something else, I think. The way I see it, the 4C’s imperfections make it more relatable, more human even.
It’s flawed, just like us. And it’s glorious, beautiful and worthy of love in spite of its flaws, just like us.
At a Glance
What was tested?
2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider ($63,900). Options: Premium paint color ($1,500), convenience package ($1,800), red bra calipers ($300), carbon fiber cluster bezel ($300), racing exhaust ($500), upgraded wheels ($2,500), xenon headlamps ($1,000). Price as tested (including $1,595 destination charge): $73,395
Wheelbase: 93.7 in.
Length: 157 in.
Width: 73.5 in.
Height: 46.7 in.
Engine: 1.75-liter turbocharged inline four cylinder (237 hp, 258 lb.-ft. combined power)
Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch
EPA Mileage: 24 city, 34 highway
2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider
Why buy it?
It’s the most human of cars. It’s so raw and mechanical that it evokes an emotional response few vehicles can match. Plus, just look at it!