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2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

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Base Price: $65,900
Price as Tested: $71,395

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heaved myself behind the wheel of the Formula 1-inspired 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, whacking my sunburned head on the corner of the windshield header in the process. I was attending Topless in Miami, the annual convertible competition hosted by the Southern Automotive Media Association in May. I actually drove a 2015 model, but all the numbers and pricing apply to the 2016.

Not having previously driven the 4C Coupe, let alone the convertible Spider version, I had nary a clue what lay in store for me. Channeling quirky exotic roadsters from decades past, the 4C Spider is a lightweight – 2,487 lbs to be exact – roller skate of a car with a 237-horsepower 1.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine wedged into its center.

Contributing to its featherweight classification, Alfa has applied aluminum and carbon fiber liberally to the 4C’s skin, engine,AR016_051FC63q2gkj8096okd1iep0dcmrgea__mid chassis and suspension. Alfa even thinned the side-window glass to save weight.

Alfa claims a zero-to-60 time of 4.1 seconds. I can’t verify that from my short time piloting this roadster on the rather sedate boulevards of Key Biscayne, Florida, but I can attest to the 4C’s quickness in general. Transferring engine output to the rear wheels is a six-speed twin-clutch driver-shiftable automatic transmission. Plan on consulting the owner’s manual the first time you attempt to put the 4C into gear; it’s as obtuse a setup as I’ve encountered. Hey, but you wanted Italian quirky, right?

Switching to manual mode for my first pass across Rickenbacker Causeway connecting Miami with Key Biscayne, I used the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles to change the cogs. On the return trip, knowing I had at least five miles of unpatrolled straightaway ahead of me, I switched to auto mode and put my foot into the throttle. The upshifts came at a blistering pace – as fast you can snap your fingers, it seemed.

As the speedometer needle climbed and the revs rampaged wildly up before crashing back down with each shift, the booming from the dual-mode titanium exhaust, engineered to deliver a more deafening roar when the DNA selector drive is set to Dynamic and Race modes, rather than Natural or All-weather modes, sent an alert for half a mile in every direction that something mean and foreboding was afoot on the causeway.

It was exhilarating!

2016 Alfa Romeo 4C SpiderA little shoulder rubbing is part of the 4C experience. The cozy cockpit is a civil compromise to simply strapping the driver to the engine. Two average-size adults fit fairly well in the cabin with its leather-covered sport seats. I have no clue how anyone other than a former cast member of the TV show “Jackass” would fair on a cross-country trip in this roadster; but other than fulfilling a dare, it’s doubtful anyone would use it for a long trip simply because of its lack of any real cargo space. Its trunk is almost a cubic foot smaller than that of a Mazda Miata – much of what space there is would be occupied by the stowed soft targa-like top when running in convertible mode.

Fuel economy is fairly decent for a car with the 4C Spider’s performance creds. The government predicts it delivers 24 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in combined driving. Requiring premium-grade fuel, the 10.5-gallon fuel tank translates into a maximum range of just less than 360 miles.

Although Alfa did just about everything it could think of to lighten the 4C Spider’s load, it didn’t skimp on creature comforts. Yes, you must pony up $900 for the Convenience Package to get cruise control and the rear-parking sensor, which is a must have thanks to the limited visibility out the back, but there is a surprising amount of standard gear. Included are full power accessories, remote keyless entry, hill-start assist, heated outboard mirrors, air conditioning, capless fuel filler, tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, seven-inch color display, trip computer, five airbags, and Alpine audio system with Bluetooth streaming and USB port.

Beefing up the bottom line on the car I tested were the bi-xenon headlights ($1,000), sport tuned exhaust ($500) and the Spider AR016_052FCer7rajt0rtcrvnsnotnjhsutl9__midConvenience Group at $900. The factory delivery charge is a whopping $1,595.

As with the Dodge Viper and a few other asphalt chompers engineered more for the track than the street, the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is a terrific second car for someone Jonesing for that once- or twice-a-week adrenaline rush of uber thrust, big exhaust and seat-of-the-pants-on-the pavement perspective. A blast to drive and be seen in, it would be a little much as a daily driver. But what a rush!