2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider new car reviews

The Alfa Romeo 4C looks enough like an Elise to have the Lotus designers see red.
While carbon fiber is scattered all throughout the interior, the rest is comprised of cheap materials.
Here's the cheap handle that broke off in our hands.
The 1750cc engine manages to crank out 237 horsepower. Very impressive.
The brakes are among the best we've experienced.

It looks similar a Lotus. It screams loud like you wouldn't believe. It definitely calls attention to itself. But exactly how does this exotic stack up? We slid behind the wheel to find out.

Other staff views

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

On paper, the Alfa 4C is everything we want in a car: lightning-fast reflexes, plenty of power and giant brakes. The Alfa also delivers drop-dead sexy looks and, in this case, open-top motoring. It’s just the right size, too.

It’s a winner, right? In reality, the Alfa is so high and mighty that it doesn’t care much about its occupants.

It doesn’t care about those giant blind spots found over each shoulder.

It doesn’t care about being quiet.

It doesn’t care about space for your left foot.

It doesn’t care about easy egress or ingress.

It’s basically a street-legal track car, which is both good and bad. First, the good.

Wow, it’s fast.

I can’t remember the last time I sampled steering this responsive. It makes my 911 seem kind of dull.

The brakes are amazing. Amazing.

Outward front visibility is fantastic.

But the rest of the stuff that makes up a street car leaves much to be desired.

The steering wheel blocks the top of the gauges. Didn’t anyone notice this earlier in the development cycle?

Sure, the steering is razor-sharp, but it’s also heavy as hell at anything less than 30 mph.

And above 30 mph it can also be called twitchy. Take your eyes off the road for a second and you might be making a drive-thru out of someone’s front yard.

Either you like the seat angle or you don’t.

Getting in and out of the car will introduce you to muscles that you forgot you had.

I also wouldn’t call this an heirloom-quality machine. The interior bits feel flimsy. In fact, one of the latch handles for the convertible top broke while the car was in our care. Know what those handles are made from? Lightweight plastic. I like the lightweight aspect of those handles, but what is going to break next? I don’t expect the world for $70k, but a 25-year-old CRX has a nicer-feeling interior.

As a street car, I think it would also wear me out. I recently covered 1100 miles in a new MX-5 over the course of two and a half days. Upon arrival, I felt fine. After a 45-minute drive in the Alfa, I was ready to get back home. I simply got tired of feeling every pebble, hearing every exhaust note, and constantly wondering how many 18-wheelers were hiding in my blindspots. Plus my hips didn’t love the offset pedals.

I applaud Alfa for giving us the most hardcore machine since the Lotus Elise. As a track car, the Alfa wins. As a street car, at this price point I’m getting a Boxster or Cayman. The Alfa might be faster and prettier, but I see the Porsche serving up more miles.

Joe Gearin Joe Gearin
Associate Publisher

According to our friends at Wikipedia, "A love–hate relationship is an interpersonal relationship involving simultaneous or alternating emotions of love and hate—something particularly common when emotions are intense.”

Thanks Wiki, as you’ve summed up my feelings about Alfa’s 4C Spider. With this minuscule Italian, there is no middle ground, no compromise, no concessions to comfort or logic. In a world of overly sanitized “perfect” automotive conveyances, the Alfa 4C shouts obscenities, gives you the finger, and is smiling the entire time. Does it love me, or hate me? The answer is yes.

Here’s why I love it:

It goes like stink. Seriously, 237hp has never felt this fast. I’ve driven 500hp cars that didn’t feel this explosive. Extremely light-weight can be wonderful!

From the burble at idle, to the raspy howl at redline, this Alfa is a vocal one. It pops, crackles and even farts loudly when you bang shifts by using the paddles. Yes, it’s only available in manumatic form.

I may not be in love with the way it looks, but bystanders sure are. Girls scream for rides, pickup trucks make way for you, and everyone cranes their neck to check it out. If anonymity is your thing, look elsewhere.

It grips like gum on hot asphalt. The 4C’s mission was clearly to dislodge heads from necks. This little bugger has limits way higher than most cars on the street. It’s actually foolish to even attempt to reach the limits on public roads. Throw it into a turn, and it just obeys. There is no drama, no slip, no squeal from the tires. It does things easily that would send other “sports cars” headed for the ditch. On track, it would be magic.

It has mighty brakes. The nice aluminum pedal is reassuringly firm, and while touchy, the brakes are awesome. No fade, great feel and strong deceleration. Nearly perfect for a sporting car.

And here’s why I hate it:

It’s cheap and built like crap. Seriously, it feels like a 4th grader put this thing together. The interior materials are cheap plastic, the radio looks like it came off the discount bin at Best Buy, and there were exposed wires hanging from under the dash. Also an incredibly cheap plastic lever broke off in my hand when I went to take the top off. I wasn’t man-handling it (Really!) the plastic was just that cheap. Overall the interior feels like it will fall apart within the first 6 months of ownership. This is a $70K car. Really?

The ergonomics. I can take a few quirks, but a seat-back that is bolt-upright and has no rake adjustment? The steering wheel feels nice, but although it tilts and telescopes, it always blocks the top 1/4 of the gauges. This happens regardless of the driver’s size. There is literally no way to see the top of the gauges without slouching down—and I’m 5’8”. It gives you the impression that this part of the design was concocted at 4:30pm on a Friday, and they just said "itsa good enough!"

She’s a nervous Nelly. Although the 4C’s steering is accurate, it’s variable weighting feels unnatural. The light-weight and aggressive alignment tuning make for an extremely nervous ride on the highway. Wind blast from Semi-trucks push it around, and the Alfa darts, squirms and feints without provocation. This is a two-hands on the wheel car—at all times. Sometimes extremely low weight can be less than wonderful.

Tick, tick, tick. Although the 4C is fun, fast and incredibly agile, it also feels like it will explode and catch fire at any given time. The lack of attention to detail, and lousy materials employed give it a very fragile feel. I’d love one as a track-day car, but would I be able to get home?

I love that Alfa has returned to the U.S. I hate that this car still embodies the negative traits that drove them from our shores a few decades ago. I love the way it goes, stops and sounds, but I hate the dumb ergonomics and lousy build quality.

Love it, hate it, or both, this Alfa 4C Spider is never boring.

Tim Suddard Tim Suddard
Publisher

First, I want to commend Alfa Romeo for coming back into this country and producing a car so intense. It almost makes a hardcore car like the Miata look like a car for non enthusiasts. In our world, the Miata is about the most hardcore car offered. Alfa, with the 4C, decimates that reality with a car that is more race car than civilized street car.

We have always used the Lotus Elise as a benchmark for cars that are more track day toys than civilized cruisers. On the other hand, a Boxster S is a car that does pretty damned well at that same track day. But if the track day were in Seattle and you lived in Miami, it would be considered a bonus and not a penalty box to drive a Boxster that far.

The Alfa takes the idea of penalty box and turns it into life in prison. The steering is stiffer than my Edsel wagon with no power steering. The ride is worse than my Triumph TR3 race car. The build quality and ingress/egress are as bad or worse than our Factory Five 818 kit car. The Alfa is nervous on the street, darting constantly. The shifting is terribly crude and should be by manual transmission in a pure sports car such as this. Hats off to Alfa for getting 237 horsepower out of a 1750cc engine. Based on how quick the car is, I believe that figure to be accurate. There are smoother engines out there, though, with better sounding exhaust notes.

While the Alfa styling is modern, in your face and strangely attractive, it is certainly similar enough to the Lotus Elise to make the folks at Lotus see red and not British Racing Green.

Ergonomically the Alfa is flawed too. Ingress and egress are severely compromised. This you would expect from a small, pure sports car like this. You might even expect the seats to be so uncomfortable that you couldn’t drive an hour without wincing in pain. What you would not expect, is the ergonomics to be so badly implemented that you cannot see the gauges through the steering wheel in virtually any seating position. Even the radio and switch gear looks like it is from an eighties car. Man, they missed the interior on this car.

The over $71,000 price tag of our Alfa 4C test car is supposedly largely because of the hand-laid carbon fiber tub. Carbon fiber is a good thing. Check the curb weights, and you will see the Alfa weighs about the same, if not a little more than the new plain old steel ND Miata, which sells for 1/3 the price. This bothers me somehow.

I wanted to like this car and I certainly like the idea of this car. Assuming the build quality and reliability are up to modern standards—and you have the scratch—this would make one heck of a track car, if you had a truck and trailer to tow it to local events. If not, I would look at the new Miata or a used Lotus Elise, and wait for version 2.0 to come out from Alfa Romeo.

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Comments

View comments on the GRM forums
Woody
Woody MegaDork
8/7/15 3:47 p.m.

Every time I click the link in one of these Read the rest of the story threads, it just takes me back to the top of the page. Every time, on every one.

WonkoTheSane
WonkoTheSane HalfDork
8/7/15 3:50 p.m.

Me too, you have to hit the "View original review" text.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
8/7/15 3:50 p.m.

Yeah, it looks like that link is messed up. Go here instead:

https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/new-cars/2015-alfa-romeo-4c-spider/

Hungary Bill
Hungary Bill SuperDork
8/7/15 3:56 p.m.

I think a fourth opinion is needed. Please send the car to 4401....

NOHOME
NOHOME UberDork
8/7/15 4:39 p.m.

This paragraph was the money shot for me: Just how light is this car? I was expecting under 2000lb for sure. Here in Canukland the car would be over $100,000 by the time it hit the driveway.

"The over $71,000 price tag of our Alfa 4C test car is supposedly largely because of the hand-laid carbon fiber tub. Carbon fiber is a good thing. Check the curb weights, and you will see the Alfa weighs about the same, if not a little more than the new plain old steel ND Miata, which sells for 1/3 the price. This bothers me somehow."

Nick_Comstock
Nick_Comstock PowerDork
8/7/15 4:53 p.m.

Personally, I think an Elise is prettier. As much as I want to like it, I just find something awkward about the front and rear. It's no 8C.

I still would love to drive one just for the experience.

Sil80redtop
Sil80redtop Reader
8/7/15 5:45 p.m.

Aren't these mid-engine?

Kreb
Kreb UltraDork
8/7/15 5:49 p.m.

I suspect that these will be a little like the $8,000 titanium mountain bike that spends most of its time in the garage... The guys who can afford them will largely be a little afraid of them, and unhappy that the missus doesn't want to come along. Too bad because it's sex on wheels.

Raze
Raze UltraDork
8/7/15 6:39 p.m.

Yawn...pass the C7 Z06 please

racerdave600
racerdave600 SuperDork
8/7/15 7:13 p.m.

It's Italian, what did you expect? Seriously, that describes almost every Italian car I've owned, well, except for the really fast part.

clutchsmoke
clutchsmoke Dork
8/7/15 7:43 p.m.

I was afraid this is how the car would turn out. Stupid. Something about poor design really grinds my gears.

kazoospec
kazoospec Dork
8/7/15 7:55 p.m.

This is the only real relevance to me: Apparently, by the time this falls into my price range in, say, 2031, the interior will be a jumbled mess of broken plastic and loose wires.

BlueInGreen44
BlueInGreen44 HalfDork
8/7/15 9:05 p.m.

Sounds like fun

wearymicrobe
wearymicrobe UltraDork
8/7/15 10:22 p.m.
kazoospec wrote: This is the only real relevance to me: Apparently, by the time this falls into my price range in, say, 2031, the interior will be a jumbled mess of broken plastic and loose wires.

Its a alfa with a cruddy interior if it can get past the 3 year warranty without a major failure of the interior I would say they are getting better.

That price is laughable.

Flight Service
Flight Service MegaDork
8/7/15 10:53 p.m.

There is a guy at work that has one. It looks fantastic and sounds vicious.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
8/8/15 12:19 a.m.

This one was hard to write. I felt old, as I didn't get it. No one else in our office liked it either. I also talked to a good buddy who writes for Motortrend. They struggled with the car too.

CharlesE
CharlesE New Reader
8/8/15 6:13 a.m.

In reply to Tim Suddard:

Perhaps what you and the other reviewers are saying is that the minimum standard for a successful sports car is no longer a Triumph or Austin Healy with Lucas electrics, but more a Mazda Miata or a Corvette. Put another way, reliablility and comfort are as important to most users as a low 0 to 60 time.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
8/8/15 7:43 a.m.
Kreb wrote: I suspect that these will be a little like the $8,000 titanium mountain bike that spends most of its time in the garage... The guys who can afford them will largely be a little afraid of them, and unhappy that the missus doesn't want to come along. Too bad because it's sex on wheels.

Kinda sounds like the Elise when it first arrived here. Every one I saw at the track was tiptoeing around and the owners didn't seem particularly thrilled about running them hard.

ccrelan
ccrelan Reader
8/8/15 8:08 a.m.

Aren't these Alfas are being sold in very limited numbers? I don't get the niche car to vette/miata comparison here.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
8/8/15 9:07 a.m.

My TR6 is way more comfortable. I take 1000 mile tours with it all the time. Five minutes in the Alfa is all I could take.

alfadriver
alfadriver UltimaDork
8/8/15 9:20 a.m.
Tim Suddard wrote: My TR6 is way more comfortable. I take 1000 mile tours with it all the time. Five minutes in the Alfa is all I could take.

I found that part about this drive really curious. As an old Alfisti, I worry that they lost their history. On original springs, my GTV was very comfortable to drive, and still handled really well- like how the Elise was (but not that soft with amazing handling).

And even the homologated race cars- the GTA and such- were very comfortable.

A car like this is obviously brilliant when that stiff. But how stiff does one need to be so that it's still great and comfortable. It's almost as if they thought- "well, since this car is so hard to get in and out of, nobody is going to use it every day..."

That recent review of the Miata illustrated that.

But I also really appreciated the small note that a carbon fiber chassis car that is made to be high tech weighs as much as a steel Miata. That's great!

Mr_Clutch42
Mr_Clutch42 SuperDork
8/8/15 9:31 a.m.

In reply to Tim Suddard: I don't remember Motortrend saying that the interior is crappy in their video review.

chuckles
chuckles HalfDork
8/8/15 9:54 a.m.

Our local dealer says they are now to get the regular production cars (as opposed to the introductory model.) Base list is $54,900 but the next one they will get will have $12,000 of options. Like a $3500 leather package.

Swank Force One
Swank Force One MegaDork
8/8/15 10:01 a.m.

Don't care about any of it. Still want. Badly.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
8/8/15 10:57 a.m.
ccrelan wrote: Aren't these Alfas are being sold in very limited numbers? I don't get the niche car to vette/miata comparison here.

Just because it's niche doesn't mean it shouldn't compare well to other vehicles.

mblommel
mblommel HalfDork
8/8/15 6:13 p.m.

I really want one of these too, but based on what else is out there for the same price it's hard to justify it. A car like this would do well in the $35,000-$40,000 bracket. It needs to undercut the base Boxster and Corvette. I'm sure the CF tub isn't doing it any favors in the affordability department.

The local Fiat/Alfa dealer had a launch edition that I saw in person and it was beautiful. It was also $78,000.

brian6speed
brian6speed
8/9/15 6:22 a.m.

Alfa must not realize customers don't care about Carbon fiber tubs that make cars more expensive till you get to supercar category.

I'd never buy this car. Porsche Cayman for me.

Jerry
Jerry SuperDork
8/9/15 6:50 a.m.

I saw one, heavily guarded, at my dealer during the 16k service. Sticker including $2k markup "because they could" was around $76k. I remember the Top Gear review, and someone with one met us at the Tail of the Dragon meet for Fiat's. I would still be tempted, even at that price, if price wasn't a concern for me. (Like independently wealthy, brain surgeon, etc.)

Although if $ was no issue, I'd be looking at Porsche. If not Lamborghini...

alfadriver
alfadriver UltimaDork
8/9/15 7:40 a.m.
brian6speed wrote: Alfa must not realize customers don't care about Carbon fiber tubs that make cars more expensive till you get to supercar category. I'd never buy this car. Porsche Cayman for me.

This car isn't directed at "customers". It's directed to wealthy and slightly delusional Alfisti.

DrBoost
DrBoost UltimaDork
8/9/15 8:41 a.m.
kazoospec wrote: This is the only real relevance to me: Apparently, by the time this falls into my price range in, say, 2031, the interior will be a jumbled mess of broken plastic and loose wires.

So, on par with my MK IV Golf then.

chuckles
chuckles HalfDork
8/9/15 9:05 a.m.

I would love to have one but I don't have the wealth to go with the delusion. It's great-looking, technically interesting and delivers high performance (although there have been some gripes about the gearing.) And it's an Alfa. I am sorry to hear that driving it 300 miles to Hallett would be unbearable as it would almost have to be a lot of fun at a track day.

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt UberDork
8/10/15 11:53 a.m.

I like the idea of using a DIN radio - it makes upgrades and customizing a lot easier. They didn't do a great job of integrating it into the interior, though. Looks like they had been working on some weird proprietary shape, then realized it wouldn't be done in time for the production deadline and grabbed something off the shelf at the last minute.

Robbie
Robbie SuperDork
8/10/15 12:50 p.m.

soo, you guys are saying this thing is set to depreciate very quickly with fiddly broken interior bits and owners who hardly ever drove the things?

mblommel
mblommel HalfDork
8/10/15 3:40 p.m.

We can only hope....

Tactical Penguin
Tactical Penguin Dork
8/10/15 4:03 p.m.

In reply to rcutclif:

Ahh, a fellow optimist!

T.J.
T.J. UltimaDork
8/10/15 5:04 p.m.

Instead of looking like some slinky Italian supercar, this looks like the Chinese version of an Elise. I'd have to see one in person to know for sure, but from the pics, I like the looks of the Elise better. Sounds like an interesting car, but not a good value.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/10/15 9:20 p.m.
Flight Service wrote: There is a guy at work that has one. It looks fantastic and sounds vicious.

It does look fantastic and sound vicious. And then you drive it.

Shaun
Shaun HalfDork
8/12/15 11:58 a.m.

Interestingly enough (to me anyway, These three reviews by people that actuality track race prepared cars regularly are by far the most negative (..IIRC- the ONLY negative) set of reviews of the car I have read (or watched). I feel better about my old unassisted everything Civic!! 43% of the experience at 2% of the cost!

Jamey_from_Legal
Jamey_from_Legal Reader
8/12/15 1:27 p.m.

Too bad this didn't quite gel.

Anybody in that market might as well spend up $10k-ish and get the Cayman S.

I have spent a lot of time on the track this summer in groups where the "fast" cars are Cayman S, E92/F32 Ms, and C6-C7s. If the drivers are equally skilled, and the tires are all comparable, the Cayman S has the edge.

ultraclyde
ultraclyde UltraDork
8/12/15 1:38 p.m.

Hmmmm....a few thousand more than the Mustang GT350R, another niche car. I'll be interested to hear the comparison.

colinshark
colinshark New Reader
9/26/15 8:10 a.m.

The issues seem appropriate for what it is. Also, I think the issues will fall by the wayside as the decades pass. It will always be an entertaining vehicle.

I'd be in the market if I had the means.

skierd
skierd SuperDork
9/26/15 11:24 a.m.

The carbon fiber tub over steel should be obvious to anyone who's worked on or driven old Italian cars, or what's left of them. Can't rust if there's nothin to rust...

M3Loco
M3Loco Reader
9/26/15 11:35 a.m.

My Boss and I took one out for a spin throughout Austin. Courtesy of Fiat/Alfa of Austin a few weeks ago. It was an amazing little car. We each took turns on the highway and also the back roads/hills of Austin. The shifting was pretty nice, where you can either be on full auto mode, or manual when it senses that you are going to hit it hard. Steering was a little hard during normal driving. The exhaust notes are sweet.. Visibility very poor, but who looks back in these cars..

Do want!

Kia_Racer
Kia_Racer Dork
9/26/15 12:01 p.m.

First rule of Italian driving: What is behind you doesn't matter, it is too slow anyway.

Feedyurhed
Feedyurhed SuperDork
9/26/15 4:36 p.m.

Hmmmmmmmmm, beautiful but impossible to live with long term. Sounds like my last girlfriend. Now if it took all my money away, quite possible because it's italian, that would complete the picture.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
2/10/16 3:42 p.m.

Like the 4C? Centerline Alfa has posted a couple of videos up on our "Shop Talk" forum. They are worth a look:

https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/advertiser-playground/alfa-fans-look-inside-4c-videos-from-centerline-international/110360/page1/

93EXCivic
93EXCivic MegaDork
2/10/16 3:59 p.m.
Joe Gearin wrote: Like the 4C? Centerline Alfa has posted a couple of videos up on our "Shop Talk" forum. They are worth a look: https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/advertiser-playground/alfa-fans-look-inside-4c-videos-from-centerline-international/110360/page1/

I want one so badly. I can't think of a new car under $100k I'd have instead.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
2/10/16 4:09 p.m.

^^ I can understand your car lust. I have a love-hate thing going on with the 4C. The parts I love, I really love. The parts I hate.....well......I'd rather focus on the things I love!

93EXCivic
93EXCivic MegaDork
2/10/16 4:11 p.m.
Joe Gearin wrote: ^^ I can understand your car lust. I have a love-hate thing going on with the 4C. The parts I love, I really love. The parts I hate.....well......I'd rather focus on the things I love!

It is just so pretty. I can't think of anything that looks as good new that isn't a massively expensive supercar. So when it does go all Italian, it will still look good sitting in the driveway.

And it sounds perfect.

racerdave600
racerdave600 SuperDork
2/10/16 8:06 p.m.
Joe Gearin wrote: ^^ I can understand your car lust. I have a love-hate thing going on with the 4C. The parts I love, I really love. The parts I hate.....well......I'd rather focus on the things I love!

How is that different than any other Alfa...

mblommel
mblommel HalfDork
2/10/16 8:12 p.m.

I'm waiting for them to stop running and the depreciation to kick in.

Flight Service
Flight Service MegaDork
2/12/16 6:02 a.m.
David S. Wallens wrote:
Flight Service wrote: There is a guy at work that has one. It looks fantastic and sounds vicious.

It does look fantastic and sound vicious. And then you drive it.

I went on a date with Miss Teen Tn once. Just once. I imagine it would be something like that, so I just admire from a distance.

wearymicrobe
wearymicrobe UltraDork
2/26/16 4:55 p.m.

Actually got to sit in a production model today. I really like the car. Enought that I would actually spend my own money on one if you could get one with leather for say 55K. At 68K for a mildly loaded car they can pound sand.

Dealership is actually open to a discount on the car though ~2-3K given that they are 2015 leftovers.

racerdave600
racerdave600 SuperDork
2/26/16 5:51 p.m.
Flight Service wrote:
David S. Wallens wrote:
Flight Service wrote: There is a guy at work that has one. It looks fantastic and sounds vicious.

It does look fantastic and sound vicious. And then you drive it.

I went on a date with Miss Teen Tn once. Just once. I imagine it would be something like that, so I just admire from a distance.

I had a similar experience. In college there was this girl that everyone wanted to go out with. I went up, asked her out. So the night came, we went to dinner, and it didn't take long to figure out why she never seemed to date anyone. I dumped her back at home before 9:00 and went back out. I had an Alfa in college, it wasn't as bad as her....

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