2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider First Drive

At Laguna Seca, mistakes aren't forgiven easily. The benchmark track for enthusiasts has fistfuls of passages that give new meaning to the idea of a "technical" course.

No worries: we're behind the wheel of the roof-less version of the car we named Motor Authority’s Best Car To Buy 2015—the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider.

Alfa Romeo has launched this open-top version of the brilliant, highly-focused 4C sports car to keep interest stirring in the brand, which is set for a revival in the U.S. over the next few years. Next up: a sedan next to join the lineup later this year.

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But for now, it's just us, the clear sky above, our current car crush, and a green flag.

Hard or soft top?

Right off, we'll tell you that choosing between 4C coupe and Spider is mostly personal preference. There's no difference in driving dynamics. Construction is identical, with no modifications needed to stiffen the Spider.

The 4C takes styling cues from the fabulous 1967 Tipo 33 Stradale, as well as philosophical cues: state of the art technology, incredible performance, Italian design and style.

More important are the aesthetics: The 4C coupe has the purer shape, with its fastback profile and see-through engine cover. The Spider offers open-top motoring, with a little fabric top that can be pried loose in a few minutes and stowed in the trunk. I'd spring for the optional removable hardtop for appearance and security.

Spec series

In case you've forgotten, the 4C is fabricated around a 236-pound carbon fiber tub, which is three times stronger and seven times lighter than steel, with aluminum subframes affixed front and rear. Sheet-molded compound composite body panels in a choice of 17 colors surround the mid-engine sports car. Among production cars, only the LaFerrari, Aventador, McLaren 650S, and Porsche 918 Spyder are built like that, and their MSRPs are just a bit farther north.

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The displacement of the 4C's all-aluminum 1,750 cc engine recalls the fantastic 1929 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Super Sport, today worth seven figures, if you can get one. On the Alfa Romeo 4C, the 1.8-liter four-cylinder is blown at 21.75 psi by an intercooled turbocharger to develop 237 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm. That's enough to propel the 2,500-pound 4C from zero to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds with a top speed of 160 mph, according to Alfa Romeo.

Braking from 60-0 mph takes less than 100 feet, aided by big Brembos up front, and I detected no brake fade at Laguna Seca. A 4C can pull 1.1 g around corners, once again according to Alfa Romeo’s own stats.

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