December 2016 Driver's Notebook 2

Italian Red Sleigh

Some cars weren’t meant to be tamed. They were built for the open road, the winding countryside, and the road less traveled. Such is the case with the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. While you may be tempted to show her off, with her eye-catching looks and wicked exhaust sound, don’t let the one cup holder fool you…this ain’t no city girl.

In fact, if your ego were to convince you that driving the 4C Spider as a daily driver was a good idea, you would be destined to entomb yourself in the prettiest coffin money can buy. At 46.6 inches in height, the 4C is one of the smallest nonrace cars I’ve ever driven. And while its low center of gravity and carbon fiber tub make it perfect for the race track, the small stature makes it impossible to drive on the busy streets of Dallas, Texas.

Within a time span of four days, I can count at least a dozen close calls in this petite beauty. While on the Dallas North Tollway, I was traveling in the middle lane when two vehicles, one in the passing lane and one in the slow lane, each started creeping their way into the middle lane. Before I became the meat between a Texas truck sandwich, I peddled the tiny torpedo and listened to the turbo spool as I escaped certain peril. I hoped the loud exhaust note would notify drivers of my presence, but “Billies” as the Brits call them, aren’t the most attentive, especially when you sit feet below their line of sight.

Even with risking life and limb, this car gives you something to smile about. To give you an idea of this car’s speed, the 4C completed the Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit in 8 minutes and 4 seconds. This breathtaking performance was best in class for cars with similar horsepower. At 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, combined with the light weight chassis, this car delivers the type of abrupt acceleration usually reserved for race cars. Not surprising, Alfa Romeo has a long history in motorsports. The company first entered the world of racing in 1911 and built its first race car 2 years later. Since then, Alfa Romeo has competed in sports car racing, Indy Car, Formula One, and Rally racing as an engine supplier or constructor. While the brand may not be as famous as its Italian cousins, Alfa Romeo certainly made their mark on motorsports and an impression on the modern American sports car market.

However, someone might want to inform our friends in Italy, that the average American male will have a tough time fitting in the 4C. At 5 feet 2 inches, the 4C fit me like a glove. Those taller and wider, will find the narrow seats challenging. As a standard feature, the 4C has “unassisted” steering; in other words, power steering is an option. I found the steering to be a bit heavy, especially when parking, but then again, she’s not meant to be your commuter car. If you plan on taking the 4C for grocery runs, I’m sorry to inform you that your bread and milk will end up on your lap, because this car has no boot or “trunk”, as we say in America. The throttle pedal will feel sensitive to the untrained foot while the Brembo brakes have a lot of bite. This car has all the features I look for in a sports car: incredible acceleration, fantastic brakes, and good looks to make the boys jealous. Just remember, horses can’t gallop in a city; it’s best to give the 4C Spider room to play.