Long-Term

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider – Lapping Laguna

Miles to Date: 4,679

Long-Term 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Update: Fall 2015 ( 1 of 5 ) Miles to date: 4,679

We pull out of the pits and onto Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, knowing full well the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider won’t stay under the track’s 92-decibel limit. No chance. We short shift and ease off the accelerator as we kink left through Turn 5 and climb toward the building where a lone sound tester is monitoring our noise levels. But it doesn’t take long for the 4C Spider to wear down our already weak resolve. Soon we’re staying flat-out through there, the obnoxious exhaust screaming “suck it” as we blow by.
Editor-in-chief Mike Floyd, daily news editor Jake Holmes, and yours truly left Los Angeles for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas, California, just hours after our all-new 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider arrived at the office. The generous folks at Mazda offered us a track day, and we didn’t hesitate to make the six-hour trip north. We pull into a completely empty Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Seriously, no flaggers, no corner workers, no security. Just us, the 4C Spider, and 2.238-miles of beautifully maintained pavement snaking through the sandy hills. Heaven. Chummy groundskeeper Gary stops by to say hi, remarks that we have trustworthy faces (oh Gary, if you only knew), and leaves us to it.

Floyd, who’s never driven in anger around Laguna, is eager to give it a go and gets in the Alfa first. He pushes the drive selector in the car to “Dynamic” mode, then holds the drive selector toggle until the dials in the Alfa’s LCD gauge cluster turn yellow and the car enters “race” mode. He puts his left foot on the brake, his right foot floors the accelerator, and the engine spins up and holds steady around 5,000 rpm. Floyd takes his left foot off the brake, and the Alfa’s launch control system slingshots the car forward and out onto the track.
Floyd turns a baker’s dozen laps before pulling back into the pits. When he gets out, Holmes and I ask him how the Alfa felt. His response: “This car is a track toy, pure and simple. It takes a couple of laps before you’re comfortable with the WWE-style steering wheel wrestling match and stomping on the rock hard brake pedal later and later into corners, but once you’re acclimated to the 4C’s character, look out.
“In race mode you’re in full control of the gear shifts. It’ll bounce on the rev limiter if you let it. It will also rock out with its tail out if you want, and it has just enough power to get you into trouble if you’re not careful. As the laps roll by you feel more and more in command. I never wanted to get out.”

Holmes is up next. “This is the only car I’ve had on a track that I’m comfortable driving into a corner when it’s rotating a bit,” he says. “I feel every bit of motion as the car moves and adjusts, and it’s forgiving if I adjust throttle or steering a bit in the middle of a turn.” He loves the unassisted steering, which takes a lot of muscling on the street but is perfectly tuned for the track, as well as the quick-shifting dual-clutch transaxle and the strong brakes that are extremely easy to modulate, even when slowing down from insanely high speeds. “Oh, and I like that the digital tachometer turns yellow near redline,” says Holmes. “The top of the steering wheel blocks much of it from my view, so I need that obvious visual indicator.”
Then I get my shot at the 4C Spider. What can I say but bless you, carbon-fiber monocoque-constructed cars. Your ability to lose your roof without losing any discernible rigidity or having to employ heavy stiffeners and braces is uncanny. I can tell you straight away that the Spider drives just as well as the coupe. It’s actually better because with the top off you get unfiltered exhaust and cool wind rushing through and bouncing around the bare-bones cockpit. (If you don’t rent a track for a day, though, a lot of places probably won’t let you run a soft-top car without proper safety equipment.)


I’m on the backside of the track, coming up to the Corkscrew, the infamous corner where you turn left then quickly pitch right as you drive down a steep hill. The brakes have a lot of bite, even after being hammered on by my hooligan colleagues and the car slows from just over 100 mph to right around 60 mph in no time. The steering wheel fights back a little as the car clips the apex at the top of the Corkscrew. As I coax the Alfa to rotate right, the steering goes from heavy to super-light when the suspension unloads and the Alfa starts its quick descent down the hill. It absolutely and effortlessly makes this complex corner its bitch. I can’t recall a car that feels more confident on a road course. (A few days later, back at the office, I checked my lap times and figured my best lap took 1:52. Not horrible, considering professional racing driver Randy Pobst’s best lap around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in an Alfa Romeo 4C coupe took 1:44.)
The Alfa is in third gear, going more than 90 mph, when I feather the throttle and slide through Turn 5. I put the outside wheels onto the blue-and-white curbing before flattening the accelerator for the uphill climb. I look right, see the sound-testing shack, and stab the brakes. I say to myself: “The rabbit done died. I’ve smashed through the sound limit, and we’re getting the boot.” But then I realize I’ve done seven or eight laps at full speed, Floyd and Holmes haven’t exactly been taking it easy, and no one’s said anything yet. Maybe the Alfa isn’t breaking the sound limit after all. Or maybe, and more likely, the lonely noise-measuring soul is sitting on their hands, enjoying the sights and sounds as much as we have been. Want to enjoy them for yourself? Check out the video below.

Overview

  • Body style 2-door mid-engine rear-wheel-drive convertible
  • Accommodation 2-passenger
  • Construction Carbon-fiber monocoque w/aluminum front and rear cell structures
  • Base price (with dest.) $65,495
  • As tested $73,395

Powertrain

  • Engine 16-valve DOHC turbocharged I-4
  • Displacement 1.7 liters (106 cu in)
  • Power 237 hp @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque 258 lb-ft @ 2,200-4,250 rpm
  • Transmission 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
  • Drive Rear-wheel
  • EPA Fuel Economy 24/34/28 (city/hwy/combined)

Chassis

  • Steering Unassisted
  • Lock-to-lock 2.7 turns
  • Turning circle 40.5 ft
  • Suspension, Front Control arms, coil springs
  • Suspension, Rear Strut-type, coil springs
  • Brakes F/R Vented discs
  • Wheels 17- and 18-inch aluminum
  • Tires Pirelli P Zero
  • Tire size 205/45R-17 88Y, 235/40R-18 95Y

Measurements

  • Headroom 38.0 in
  • Legroom 42.7 in
  • Shoulder room 49.8 in
  • Wheelbase 93.7 in
  • Track F/R 64.5/63.1 in
  • L x W x H 157.5 x 73.5 x 46.6 in
  • Cargo capacity 3.7 cu ft
  • Weight 2487 lb
  • Weight dist. F/R 41/59%
  • Fuel capacity 10.6 gal
  • Est. fuel range 300 miles
  • Fuel grade 91 octane (premium)

Equipment

  • standard equipment

    • Sheet molding compound composite body panels
    • Anodized rear skid plate
    • Variable intermittent single-blade windshield wiper
    • Removable and trunk-stowable soft-top roof
    • Halogen headlights
    • LED daytime running headlights and taillights
    • Air conditioning
    • Aluminum interior trim
    • Embroidered floor mats
    • USB port
    • Auxiliary audio jack
    • 12-volt outlet
    • 7-inch TFT display
    • ALPINE radio w/ Bluetooth/CD/MP3/AUX connectivity
    • Lat-g, boost, and oil-pressure monitoring systems
    • 4-speaker audio system
    • Remote keyless entry
    • Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity
    • Black leather-trimmed bucket seats w/read stitching, carbon-fiber and fiberglass shells
    • Flat-bottom steering wheel w/paddle shifters
    • Dynamic, all-weather, natural, and race driving modes
    • Brembo front brakes w/4-piston gray calipers and drilled rotors
    • TRW rear brakes w/gray calipers and drilled rotors
    • Dual exhaust
    • Engine oil cooling system
    • Sport-tuned suspension
    • Launch control system
    • Hill-start assist

Options

  • options for this vehicle:

    • Convenience package- $1,800
    • Cruise control
    • Rear parking assist
    • Premium audio system
    • Alarm
    • Bi-xenon headlights- $1,000
    • Yellow (giallo prototipo) paint- $1500
    • 18- and 19-inch Dark gray aluminum wheels- $1500
    • Racing exhaust- $500
    • Carbon fiber cluster bezel – $300
    • Yellow brake calipers-$500