December 6, 2023


Automotive pure lust

2020 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider 33 Stradale Tributo

It doesn’t have power steering, there’s barely any sound deadening, and the turbocharged engine roars like Earth, Wind & Fire. Not just the epic R&B, soul, funk, jazz, disco, pop, dance, Latin, and Afro-pop band but those combined mighty elements of the universe, too. It’s raw and direct and all the things those of us addicted to cars are supposed to love. Not that very many of us spent actual money to buy it. And now the Alfa Romeo 4C has gone out in a blaze of red carbon fiber and Rosso Villa d’Este tri-coat paint.

The 4C has been on sale since 2014, so it’s not like you didn’t have a chance to buy one. But you didn’t buy one, did you? You can’t have one of these final 4C Spider 33 Stradale Tributo models, either. All 33 for North America have already been sold. Considering the 4C’s microscopic sales through the years, that these last ones have been snapped up immediately is surprising, too.

To those of us with taste, a sense of history, and the courage of our convictions, Alfa Romeo’s original 33 Stradale is the most beautiful four-wheeled vehicle ever conceived. There isn’t a straight edge on it, the glass itself swoops and swirls improbably, and it was powered by a 2.0-liter V-8 that made sounds Verdi would have included in La Traviata had he been around to hear them. There’s some 33 Stradale in the appearance and appeal of the 4C, but only some. The Tributo adds sugar to the 4C in the form of gorgeous red carbon fiber that envelops the cockpit like a continuous ribbon of cherry Jolly Rancher candy. The Tipo 33 was beautiful in shape and form. The 4C 33 Stradale Tributo is gorgeous in detail and finish.

With that in mind, this still isn’t a civilized everyday two-seater. It’s tiny, there’s barely any storage space, and the carbon-fiber structure transmits every mechanical vibration straight into the driver’s body. If there’s any sound insulation aboard, it has surrendered to the inevitable racket. Seeing forward is fine. Seeing out the back? That’s a tiny window and a tall rump. There’s no giant navigation screen, no radar monitoring the enormous blind spots, and it would be criminally difficult to get into and out of with the top attached. It’s a real sports car, not just in the tradition of Alfa Romeo but in old mid-engine Italian machines like the ragged Fiat X1/9, heartbreaking Lancia Scorpion, and the stuff cobbled together by Milanese high-school shop classes. And yet, despite such frustrations, it’s lovable.

The turbocharged 1.7-liter engine isn’t some lugging lump pulled out of a SUV; it’s a nervy and sometimes nervous tweaker—without the dental damage that comes with meth abuse. There’s little in the way of low-end torque, but when the turbo joins in (apparently randomly), the road becomes a party path. The manual steering needs some effort but responds instantly. It takes concentration to keep the engine boiling, and the brakes engage with the subtlety of John Gotti out for revenge. It rides so low that, from the driver’s seat, a Mazda CX-5 looks like a mining truck. And all of that completely engages the driver’s senses and mind. So much fun.

It’s the sheer quickness with which everything happens that’s so amusing. The dual-clutch six-speed transmission’s shifts are hardly subtle, but they are instantaneous. Immediacy is a talent too few vehicles offer today. The 4C sacrifices all civility in exchange for it. It sucks for commuting, it should never be allowed within a mile of a Costco, and you’re better off keeping the kids blissfully ignorant rather than hauling them to school in this thing.

Although the 4C Spider is lightweight—the last one we tested back in 2015 weighed in at 2504 pounds—there’s 237 horsepower available. So it’s quick, with a zero-to-60-mph time that should play out to 4.1 seconds, but not daunting or intimidating.

The $81,590 4C Spider 33 Stradale Tributo is the best 4C yet. And it’s exactly the car so many of us say we want but never buy—even if you could actually buy one. It’s a kick-ass car, and the ass it kicks, for good and ill, is the driver’s.



2020 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider 33 Stradale Tributo

Vehicle Type: mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door convertible




turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, port and direct fuel injection

Displacement: 106 in3, 1742 cm3

Power: 237 hp @ 6000 rpm

Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 2200 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch automatic


Wheelbase: 93.7 in

Length: 157.0 in

Width: 73.5 in

Height: 46.7 in

Passenger Volume: 47 ft3

Cargo Volume: 4 ft3

Curb Weight (C/D est): 2500 lb


60 mph: 4.1 sec

100 mph: 11.0 sec

1/4-Mile: 12.8 sec

Top Speed (mfr’s claim): 160 mph


Combined/City/Highway: 28/24/34 mpg

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