Alfa Romeo has slowly but surely become a shadow of its former self after Fiat took over the helm in 1986, but the little Italian carmaker that could is planning a return to its past glory. The first step was a relaunch of the Alfa Romeo brand in the U.S. - currently with just one model, the sexy little 4C. Since the 4C coupe was more than once pitted against the Porsche Cayman, the newly unveiled 4C Spider can only go against the Cayman’s open-top brother, the Boxster.

Both the 4C Spider and the Boxster are mid-engine, lightweight, and have similar specifications, with the higher power of the Porsche being compensated for by the lower weight of the Alfa. But they are still very different, so I decided to see which of the two would come on top when their features are examined closely.

Continue reading to learn which model we like better: the Alfa Romeo 4C Spyder or the Porsche Boxster.

Exterior

2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider High Resolution Exterior
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An odd statement referring to the Detroit Auto Show at the end of an otherwise ignorable blog post from FCA leads us to believe that the production 4C Spyder will debut in Detroit.

Athough the Alfa 4C Spider is so new that it hasn’t even reached showrooms yet, its design language is almost identical to the 4C Coupe, so besides the removable roof there aren’t many surprises. The front end is dominated by the trademarked Alfa grille, with the V-shaped opening splitting the large air intake. Unlike the 4C Coupe, the Spider has regular-looking headlights instead of the controversial, multi-bulb option. On the sides, the biggest fashion statement is the funky air inlets behind the doors, while the rear is largely identical to the 4C Coupe. The pair of round LED taillights make it look like a small Ferrari from some angles, but the model’s lineage is clearly evident thanks to the Alfa Romeo badge on the engine cover. The high shoulders also hark back to a Lotus Elise, but the overall design cannot be mistaken for anything but an Alfa Romeo.

2013 - 2015 Porsche Boxster High Resolution Exterior
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Now in its third generation, the Porsche Boxster is far from showing its age, even though the current generation is heading toward its mid-cycle facelift. The front end is typically Porsche, with a low hood, bug-eye headlights and an air intake on each side, although it differs substantially from a 911. The much-larger size compared to an Alfa 4C Spider becomes evident from the side, with the Boxster exhibiting longer front and rear overhangs. Unlike the 4C, there is no B-pillar, while the side air intakes behind the doors are much larger and sit lower on the body. The rear end is more bulbous and streamlined at the same time, with the horizontal character line that unites the taillights hiding a retractable rear wing. Looks are subjective, but to me they’re both winners in that department.

Interior

2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider High Resolution Interior
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Unfortunately, despite wearing a similar price tag, the 4C Spider’s interior leaves something to be desired in terms of materials compared with the Porsche. The driver-oriented center console only features the basics and is largely made from black plastic. There are some exposed carbon fiber bits from the monocoque tub though, and some parts of the dashboard are engulfed in leather, color-coded with the seats. The instrument panel is identical to the one from the 4C Coupe, meaning that the classic dials have been replaced by a TFT screen. The overall atmosphere is much cozier — if not claustrophobic — than in the Boxster, mostly because of the wide B-pillars and less interior room.

2013 - 2015 Porsche Boxster Interior
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In response to owner feedback from the first two generations, Porsche made the Boxster’s cockpit more airy, while most of the materials used are of higher quality in terms of both looks and feel. And keep in mind that Porsche offers a long list of customization options. Among them are different types of leather and inserts, with Porsche Exclusive even giving you the option of covering the air vent slats in leather. The dashboard’s design is derived from those of the rest of the Porsche lineup, with most of the control buttons on the center console. Unlike the 4C Spider, whose interior is free of any gear lever, the one in the Boxster can either control a six-speed manual or a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission. Overall, it’s very close, depending on personal taste, but I think that the Boxster’s interior is better that the Alfa’s.

Drivetrain

2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider High Resolution Exterior
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Built around a carbon-fiber tub and sporting a hybrid aluminum rear frame, the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider weighs less than the steel-and-aluminum Boxster, although the U.S. version has gained a few pounds compared to the European one. Even so, the only other mid-engine sports car that comes close in terms of weight is the Lotus Elise. Unlike the 4C Coupe, the Spider has weight-optimized windshield and side windows, with the model’s U.S. version gaining just 22 pounds over its hardtop brother. The model is powered by a turbocharged, 1.75-liter, four-cylinder engine that is paired exclusively with a six-speed, dual-clutch transmission.

2013 - 2015 Porsche Boxster High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Just like its two predecessors, the Porsche Boxster is equipped exclusively with flat-six engines that have various outputs and displacement. The base model, which is the closest in pricing with the 4C Spider, is powered by a 2.7-liter, flat-six that is pared as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is optional, as are the more powerful engines in case you opt for a Boxster S or GTS version. Unlike the Alfa, the Porsche can be fitted with a number of fancy features, such as active transmission mounts or a torque-vectoring system, while the optional dual-clutch gearbox features wet clutches instead of dry ones. On the whole, apart from the increased weight, the Boxster wins in just about every area in terms of drivetrain.

Performance

2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider High Resolution Exterior
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Thanks to the carbon-fiber tub and extensive use of aluminum, not to mention fewer available comfort features, the 4C Spider weighs 2,465 pounds, which gives it better agility and acceleration than the Boxster. The Spider’s turbocharged, 1.75-liter four-cylinder only develops 240 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, but that is enough for a 0-60 mph time of 4.1 seconds and a top speed of 160 mph.

2013 - 2015 Porsche Boxster High Resolution Exterior
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The standard Porsche Boxster is powered by a 2.7-liter flat-six with 265 horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque. Since its chassis is constructed mainly from high-strength steel and aluminum, the Boxster weighs in at 2,888 pounds with the six-speed manual and 2,954 pounds with the heavier but more-efficient seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission. With the manual, it hits 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and goes to a top speed of 164 mph, while the dual-clutch transmission helps it hit 60 mph in 5.2 seconds with launch control and go to a top speed of 162 mph. In other words, the Boxster has a slightly higher top speed than the 4C Spider, but the Alfa Romeo simply trounces its German rival in terms of acceleration.

Prices

Although official pricing for the 4C Spider has yet to be announced, the coupe starts at $55,195. Expect the open-top to be priced closer to $60,000, making it more expensive than the Boxster.

The least-expensive Boxster starts at $52,395, making it even less expensive than the Alfa 4C Coupe, nevermind the Spider. But the long list of options can easily send it toward the $100,000 mark if you’re not careful.

Conclusion

2013 - 2015 Porsche Boxster High Resolution Exterior
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Obviously, many of these points are subjective, but on paper it looks like the Porsche Boxster has the upper hand over the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. That conclusion can be had just by looking at the popularity of the two models, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the Alfa comes off as a loser from this comparison. There are different strokes for different folks, which is why the lightweight body and slightly more nimble driving character of the 4C Spider may find its own niche of buyers.

What do you think?
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