The 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C wants to prove a point. And the more you stare at the compact, mid-engine Italian sports car, its massive side air intakes giving it a muscular stance, the more the temptation to take it up on the offer grows. Drawing on more than 100 years of Italian heritage, the new handcrafted Alfa Romeo is a study in how to load the appeal of a supercar into a smaller, tighter vehicle. Who could resist?

Our first drive behind the wheel of a 4C was in a coupe at Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds in Michigan, where we were schooled on the car’s agility. But it wasn’t until we were handed the keys to a 4C Spider in southern California that we got a feel for its full capabilities, ripping through winding canyon roads in the convertible.

The raw performance of Alfa Romeo’s racing legacy has been kept intact while augmented by high-tech features including an advanced turbocharged engine, a carbon-fiber chassis and a twin-clutch transmission. The 4C (rated at 237 horsepower) can be temperamental on short city commutes. It’s also loud and aggressive for its size, which makes it a tough buy for an everyday driver. Even the steering requires more muscle at lower speeds due to its manual system. But everything comes together with amazing precision when the 4C is pushed. Switch to the manual paddle-shifters and select race mode—one of the car’s four touch-mode driving dynamics—and the 4C makes a powerful argument.

Much of the 4C’s performance styling has been carried over to the cockpit, a bare-bones affair with few luxuries aside from the standard accent stitching. Our Spider was equipped with the lineup’s new Alpine audio system with Bluetooth capabilities, which makes it a little more driver-friendly than a race car.

With a price tag of nearly $75,000 fully loaded, the 4C Spider is about as practical as a three-piece wool suit at a summer pool party. Still, it’s so much fun to drive—and that’s the point.

Engine: Turbocharged in-line four-cylinder | Horsepower: 237
Torque: 258 lb.-ft. | Zero to 60: 4.1 sec.
MPG: 24 city/34 hwy.| Price: $63,900 base