Culture / Cars

An Italian Supercar Takes on Ferrari & McLaren for a Fraction of the Price

Speed Doesn’t Pay?

BY Jim Shi // 08.18.16

Simply put, the Alfa Romeo 4C is fabulous.

Heart-pounding, emotional, gorgeous, and athletic are other adjectives that come to mind, but I digress. The raw simplicity of this car is simply unmatched: It is first and foremost a driver’s car, and a damn good one at that. Since its debut, in 2014, there have been a number of updates for the current model year — including an exciting new Akrapovic dual-mode titanium exhaust — but we’ll go into that in a separate story on the Spider. Thankfully, none of those changes mess with the lively two-seater’s inherent enthusiast-centric nature.

Alfa, the Italian carmaker that is now part of Fiat Chrysler, introduced the 4C in the United States after a nearly 20-year absence on these shores.

As I learned with my week spent with the coupe, it takes some initial effort and patience to make friends with the Alfa — but, then again, supermodels aren’t necessarily known for their docile demeanors. But on corners and the open road, with its turbocharged engine hissing away just behind the driver’s seat, driving enthusiasts will discover it’s all worth it.

One thing you — and all your neighbors … and most of your block — will instantly note is its sound. It’s so loud you’ll barely hear the sound system — and that is just fine. Sure, the ride is as harsh as ever (don’t even attempt to drink your iced skim latte while driving). Sure, its manual steering requires substantial arm strength at low speed (go ahead, quit the gym). And you must bend and fold yourself to get into the cramped cabin (a supercar-must). But nevermind the details. The 4C is one of the greatest sports cars of all time, an astoundingly fun and raucous machine.

Seated just inches off the ground, the road feel and steering feedback are much like a Formula One car. Steering response is lightning fast (reminder: it is entirely unassisted). Without power-assist, though, parking the snug critter and taking it through slow turns can warrant some prescient planning.

Holiday Gifting

  • Bond No 9 - Perfume
  • Oscar De La Renta - Clutch
  • Elaine Turner - GiGi Flats
  • Elaine Turner - Felicia Stole in Magenta
  • Loeffler Randall - Shoes
  • Cle Du Peau - Lip Gloss
  • Oscar De La Renta - Earrings
  • Museum of Fine Arts Houston
  • Mariquite Masterson
  • Wayne Smith
  • Wayne Smith
  • Loeffler Randall - Clutch
  • Mariquite Masterson
  • Cle Du Peau - Nail Polish
  • Asher Gallery
  • Cotton Club
  • Bond No 9 - Candle
  • Cotton Club

To the dismay of some, there is still no manual transmission available. But shifts are far faster with the six-speed, dual-clutch automated manual transmission — a potent 130 milliseconds at full throttle. And there are razor-sharp paddle shifters behind the substantial flat-bottomed wheel.

Beyond its performance, the 4C is one of those cars that is guaranteed to turn heads everywhere it goes as it competes with the likes of McLaren and Ferrari — at a fraction of the price. With its flared front fenders, swept-back headlights and air scoops on the sides, not to mention some of the most devastatingly beautiful rims I’ve ever seen, the 4C is one of the most stylish sports cars on the planet — at any price. From Malibu to East Hampton, this is the car you want in the driveway of your beach house.

So the Alfa is not best suited for everyday driving (though combined mileage stands at an impressive 28 mpg), but it is eager and built for Sunday track days. Under the rear deck sits a 1.7-liter turbocharged engine that produces 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

That may not sound like much in the world of muscle cars, but there’s plenty of low-end kick for a good takeoff, and it sounds cool as the turbo sucks in air and hisses between shifts. Getting the rear-wheeled Alfa to 60 mph takes just 4.2 seconds; top speed is rated at 160 mph. Yeah, it’s a small engine, but the whole car, with its aluminum frame and composite plastic panels, weighs a mere 2,500 pounds.

The Alfa offers its biggest thrills on corners, which are taken nearly as flat as the straightaways. The 4C rides on bigger wheels in the rear: 19 inches, 18 inches up front for better grip and handling. Stability comes via a double-wishbone setup in the front and MacPherson struts in the rear. Stopping comes quickly and sharply with a Brembo brake package.

A tight cockpit
A tight cockpit

Inside the carbon fiber bucket of an interior, everything is cozy (or cramped, depending on your outlook on life). While oodles of exposed carbon fiber abound (be still, my heart!), storage space is nearly non-existent, there is no room to even rest your arm, and the instrument panel and dash are sparse, to say the least. Cargo space is, well, sparing, at 3.7 cubic feet — and with that engine right behind your head, careful what you put back there.

What you choose to do with your 4C is your choice; either way, we highly recommend doing it with the optional Track package, which adds more carbon fiber, louder sport exhaust, and a track-tuned suspension.

Sure, the 4C requires the sacrifice of some creature comforts we’ve come to take for granted … and it’s loud and rough. But for driving purists, you simply cannot get more bang for your buck. We dare you.

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