If your budget is $60,000 or so, there are a lot of highly desirable sports cars to choose from, but how many of them are Italian? If you answered zero, you're off by one because you left out the all-new, alluring 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C.
We've been anxious to drive the 4C ever since Alfa announced that it would be sold in the U.S. The exotic looks alone make it an object of desire, but with turbocharged power and a featherweight chassis, it promises exotic performance, too. We put a 4C through its paces to see what Alfa's latest is all about.
Less Weight, Great Feel
Weighing in at just over 2,300 pounds, the 4C is one of the lightest sports cars on the market. For perspective, the Chevrolet Corvette weighs about 1,000 pounds more, and it's considered pretty light for this segment. It's a lot easier to get the Alfa up to speed -- it's like a go-kart compared to most of its rivals. And thanks to the 237-horsepower turbo engine with 258 lb-ft of torque, the 4C has some serious power.
The 4C's 1.75-liter 4-cylinder powerplant will push the 4C to 60 miles per hour in the mid-4-second range, according to internal estimates, so those 237 horses go a long way. Another factor is the 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, aka TCT, which is always on time with quick, positive shifts. Numbers aside, the 4C packs a profound midrange punch if you keep your foot on it, as any passing or merging maneuver should verify. Don't miss the optional sport exhaust and its rowdy soundtrack, by the way -- you may not want one on your own 4C, but it's good fun on the test drive.
The 4C certainly looks the part of a race car, and Alfa has made sure that it drives like one, too. Lateral acceleration is projected to exceed 1.1 G, an astounding number for a reasonably attainable sports car (and about 10 percent better than the aforementioned Corvette). The staggered-width tires get part of the credit, of course, but so does the mid-engine layout, which improves balance and traction by relocating the engine to a compartment behind the two seats. We also admire the quick and precise responses from the flat-bottom steering wheel, and if there's any body roll to speak of, we didn't notice it.
Naturally, there are some trade-offs for such supreme athleticism. Even the standard suspension rides quite firmly, while the available race-tuned setup is sterner still. The ride isn't exactly quiet, either. With the engine behind your head, rearward visibility takes a big hit. The 4C is a great tool for the track or your favorite winding road, but it's just a bit out of its element as a long-distance grand tourer.
High-tech yet No-nonsense Interior
Once you manage to fall across the broad carbon-fiber-trimmed doorsill and into the 4C's deeply contoured driver's seat, you'll likely notice the 7-inch thin-film-transistor gauge cluster first. Instead of traditional gauges, the 4C uses a graphical interface for all vehicle information, which adds a touch of high-tech class without compromising functionality. The selected D.N.A. drive mode -- Dynamic, Natural, All-Weather or Race -- is displayed at the bottom of the screen and is controlled by a rocker switch on the lower center console. Just ahead of that switch is a push-button transmission interface that lets you toggle between automatic and manual modes.
The rest of the interior, however, is decidedly basic, with three simple climate-control knobs and a general lack of luxurious amenities. Storage is highly limited: The would-be front trunk is sealed shut, and out back, the engine placement limits available cargo space to a paltry 3.7 cu ft., or about the size of a large duffel bag.
Overall, the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C is an impressive effort, and we're amazed that the starting price is in the neighborhood of $55,000; this could easily be a 6-figure car given its looks and performance. Just don't expect it to be an all-in-one solution like the Corvette. The 4C is an unabashedly race-optimized machine, and if you're looking for one of those, Alfa's first American-sold car in decades just might be in a class of one.