"Like a scalpel, the Alfa is sharp and does the job for which it was built. But, equally like the medical implement, the 4C isn't comfortable with an extremely limited intended audience. This is not a Porsche."
Spicy Italian: 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C
Alfa Romeo gives us everything we want and nothing we donít
By Mark Stevenson - Apr 9, 2015
As I stood on the makeshift slalom course comprised of unmolested cones and fresh pavement, my fellow automotive journalists were eyeing each other up.
Before us at Chryslerís Chelsea Proving Ground were three new cars. The 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth sat burping its little turbo hum. Behind it, the 2015 Dodge Viper brought some vibration to the party along with its typical V10 thunder. But, it was neither of these cars garnering our interest half as much as the newest hand-built carbon-fibre creation from Modena. Like a young tiger in the wild learning to hunt, the Alfa Romeo 4C was loading up its rear haunches in animalistic anticipation, ready to pounce upon its brothers.
We were all eyeing each other up to see who would be the first to take this tiger bareback.
After abandoning the North American market in the mid-90s, Alfa Romeo has returned 19 years later (not counting the very limited Alfa Romeo 8C sold in Maserati dealers). But, it didnít bring the cutely named Mito or complexly spelled, easily pronounced Giulietta. Instead, Alfa Romeo brought with it something entirely new. Something fascinating. Something raw. And I was going to be one of the first people in North America to drive it.
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG
Engine: 1.75-litre, DOHC, 16 valve, transverse mid-mounted inline four-cylinder, turbocharged (237 hp, 258 lb-ft)
Transmission: Six-speed Afla TCT twin-clutch automatic with manual shifting mode, rear-wheel drive
Fuel Economy: 9.7 city, 6.9 highway, 8.4 combined (L/100 km)
Base Price: $62,495
Base Price (Launch Edition): $76,495
2015 Alfa Romeo 4C and 4C Launch Edition (7 of 11)
To explain what the 4C really is, itís much easier to tell you what it isnít. It isnít a Porsche Boxster or Cayman competitor, nor is it a Miata wannabe. It wonít be for everyone. Hell, itís barely for the typical Alfa Romeo customer.
Instead, the 4C is a high-strung, carbon-fibre tub with its boost cranked up to 11. Itís a culmination of high-tech engineering and Italian passion for the automobile. Itís the perfect car for people who just want to have fun, to have a laugh, and arenít interested in fiddling around with their iPod trying to find the latest Mumford and Sons track as they plog down the Trans-Canada.
Behind the seats, of which there are only two, sits a 1.75-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. That torque number is of particular importance. After all, itís torque that gets you off the line in a hurry, throwing you back in your seat in the process. When there isnít much mass to motivate off said line ó the 4C only weighs 1,118 kg (2,465 lbs) ó your hind-quarters better be ready for the inevitable, swift, turbocharged kick. The 4C will easily tear off a 0-100 km/h time in the mid-4s on its way to a top speed of 258 km/h. Bringing everything back to normal speed again are a set of 12.0- and 11.5-inch vented discs, front and rear.
It isnít just light. The 4C is small and incredibly low. Sitting just 114 mm (4.5 inches) from the ground makes for a well-connected feeling with the road, especially as you sit in the low-mounted seats. And with a wheelbase of only 2,380 mm (93.7 inches), the 4C will be as darty as you want it to be.
While it may be made of carbon-fibre and aluminum underneath, the 4C is wrapped in an exquisite composite shell inspired by the 1967 33 Stradale. It shows.
Thankfully, in North America, we wonít have to deal with the spider-eye headlights used on the car in Europe. Instead, we get more traditional headlight pods, giving the 4C a much cleaner appearance. If you thought the front would be all trunk much like other cars with engines mounted in the rear, youíd be dead wrong. Instead, there is no trunk. This car is meant to be driven, not taken on leisurely holiday.
Large wheels fill the accentuated wheel arches, giving the 4C an appearance of a low-slung, high-powered roller skate ready to take on everyone else who dared show up at the rink. Short front and rear overhangs give the Italian roller skate purpose ó to attack whatever coned off pavement can be found in captivity and the wild.
Inside, youíll find ó well ó not much to be honest. The interior of the 4C is a case of everything thatís necessary and nothing that isnít. You are greeted with the most basic of dashes to surround the instrument panel and central display. Even the shifter is a push button affair.
But, none of this mattered. It was my turn to drive.
I sat with a mix of anticipation and bewilderment. How could such a small car with a tiny engine cause this much of a stir amongst my colleagues? With a slight push of the throttle, I found out instantly.
The 4C lunged ahead, hungry for tarmac and orange rubberized plastic. I was away from the starting area in a flash and approaching the first corner with reckless abandon. It was here I made my first mistake.
Most cars offer up significant boost for braking. For 10 percent of available brake pedal travel about 50 percent of the braking power is used, or there about. With the 4C, the relationship is linear. You get what you give. I didnít give it quite enough. This landed me on the outside of the corner, through the cones, looking like an idiot.
But I didnít care in the slightest. I was grinning from ear to ear inside the car and nobody could see the guilty amounts of fun I was having.
After this, my relationship with the little Alfa became abusive. I gave it abuse and it just took it. Around a large sweeper, my blind courage (a.k.a. stupidity) was rewarded with an ever-so-slight amount of drift that made me feel like an absolute rockstar. The rest of the run was but a blur.
When it all came to a halt, the smell of brakes burned into my memory and the rush of twitchy handling and instant acceleration subsiding, I was sad.
Not because the 4C is anything resembling a bad car. If anything, itís too good, and the inevitable Alfa Romeo issues will likely relegate the sports car to just a blip in modern automotive history. Not many will sell here in North America due to its incredible up-front price tag, so depreciation likely wonít take hold as it does to most Alfaís in other locales around the world.
But, there is one saving grace: if the 4C is any indication of the excitement we can expect when Alfaís new sedan comes to our shores, we are in for a treat. Hopefully, by that time, more dealers will have signed the dotted line to sell the Modena-built mechanical works of art and it will be priced within armís length of people that place driving pleasure over all else.
Like a scalpel, the Alfa is sharp and does the job for which it was built. But, equally like the medical implement, the 4C isn't comfortable with an extremely limited intended audience. This is not a Porsche.
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