New & Used Alfa Romeo 4C: In Depth
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The Alfa Romeo 4C is a two-seat sports car sold as a coupe and as a Spider—a version with a removable roof panel. Powered by a small-displacement turbocharged four-cylinder engine, shifted by a twin-clutch gearbox, and fitted with manual steering and huge tires, the 4C is a refreshing shot of sports-car naturalism in a market stuffed with synthetically driven machines.
The Alfa 4C heralds the return of the Italian brand to U.S. shores, and it looks and acts like a teenage Ferrari, for a fraction of the price.
Is the 4C as good as all that? Well, our sister site Motor Authority liked it enough to name it the Best Car to Buy 2015, beating out competitors such as the BMW M3 and M4, the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, and even Lamborghini's entry-level Huracán.
MORE: Read our 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C review
Alfa hopes that minuscule sales won't hamper its efforts to use the 4C as a halo car to relaunch the brand in the U.S., as it moves ahead with new models like the rear-drive Giulia sedan for the 2017 model year.
The 4C Spider features a removable cloth roof panel that rolls up and stows in the trunk. Compared to the very light coupe model, the Spider only adds 22 pounds. Styling is basically unchanged, though the Spider features an exposed-carbon-fiber windshield header and trades the coupe's windowed engine cover for one that doesn't showcase the turbo four-cylinder in back.
The concept may be simple, but the 4C was not done as a cost-saving exercise. It gets its own carbon-fiber chassis, with a massaged front-engine powertrain flipped around and installed in the rear to create a mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. The wheelbase measures only about 96 inches, and the whole car isn't much longer, at 156 inches. The tidy size and lightweight design lead to a U.S.-spec total of 2,465 pounds. That's slightly higher than the European model, as a result of additional crash-structure requirements as well as standard infotainment and air conditioning, as well as a passenger seat that adjusts, if only barely.
All 4Cs are powered by a turbocharged, direct-injection 1.75-liter four-cylinder engine. This setup is rated at 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque—that means each horsepower is matched with only 10.3 pounds in the Italian mini-supercar. The Alfa makes a pretty fantastic noise, and a center-exit dual-mode exhaust is available for those who want a different look and more control over the ruckus.
The engine features an aluminum block and special intakes designed to deliver a sporty note and good throttle response. Alfa Romeo also boasts that the engine features a "scavenging control system" that is said to all but eliminate turbo lag.
The 4C is rear-wheel drive, and the sole transmission is a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters. It offers several shift modes, from fully automatic operation to full-manual control.
Performance is pure sports car: 0-60 mph takes just 4.5 seconds, and the top speed is limited to 155 mph. Fuel economy is rated at 24 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, or 28 mpg combined, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Ride and handling are managed by a lightweight aluminum suspension--struts in front, double wishbones in back—mounted on subframes that are in turn mounted to the car’s carbon tub. The 4C also comes with a driving "DNA" selector, which allows the driver to choose from Dynamic, Natural, and All Weather modes, plus a special Race mode. American-spec cars have staggered 17- and 18-inch wheels and tires; an optional setup includes 18-inch front and 19-inch rear wheels.
Inside, the 4C has two seats and a minimalist look for the dash, with much of the carbon-fiber structure left bare for admiration. The center column, which is actually part of the carbon structure, has been left in full view to enhance the sense of uniqueness, technology, and light weight.
A special Launch Edition of the coupe was offered in the U.S. Sales with sales limited to 500 units. It featured additional convenience features and special trim—and a price tag just below $70,000.
For 2016, Alfa offers a new Carbon Fiber Trim package and a new Akrapovic dual-mode electronically controlled exhaust system. The Carbon Fiber package adds carbon fiber on the interior vents, instrument cluster surround, and instrument panel and shifter bezels. The new exhaust has dual center-mounted tips with a carbon fiber surround, and it delivers maximum sound when the DNA switch is in the Dynamic or Race modes. All models also get premium speakers, the coupe gets the Alpine audio system from the Spider and a lockable console, and the Spider adds a higher quality alarm system.