New & Used Alfa Romeo 4C: In Depth
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The Alfa Romeo 4C heralds the return of the Italian brand to U.S. shores and looks and acts like a diminutive Ferrari for a fraction of the price. With superlatives like that, Alfa's corporate owner, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles expects the Italian nameplate will make a comeback in the States and bring greater attention worldwide to its refreshed lineup of rear-drive models. Gone since the early 1990s, Alfa hopes the little two-seater erases any bad memories Americans might retain of the slow-selling 164 sedan and ancient Spider convertible.
Is the 4C as good as all that? Well, 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 car.
A special run of only 500 Launch Editions will be the first 4Cs in the States for a hefty premium.
MORE: Read our 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C review
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 2,450 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 1.7-liter four-cylinder engine that features turbocharging and direct fuel injection. This setup is rated at 237 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque—that means each horsepower is matched with only 10.3 pounds in the Italian mini-supercar. The Alfa comes standard with no mufflers and makes a pretty fantastic noise as a result. A center-exit dual-mode exhaust is available for those who want a different look and more control over the ruckus.
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.
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 al but eliminate turbo lag.
Alfa Romeo says the 4C's performance is pure sports car; it quotes a 0–60 mph time of 4.5 seconds, and a limited top speed of 155 mph. Fuel economy is rated at 24/34 mpg, or 28 mpg combined.
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 will be available in the U.S. Sales will be limited to 500 units, and the model comes with convenience features and special trim--and a price tag just below $70,000.
A 4C Spider was announced at the 2015 Detroit auto show. It 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, although 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 Spider is expected to arrive by summer 2015. Sales of the 4C have so far been slow, which should assure its status as a future collectible as well as a rarity and halo vehicle for the Alfa that hopes to return stronger than ever.