After two decades away from the US market, Alfa Romeo returned in 2014 with the 4C sports car. A year later, the company followed up with the 4C Spider, and in 2017, it’s selling the Giulia sedan and launching the Stelvio SUV. The return of Alfa Romeo is a key component in Fiat Chrysler’s strategy to incorporate its European holdings in its US offerings.
Although Alfa Romeo is a brand steeped in history with a reputation for building stylish sports cars, it’s probably best known for its appearance in the 1967 film “The Graduate.” The decision to pair Dustin Hoffman’s character up with an Alfa Spider instantly propelled the car and the company into pop-culture-icon status.
The car sits in an odd place in the market. It’s a small, stripped down, turbocharged, carbon-fibre two-seater priced below $US100,000. About the only thing you can compare it to is a Ferrari — except that a mid-engine 488 GTB will set you back $US300,000. Coincidentally, the Alfa 4C is built in Ferrari’s hometown of Modena, Italy.
A little while back, Alfa dropped off a red 4C Spider for Business Insider to check out. The open-top 4C starts at $US64,000, but our option-laden test car left the showroom with a $US74,000 price tag.
Photos by Hollis Johnson.
After departing the US market in 1995 due to financial and regulatory issues, Alfa Romeo returned in 2014 ...
Styled in-house by Alfa Romeo, the 4C carries the company's signature triangular front grille. Flanking the front grille are a pair of bug-eye headlights.
The Alfa features a mid-engine layout, with its power plant neatly tucked in between the driver's cabin and the rear wheels.
Out back, the 4C's rear-end design is punctuated by a pair of large, round taillights and a deck-lid spoiler.
Inspired by the 1967 Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale sports car, the 4C Spider maintains its ancestor's compact dimensions.
At just 13 feet long, the 4C Spider is tiny. With all four wheels pushed to the corners, it possesses go-kart proportions. The Spider's soft-folding roof can be easily removed and stowed in the trunk behind the engine.
.... you'll find a stylish, driver-oriented cockpit. The wide doorsill and low profile of the car make it a bit of a chore to get in and out of. The compact nature of the cabin makes it very difficult to get comfortable if you're taller than 6 feet.
Unlike most cars in its price range, the 4C doesn't have an infotainment system. Although it is equipped with an Alpine stereo that takes you right back to the late '90s.
The center console is where business is conducted. This is where the car's push-button shifter, the drive-mode selector, the power-window controls, the power-mirror controls, and the emergency indicator are located.
In-car storage is hard to come by in the 4C. It doesn't have a traditional glove box, and the small storage unit located between the seats is able to hold a wallet and not much else. However the car is equipped with a pair clever mobile phone holders located between the seats and the door.
Although the materials used were quite nice, some of the components shook and wiggled more than we would have liked. And we had an awkward experience when a decorative piece of carbon fibre on the driver's side rearview mirror came loose.
The Alfa Romeo 4C is actually built around a lightweight, high-strength, carbon-fibre cell. In fact, it's the only car with a price tag less than $100,000 to incorporate the pricey technology, which is one of the many attributes of the 4C that make it kind of an oddball. The only other nonsupercar to be built around a carbon-fibre tub is the BMW i8 hybrid sports car. The carbon-fibre driver's compartment allowed Alfa Romeo cut off top of the car without compromising its structural rigidity.
Power for the 4C comes from a 1.7-litre, 237-horsepower, turbocharged inline-four. The tiny motor is incredibly punchy and pairs well with the quick-shifting, six-speed twin-clutch transmission. With that said, there is of touch of turbo lag under hard acceleration.
According to Alfa, the 2,500-pound 4C is good for a zero-to-60 run in just four seconds and can reach a top speed of 160 mph.
The turbocharged engine is one of the loudest stock motors of its type I've ever heard. It barks and burps, while the turbo's release valve whistles loudly. It sounds incredible at first, but it does get old after a while.
But it is on the winding roads of upstate New York where the 4C really comes into its own. The little Alfa attacks each corner with purpose -- making easy work of most it encounters. The turbo engine launches out of the twists with a satisfied bark.
The 4C should also be pretty spiffy on a track. In fact, given how thoroughly impractical the car is -- but taking into account its combo of high-tech and low-price -- amateur racer might consider it an outstanding value.
There's no power steering, which makes everyday driving a chore, but when you cut the 4C lose, it's a point-and-shoot experience.
As weird as it is, it's one of those machines that gets into your head. Probably because it's so unlike anything else on the road.
Overall, the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is an offbeat yet appealing car. With the Lotus Elise no longer for sale in the US and the Porsche 718 Boxster becoming more and more posh, there is no other set of wheels on the market that directly competes with the 4C. If a taste of the Ferrari experience is what you seek, but you aren't ready to part with over a quarter-million dollars, the Alfa Romeo 4C could be the car you've been looking for.
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