Highlights

  • Gorgeous styling
  • Carbon fiber construction
  • Expected to cost under $60,000
  • Two-seat cabin with minimal luxury
  • Mid-engined, rear-wheel drive
  • One engine/ transmission combination

Technology

  • 240hp 1.7L turbo gasoline motor
  • 258 lb-ft of torque and estimated 35mpg
  • All cars get six-speed dual-clutch auto trans
  • Curb weight under 2500 lb
  • DNA system adjusts driving characteristics, includes Race mode

Electronics

  • Multi-stage driver assistance
  • LED driving lights
  • Digital instruments

Here at european car, we typically feature forbidden fruit, but finally we can share something more tangible with you. Presenting the Alfa Romeo 4C, an Alfa that'll be sold right here in the USA!

Not only that, but this new 4C coupe is tipped to cost well under $60,000 and, unlike its predecessor, the 8C, production won't be limited. Well, that's the theory...

Annual production has been capped to a maximum of 3500 units, with more than 1000 of those coming to America. That's a paltry number given the likely demand for the first affordable sports car from the Italian brand in decades, but there's good reason - a bottleneck in production caused by the manual labor involved in laying out the pre-impregnated carbon fiber weave.

The one-piece chassis tub is carbon, aligning this Alfa with the latest exotica from Ferrari and McLaren, but at a fraction the price.

It's much more than a marketing gimmick. Using carbon fiber to this extent has allowed the weight to be kept to a minimum. US market cars (which will feature more standard equipment than those sold in Europe) are likely to weigh about 2500 lb. That's Lotus Elise territory.

Allied to the position of the engine over the rear axle, it was possible for Alfa to discard with power steering altogether, leaving a sublimely unfiltered, uncorrupted connection to the front wheels. And yet mid-corner bumps don't result in undesirable kickback through the rim.

For the record, we don't like the shape or feel of the flat-bottomed wheel, nor the lightness of the gearshift paddles fitted behind it. Which brings us to the only transmission offered in the 4C. It's a TCT dual-clutch automatic but many hope Alfa sees sense and develops a manual option in the future. However, the auto does suit the 4C's personality, and has the advantage of allowing several operating modes. It's smooth in auto mode when ambling around, and the changes are neatly slurred. But in Race mode, Alfa claims the ratios are swapped in 130ms, and while it was appreciably quicker, we felt there was still room for a more extreme setting.

It would be nice to choose the fastest gear-change speed in conjunction with the driving modes, which are accessed via the 'DNA' controller on the center console.

Standing for Dynamic, Normal and All-weather, the DNA alters the throttle map, stability and traction control plus transmission settings, while the digital instrument display also reflects the changes.

To be honest, we found ourselves using Race mode most of the time, even on the public road, since it's really not that extreme. Of course, it comes with warnings about reduced levels of driver assistance (traction control is disabled and stability control only kicks in under heavy braking), but in the dry there was so much grip we really had little to fear.

Fortunately, Alfa's Q2 electronic differential remains in play, applying the brakes to a spinning rear wheel and sending more power to the other.

Although we'd like a mechanical LSD, this isn't a drift car (although the tail moved around at will on-track). The 4C finds immense levels of traction exiting a curve; the driver learning to apply power early and hold tight as the g-force rises. It strings a series of tight bends together fluidly, engaging the driver with the unassisted steering and powerful brakes.

The engine adds to the experience as well. Many have grumbled about the lack of a traditional V6, but the lighter four-cylinder turbo gives the 4C a personality of its own, and it sounds more exciting than most engines of this layout. Even at idle it is purposeful, and it's downright loud at full chat. The top-end is especially addictive, although the tuning means most of the meaningful performance is produced in the mid-range - the turbo was sized to enhance low-speed torque.

The driver experiences a decent shove in the back from low revs, along with plenty of turbo whistles and whines from over your shoulder. We'd like a bit more "fizz" at the top-end, but you can't have everything. No doubt the tuners are already working on it...

Not that much needs to change about the straight-line performance. A 0-62mph time of 4.5sec and top speed of 160mph are junior supercar levels.

Further emphasizing the Alfa's pedigree, the carbon fiber tub is extravagantly visible in the cabin, yet the 4C doesn't feel as minimalist as the Elise. It's also easier to enter than the Elise, although no more spacious inside.

The two seats are gorgeous to look at, but not so comfortable over a long journey. Alfa tells us US market cars may have modified seats, including adjustment for the passengers - a feature unavailable in Europe. There isn't much stowage space inside the car and the trunk, located behind the engine, is quite small.

Given the lack of storage and uncomfortable seats, the 4C might seem better suited for the occasional mountain road or track day. However, we found the 4C surprisingly adept at everyday motoring. Its relatively small engine resulted in decent economy, which is a significant factor in purchasing decisions. The suspension also does a remarkable job of soaking up road imperfections. As a result, we think the Alfa will make a great daily-driver, especially if you prefer to stand out of the crowd.

We can't wait to try the 4C on American pavement, hopefully with its new seats and within the next 12 months. Place your order now, while you're waiting...

Pros

  • Spectacular to drive
  • Looks special
  • High-tech carbon construction
  • Sounds awesome

Cons

  • Interior cramped and plastic in places
  • Transmission could be sharper

Tech Spec

2014 Alfa Romeo 4C

Layout mid-engine, RWD

Engine 1750cc four-cylinder 16v with turbo, direct injection

Drivetrain six-speed automatic transmission

Brakes Brembo four-piston calipers, 305mm rotors f, 292mm r

Suspension double wishbone f, MacPherson strut r

Wheels & Tires 17x7" f, 18x8" r wheels, 205/45 R17 f, 235/40 R18 r tires

Performance

Max power 240hp at 6000rpm

Max torque 258 lb-ft at 2200-4250rpm

0-62mph 4.5sec

Top Speed 160mph

Weight 2500 lb (est)

Economy 35mpg (est)

MSRP $54000 (est)

By Shane O’ Donoghue
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