It was kind of funny to watch. My husband and I pulled into Jimmy John's, parked in the lot and went inside. No one initially noticed the stunning red Alfa Romeo 4C parked out front.
But like a wave building as it rushes toward shore, first one person noticed. Then another. A hushed whisper became a vocal roar. Pretty soon all the customers and employees were whispering and pointing. Some abandoned their food stations to go out for a closer look.
Passersby even stopped to stare. Nearly everyone pulled out a phone to snap a photo.
And it's completely justified. The 4C is one of the more unique and beautiful cars currently on the road. Plus, there just aren't that many of them out in circulation, which makes it a brilliant gem dropped in the land of sedate sedans and SUVs.Design
The exterior of the 4C is all curves and swoopy lines. Every circle, every piece of carbon fiber, every Alfa emblem is a work of art. It's beautiful any way you look at it, and believe me, I probably took pictures from every angle.
The inspiration for the 4C is the 1967 Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale, and you can definitely see the resemblance from the buglike headlights to the perfectly circular taillights. Even the profile has a similar shape.
Where the exterior is pure beauty, the interior trends toward stark minimalism. If it isn't going to help you drive faster, it's probably not there. The two racing seats are simple yet well contoured and swathed in black surfaces. The test car upgraded to the leather seats with microfiber inserts. But whether you stick with the base black cloth or go top-of-the line, the seats have red reverse stitching and a brilliant Alfa Romeo emblem embroidered into the headrests. Simple, yet beautiful.
The best interior accent: the carbon fiber monocoque that you can see surrounding the cabin.
There isn't a glove box, arm rest or center console, so if you want to store anything, look to the petite trunk or the small leather pouch between seats.
One interesting thing to note, color is an option on the 4C. Black and white are included in the base price, but if you want shades of gray or red, you'll shell out an additional $700 to $1,500. Our test car was a stunning Rosso Competizione Tri-Coat ($1,500), and we couldn't imagine the 4C in any other color.Ride & Handling
While the 4C is unquestionably beautiful, it is not for the meek or casual driver. This is a true sports car in every sense of the word, which means the cockpit is tight and the manual, rack-and-pinion steering is tough to manage in urban situations. Don't even think about trying to parallel park this car unless you want a good upper body work out.
But once you're on the highway: Look out! The 4C is a blast to drive. It becomes a smooth and nimble sports car. The faster you drive, the better it handles.
Equipped with a turbocharged, inline 4-cylinder engine, the 4C delivers 237 horsepower and a 0-to-60-mph time of 4.1 seconds.
The mid-engine design and carbon fiber monocoque- among other things - combine to give the 4C a near perfect 50-50 weight balance. That makes this car sinfully fun to drive on cloverleaf on and off ramps.
With a stiff, sporty suspension and low-to-the-ground ride, however, the 4C is very unforgiving on urban terrain. You will feel every divot, dip and pothole.Fuel economy
Surprisingly, the estimated fuel economy for the 4C is pretty reasonable considering what a delightfully fun vehicle you're getting. EPA estimates 24 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway with a combined rating of 28 mpg. Though, if you drive the 4C like you want to, we anticipate you'll be closer to the 24 than the 34.Tech & gadgets
If you want a lot of cool technology and gadgets, you've kind of missed the point of the 4C. This car is meant to be driven. Period.
That being said, I did try the tech features proffered by the test car, and either I or it failed miserably. The Bluetooth connection didn't work. Trying to change the clock on the center stack was like rocket science. Wiring in my phone didn't work. And there was no satellite radio or navigation.
But frankly, who cares? If you plan to do anything other than drive when you're in this car, go buy something else. Seriously.Trims
Basically, you can get a 4C or a 4C Spider. There are no trims for either, just options - and those are pretty minimal. Choose your color, seating surfaces and wheels - some of which add cost - then move on to packages:
- Coupe exterior package ($500), which includes satin exterior mirrors and body-color spoiler.
- Convenience group ($1,800), which includes an antitheft system, cruise control, rear parking sensors and premium speakers.
- Coupe track package ($2,400), which includes racing microfiber/leather steering wheel, race-tuned suspension, carbon fiber exterior mirrors and carbon fiber cluster bezel.
- Leather interior group ($2,750), which includes leather instrument panel and door panel and rear console lockable leather bag.
The base price of the 4C is $55,495. The test vehicle added pretty much every option and accessory you could imagine, and the as-tested price rang in at $69,945.
The 4C comes standard with all the safety basics: stability control, traction control, hill start assist and five airbags. But if you want advanced safety tech like lane departure warning and forward collision warning, again, this is not your car.
The 4C doesn't have safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.New for 2015
The 4C is all-new for the 2015 model year, and it marks Alfa Romeo's return to the United States after a 20-year hiatus.
A few of my favorite things
The 4C is a total looker. I absolutely loved the design that hearkens back to the 1967 33 Stradale and the fact that it is still relatively unique on the streets.
It doesn't hurt that it's fast and a total blast to drive on the highway.What I can leave
The attempt to pacify a needy consumer with phone connectivity and miniscule cup holders is completely unnecessary. This is a driver's car, and only serious drivers would even consider buying one. Yeah, its good looks might draw a few casual "look-at-me" types, but manual rack-and-pinion steering will likely send them packing. So, Alfa Romeo could ditch the Bluetooth phone pairing, cup holders and even the radio, and the 4C would probably be a better car.The bottom line
There is no question that the 4C is awesome. It's also not for everyone. It's loud inside the cabin, and it can be a bit difficult to manage in an urban environment.
But this vehicle is not meant to be a volume seller. In fact, according to Good Car Bad Car, at the time of publishing this article, Alfa Romeo has sold just 497 4Cs in 2015, with an additional 91 sold in 2014.
The 4C is like a piece of fine art. It's carefully crafted, sinfully beautiful and should only belong to those who can truly appreciate it. Luckily with a price tag in the low $50K range, it's also attainable.
Read more from Jill Ciminillo"
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