Test Drive: Alfa Romeo 4C

2016 Alfa Romeo 4C

2016 Alfa Romeo 4C

When a car earns accolades from sources as diverse as Hagerty (the leading network and insurer for classic car owners) and Playboy (no definition needed), it must be something special. Such is the case for the Alfa Romeo 4C; the 4C Spider was added to the Hot List of future collectibles by the former, and the 4C Coupe was named 2015 Car of the Year — Sports Cars and Convertibles by the latter.

Alfa Romeo had been absent from the U.S. market for 20 years before launching its comeback with the 2015 4C, a limited-edition, irresistible two-seat sports car, whose model line up for 2016 includes the open-top Spider. The name draws from the brand’s sporting tradition, when the acronyms 8C and 6C represented vehicles fitted with eight- and six-cylinder engines. The 4C continues that tradition, not only with its nomenclature indicating the four-cylinder, 237-horsepower engine, but also with its lightweight, track-ready design.

It is hand built, at considerable expense, in Modena, Italy, with a single carbon fiber Monocoque chassis weighing a mere 236 pounds. The outer body panels are made of a sheet-molded compound that’s 20 percent lighter than steel and is corrosion resistant. The 4C’s total curb weight is an ultra-light 2,465 pounds.

Power is delivered to the rear wheels via an absolutely stellar six-speed twin-clutch, sequential paddle-shift gear selection transmission with auto mode. Zero to 60 time is just 4.1 seconds and top speed is 160 mph.

Fire up the engine and mellifluous metallic exhaust notes resonate a staccato snapping — like firecrackers in a snare drum — that will push the upper limits of most municipal noise ordinances. Our test car was essentially track ready, with huge 18-inch Pirelli tires up front, super wide 19-inch tires in back and massive Brembo brakes with the stopping power of a Howitzer.

The suspension is firm, intense and cockpit-selectable with three core settings —Dynamic, Natural and All-Weather — for adapting to road or track conditions. Race mode further enhances the driver experience on the track. The 4C dismisses power steering entirely to both minimize weight and maximize the driving experience.

But you could ignore its performance creds and simply buy the 4C for looks alone. Its sculptured exterior, low stance (under 48 inches high and six feet wide), contoured body panels and distinctive Alfa grille design are phenomenal. The look is athletic, exotic, intoxicating and beautiful.

Inspired by its racing heritage, the 4C’s interior is Spartan, with only the essential driving components integrated into the cockpit. It is almost rude with driver and passenger room, so if you’re six feet or taller, forget about it. And, it is bereft of storage with just an elastic pouch under the dash. The trunk might hold one soft sided duffel bag at best. Unless you’re storing the Spider’s soft top for open-air driving. In that case, leave the luggage at home if you also plan on carrying a passenger.

If you can squeeze in, you will enjoy the premium leather sport seats in black or Tobacco; Tobacco stitching accents the black leather interior surfaces. A new-for-2016 Alpine audio system, designed with the audiophile in mind, provides excellent sound quality and multiple connectivity options — including USB, Bluetooth streaming, iPod interface and more — as well as SiriusXM Radio.

Part of what lands the 4C on Hagerty’s future collectable list is that it “deliver(s) the joy of driving today.” That’s enough reason for us to declare that if you can find one of these limited-edition beauties today, you shouldn’t hesitate to snap it up.

Base pricing on the Alfa Romeo 4C ranges from $53,900 to $68,400

Auto writer Jim Prueter also contributed to this article





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