Five-Point Inspection: 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C

Craig Cole
by Craig Cole

One of the most anxiously anticipated vehicles of the past few years is Alfa Romeo’s sultry new 4C sports car. Since the first concept version bowed in 2011 this product has seemingly whipped all of automotive journalism into a froth that’s stiffer than the peaks of a baked meringue. This much-hyped and oft-delayed product is set to launch this fall and we had a brief opportunity to sample it.

The 4C is impossible to ignore; one look and you’re practically guaranteed to be hooked like bored teen trapped in a room filled with black-tar heroin. The car’s got swooping scoops, impossibly wide fenders and a low-slung ride that puts you closer to the ground than if you were sitting atop a luge board. Did Michelangelo ever sculpt anything this beautiful?

In more ways than one, pictures don’t do this car justice. In fact it’s way smaller than you might expect. Stand next to a 4C and it’s like you’ve suddenly become a giant, sit in one and you magically feel a foot taller. This car is absolutely tiny and very low to the ground; its wheelbase is less than 94 inches and its overall height is a scant 46.6 inches. Predictably ingress and egress for all but the spriest individuals is a challenge. Still it’s hotter than a naked Kate Upton serving free beer and all-you-can-eat meat at a Brazilian steakhouse.

Diminutive exterior dimensions generally translate into confined cabins and the 4C does not escape this law. The car’s interior is snug in practically every direction. The seats offer limited adjustability, though legroom isn’t too bad. Aft visibility is predictably compromised.

The cabin has a unique feel to it; it’s reminiscent of a high-dollar supercar but at about three-fifths scale. The dashboard is low and relatively unadorned; four circular air vents pop up like the eyes of a crocodile. The center stack is angled toward the driver while there are refreshingly few buttons and switches to get in the way. This machine is purposeful and focused with no superfluous ornamentation.

SEE ALSO: Alfa Romeo Returning to the U.S. in 2015 with Several Models

The car is built around a very sturdy tub that’s crafted of lightweight and expensive carbon fiber. Unlike other vehicles Alfa’s implementation of this aerospace-grade material is purely functional, not merely a decorative appliqué designed to imply sportiness. Much of the shiny black weave is visible to the naked eye, running along the rockers and door posts. This is one of the 4C’s signature features.

Fibrous carbon helps cut unwanted mass. Appropriately North American variants of the car should check out at under 2,500 pounds. Apples to apples that’s a about 300 pounds heavier than the comparable European version. Blame additions like side airbags, an adjustable passenger seat and a beefed-up structure for that additional avoirdupois. These changes were required because of U.S. crash standards. Thanks, safety!

The 4C is propelled by a mid-mounted four-cylinder engine. Measuring an oddly specific 1.75-liters – a classic Alfa Romeo displacement – this turbo banger puts out 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It’s matched exclusively to a quick-witted twin-clutch automatic transmission, TCT in Fiat/ Chrysler parlance. Sorry purists, a manual would have been difficult to package into a vehicle this low and small. Maybe next time.

Helping to up the output, this all-aluminum engine features things like direct fuel injection and variable valve timing for enhanced performance and greater efficiency. Boost provided by the turbo hits nearly 22 PSI.

Estimated fuel economy measures 24 miles per gallon in the city and 34 on the interstate, figures that translate in a combined score of 28 MPG.

For all of the 4C’s virtues we have one major bitch: time. We would have preferred spending the better part of a day evaluating this affordable Italian exotic but that just wasn’t in the cards.

Anyway, despite our miserly driving allotment we still got a fairly good impression of the car. Starting with the steering, it’s super direct with an almost one-to-one feel. Turn the tiller and it responds instantly. If you think MINIs feel like street-legal go-karts try the 4C on for size, it’s sharper than a samurai sword, if of course katanas were made in Modena, Italy from sheet-molded composite and carbon fiber.

SEE ALSO: Alfa Romeo Reveals First 86 North American Dealers

The steering is less ambiguous than the warning signs circling Area 51, the ones that authorize the use of deadly force. Likewise this car’s chassis is a willing accomplice in perpetrating on-road antics. Body control on a billiard table-flat autocross course is impressive but ride quality is unknown due to the smooth surface it was evaluated on. We suspect it’d be pretty stiff on anything but glossy surfaces.

The engine sounds snorty, especially for only having four cylinders, a configuration that’s almost always acoustically challenged. The optional sport exhaust really lets it sing and just like the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe it’s hard to believe it’s legal because of how loud it is.

Acceleration is deceptively quick. Thanks to an extremely favorable weight-to-power ratio of roughly 10.5 pounds per pony the 4C really moves. The engine feels nice and linear, though on a longer, higher-speed circuit turbo lag would probably be an issue. It doesn’t seem to spool up with the immediacy of other small, force-fed engines.

About the only real complaint we have about the way this car behaves is the brake pedal. It has a robotic feel to it bringing to mind a video game.

The 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C is (finally) scheduled to arrive at U.S. dealers in the third quarter of the year with a base price of $55,195 including destination.

It’s designed to be an accessible Italian exotic, a rip-snortin’ performance machine that average people can actually afford. At its price point this car really doesn’t have any direct competitors, though it will probably be cross shopped with autos like Porsche Cayman and Lotus Evora.

Maximum annual production is limited to about 3,000. This is because of the 4C’s hand-made carbon-fiber tub, which is complicated and takes time to make. North America’s allotment of that figure is only expected to be around 1,000, so act fast when they go on sale later this year, you won’t be disappointed.

GALLERY: 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C

Discuss this story on our Alfa Romeo 4C Forum.

Craig Cole
Craig Cole

Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

More by Craig Cole

Join the conversation
2 of 8 comments
  • Dougie_s Dougie_s on Jul 17, 2014

    having driven alfas for over 20 years, i am all for their return to the usa. i can live w/a turbo - if it doesn't have lag. but, w/o a manual transition, it's completely out of the question. i will stick w/my 220hp 2600lb 3.0 alfa gtv6 and my 475hp 3000lb de tomaso pantera.

  • Samuel Mazowe Samuel Mazowe on Jun 04, 2015

    Alfa Romeo is the best car i have enjoyed it. Keep Calm Drive Alfa Romeo. I have Alfa Rome 147 2.0cc and controls a group of Alfa Romeo Owners in Zimbabwe.