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Alfa Romeo 4C – ‘A Wonderful Toy’

Thanks to Mike Wood the owner of Autoform.ca of Vancouver I was able to get behind the wheel of a 2015 gorgeous launch Edition in Rosso Competizione. The colour alone was enough to get me super excited, I remember riding home after hearing I was getting to drive the car thinking “its red its red” singing in my head.  Unlike Jeremy Clarkson and company I have never been a huge Alfa fan, save for the sublimely beautiful and possibly one of the best looking cars ever designed namely the Alfa Romeo 8C. 

My particular Alfa 4C was a Launch edition which was a limited and numbered edition, in this case number 207 out of 500. The launch cars came in 4 colours Rossa Alfa, Rosso Competizione, Madreperla White tri-coat and Carrera white matt. Distinguishing features included carbon fibre trim, Bi-LED headlights, dark painted 18inc front and 19-inch rear alloy wheels, plus leather/fabric seats with parts in Alcantara and a numbered plaque. Number 207 has 4234km and is selling for $80,000.

So how do sport cars differ from supercars?  The biggest factor is cost, the Ferrari 488 spyder I tested recently cost $392,000 US, whereas the Alfa 4C new is just over $100,000 Canadian, the other important factor is engine size and horsepower, the Alfa 4C makes do with 1.7L inline 4 cylinder turbo engine producing 237 horsepower.  Sports cars are meant to be lighter and more nimble than their supercar brethren, to that end the Alfa 4C is composed of a central carbon fibre tub with aluminium subframes front and rear which helps translate into a lightweight sports car that has a curb weight of 2,465LB (1,118 kg).  Another large part of the weight saving came through Alfa Romeo very helpfully not including power steering, but more on that idiosyncrasy later. So the essence of a sports car is a light weight driver’s car that does without many of the fancy additions of supercar and gets you back to basic fun driving. The Alfa 4C will also do 160 miles per hour which is more than enough if you have the inclination and can find the right road.

The Alfa 4C is low, very low so negotiating the slope to exit the dealer parking lot was my first driving challenge, this hurdle safely overcome I instantly put my foot down, the turbo spooled up and I shot  down the road like a scalded cat. As a result I had a huge grin plastered all over my face for the next 20 minutes before traffic stepped in as a bit of a killjoy. The 4C handled the tedious traffic crawl over the Lions gate bridge with no worries. The throttle responds to small inputs without the need to bring in the turbo. My plan was to enjoy the performance of the 4C by taking it up the scenic Sea to Sky highway, and for 20 minutes this pocket rocket was attacking the winding curves and straight aways with equal verve. The turbo experiences a minor lag before engaging, but coupled with the double clutch makes speed and gear delivery very predictable. As with most modern cars there is a switch to change the mode of the car from normal to sporty or wet weather. The 4C switch is labeled DNA, D denotes dynamic mode which makes the 4C livelier, a mode I got to experience during my 20 minutes before once again encountering more bloody traffic. With a time limit on my time with the Alfa 4C I turned around and headed back to Vancouver but I kept the 4C in dynamic mode. Everything is that little bit sharper in Dynamic mode as well the accompany wail from the aftermarket exhaust. After two hours of driving I decided to visit my mother and see if an 86 year would enjoy a carbon tub sports car.

The funny thing I was so intrigued by the car that I only looked at the exterior for a few minutes while the car was being driven out of the showroom, I did not get a chance to look at until two hours later when I parked the car at my mother’s place in Tsawwassen, where I lingered to admiring the car and its exquisite paint job. By this time I was totally in love with the Alfa 4C, indeed it was only the urgent call of nature that managed to lure me away from staring at the 4C all afternoon.

Getting an 86 year old lady over the wide carbon tub is not easy or in any way elegant, so that would be no on an 86 year old lady enjoying a carbon tub on a sports car.  Sadly the Alfa 4C seats have no ability to raise the level of the seat so my mother spent our test looking up and out of the main window instead of my from position looking down the exquisite red bonnet. It is appropriate as this time to mention that the interior noise level in the Alfa 4C is quite high, thanks in part to the carbon tub and minimum sound deadening insulation. Having read numerous reviews this is a common criticism of the 4C, though for me personally it was not as bad as I expected and I drove the car for nearly 5 hours straight.

The one area of the 4C you would find hard to live with would be the lack of power steering. At speed the steering lightens up, however parking or attempting 3 point turns would definitely require you to develop large biceps. The steering is delightfully shaped, following the Audi R8 with a square bottom. You have direct feedback through the steering of all aspects of the road which provides an unusual feeling that you have make constant inputs to keep the car from wandering out of the lane. It’s not a frightening or nervous feeling but it is rather unusual and would take some getting used as you got to know the Alfa 4C.

The Alfa 4C is far from a perfect sports car, but that should that not stop anyone from owning this beguiling beauty.  The key ingredient is how much fun you have driving this car and the accompanying smile on your face more than makes up for the lack of power steering and lack of rear visibility. In gorgeous Rosso Competizione you will never want to stop looking at the car, and you will get a fair bit of attention from fellow motorists, I got half a dozen thumbs up while at traffic lights during the course of my road test.  I had my doubts you could or would want to use the 4C as a daily driver, and this has largely remained correct, however the 4C should be viewed as a wonderful (and expensive) toy that you get to drive when your only goal is a day of pure driving and you have nowhere to be or errands to run.

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