For all intents, an entire generation of Americans has no inkling of the rich legacy of Alfa’s street and racing machines. The 4C cures that problem. It’s also, as we confirmed when we put the mid-engine screamer through its paces in Northern California, an elixir for boredom and distracted driving.
From the moment you walk up to this of automotive art, focus is demanded: on the way light plays off its curves, how you must strap yourself into its cocoon-like cabin after hoisting yourself up and over the side rails of the carbon-fiber skeleton that helps keep the 4C’s mass down to just 2,465 pounds. (European 4Cs weigh only 2,000, but they don’t have the burden of federal safety features.)
The turbocharged and intercooled 1,750cc four-cylinder comes to life with a primal “braapp” before settling into a menacing idle. Our 4C was one of 500 Launch Edition models that are jumpstarting Alfa’s return to North America. The $69,695 MSRP of these numbered intro versions includes the racing exhaust, larger wheels and tires, special steering wheel, brakes, seats and suspension make them a smoking deal—if you can get hold of one and if the dealer can resist gouging.
Don’t look for the traditional gearshift or clutch pedal. The 4C’s modern performance twin clutch transmission relies on steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, or you can just chill and cruise in automatic mode in three of the four performance modes owners can select.
Less is more isn’t just lip service at Alfa, the 4C dispenses with the weight and complexity of power-assisted steering. With the sports car’s near 50/50 weight distribution, wrestling with the steering is only a brief issue when the car is at rest. With only 10.4 pounds per horsepower, this ride gets down to business right now. We ripple-shifted through the gears along deserted winding roads and have no trouble accepting Alfa’s claims that the car will do 160 mph, pull lateral Gs in the1.0 range and nail 0-60 mph in around 4.5 ticks. My co-pilot and I ran out of road and nerve way before we ran out of power and grip. But up until that limit, we absolutely loved way the 4C devoured time and space. You can acquire this automobile for its style or exclusivity, but you’re missing the point if you don’t take it to the track or autocross occasionally.
Alfa’s leadership may insist that we experience automotive performance their way and we respect and appreciate that the same way we savor authentic cuisine and experiences in Florence or Rome. But while our inner-geek got a kick out of seeing the top of that glorious engine nestled behind us each time we checked our rear-view mirror, the 4C needs one more dash of modern tech—a backup camera.
For less than the price of many kit cars, Alfa’s 4C is not just a stellar comeback kid, it represents a rare bargain. When the sun sets, we’ll slink off to the garage just to admire the significant and fun 4C, pairing perhaps a class of Moscato d’Asti with a Chris Botti track or two.