It’s downshift time, and the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C spits and burbles as we stomp hard on the brakes (and we mean stomp, like the musical), approaching the next tight bend. It’s been a couple of hours of this, and the upper body has gotten a bit of a workout. The diminutive Alfa’s unassisted steering requires extra effort, but it’s been worth every sinewy moment as we wind in the wheel yet again.
Now we’re looking way out toward the next apex as race instructors always say to do, and see nothing but daylight and a small kink ahead. We’re just as hard on the go pedal now, the buzz-saw noise of the 1.7-liter turbo-four echoing off the craggy rock faces here amid the dramatic Alpine scenery of Angeles Crest Highway, just north of downtown Los Angeles. Car guys live for moments like this — the perfect car for a perfect road on a perfect day.
Say what you want about the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C, crack wise about suspect Italian engineering, mock its looks, point out its flaws in the cabin and otherwise (and there are more than a few). But literally none of it matters when this car is in its element, carving up asphalt like a HoneyBaked Ham on Christmas. In fact, it did feel like Christmas when we grabbed the keys to this diminutive Alfa.
Some quick facts about the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C from our TEN test team, which strapped the test gear on a similar car to the one we took out to flog: 2437 pounds, balanced 49 percent front/51 percent rear with a full tank of fuel (U.S. safety hardware adds some weight over the Euro car); 0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds, then 12.8 sec @ 108.8 mph in the quarter mile; and stops in 113 feet from 60-0 mph. All very respectable numbers save the braking, which is a little on the long side for a car of this weight and size.
With 237 horses and 258 lb-ft available from 2200 rpm, the little Alfa definitely scoots, although you’ll notice a touch of throttle lag at the outset before the turbo whooshing begins and the power arrives. Keep the rpm in the powerband and you’ll never want for a lot more, as the lightweight mid-engine car and its available power seem very much in sync. We spent most of our time along the Crest in third gear, bouncing between 3000 rpm and the redline at 6500 rpm. As you push ever higher in the rev range, a yellow ring appears around the tach, letting you know that things are about to go nuclear. Manual mode for the six-speed dual-clutch automatic is more than acceptable and the revs will bounce off the redline for a moment before forcing the issue and finally shifting into a taller gear.
There are multiple driving modes that change the shift speeds, throttle input, and stability control settings: Weather (rain/snow), Natural (the default), Dynamic (where you’ll be most of the time), and Race, which sends the nannies home for dinner. In Natural mode with the transmission’s automatic setting engaged, the engine motors along acceptably, but it will always move quickly to get to the lowest rev range for best fuel economy.
We took a break from blasting up the road as it ribbons up to the Mount Wilson Observatory at a roadside turnout to check the scenery, when suddenly a dude jumps out of a VW GTI and starts running excitedly toward us. We weren’t sure whether or not to bolt in panic, but there was nothing to fear, just a couple of car guys desperate to get a look at the Alfa up close (shout-outs to @topher_b and @_djinguelian). They loved it. So did many of the bikers I passed, throwing peace signs and thumbs-up. Couple of bikers rolled up on me, curious what it was. “Looks like a Lotus at the front, Ferrari in the back,” one of them remarked. Not a bad assessment. We think it looks Italian chic, and judging from all the rubbernecking we noticed people doing when they saw it, most civilians seem to think so too.
In the cabin is where things get a little squirrely, and it’s when you start to question the $55K-plus price tag of the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C a bit. While the exposed carbon fiber tub is trick, the build quality of the interior isn’t much and neither are the materials, plus there’s the annoying alarm every time you turn on the car and then the goofy stereo with questionable acoustic quality. Call it Lotus-plus.
But all is forgiven when you look out and see nothing but blue sky and a squiggly road ahead, with the fat, flat-bottom wheel in your hands, ready to do battle with the curves all over again.
2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Specifications
- Base Price $55,195
- Price as Tested $64,845
- Engine 1.7-liter DOHC I-4
- Power 237 hp @ 6000 rpm
- Torque 258 lb-ft @ 2200 rpm
- Transmission 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
- Drive Rear-wheel
- Length x width x height 157.5 x 73.5 x 46.6 in
- Wheelbase 93.7 in
- Curb Weight 2,465 lbs
- Cargo Capacity 3.7 cu-ft
- Fuel economy 24/34 mpg (city/hwy)