Putting a Few Miles on Alfa Romeo’s New 4C

3 Sep

Enjoying the winding roads of the Monterey Peninsula.

The Alfa Romeo 4C has been getting a lot of press coverage of late, and the anticipation of the coming car is huge.  Sure, it has it’s detractors but every car will.  For the most part the coverage has been extremely positive, especially about the fun factor, or DNA as Alfa Romeo calls it.  A few months back, I toured the Maserati factory in Modena, Italy where the Alfa 4C are assembled.  It was extremely cool to see the carbon fibre tub and all the sub sections coming together along with the body panels being installed.  Can’t travel to Italy soon?  You’re in luck as The Science Channel on TV has been showing a very informative episode of How Things Are Made that features the Alfa Romeo 4C.  If you missed it, you can always ask me… I have it saved. 

After my factory tour, they allowed me a little seat time in the car, but as soon as we pulled out onto the roads of Modena, I was told to drive slowly and easily.  After only a short time on peaceful pretty roads just north of town, I was back in the lot at the factory with the car.  No speed runs, fast corners, hard braking, or DNA usage.IMG_7690

That changed in mid August as I pulled out of the parking space in sunny California.  This time, it was a US spec Alfa 4C with no restrictions on speed or style.  All they asked was that I return in an hour and to try to not hurt the car as they had to show it the next day at Concorso Italiano.  I had that in mind as I gently drove off into the scenic countryside on the Monterey Peninsula.  Sharing the car with Sean Russell, an Alfa dealer from San Diego, he endured the view from the passenger seat as I tried to get close, but not quite wreck the car.

The fit and finish of the inside of the car is extremely good, and the look and feel of the interior material is excellent.  Stitching, dash display, controls are all pleasing, sporty, and in view.  Compared to Lotus Elise, Tesla, and other smaller cars, this is a visual treat that fits.  The seat doesn’t adjust, as they are fitted to the owner upon purchase, so some may complain but the setup fit my 6’2” size extremely well, especially for spirited driving.  There is excellent visibility out the sides and front, but enjoy the mirrors to the rear.  I had no problem backing up the car, as I quickly adjusted to what I could see.  The nose drops away but I never felt like any portion of the wide car was a mystery as the car feels the same as its dimensions. 

IMG_7755If I’m going to complain about anything, it will be the transmission and perhaps its simply that I’m old.  After driving a manual transmission since 1974, I really like shifting exactly when I want to.  Even using the DNA Sport setting the car helped me with that decision.  Otherwise, the car will go down as the most fun Alfa I’ve ever driven.  The handling is beyond exception with an incredible balance and sure footed effort around every corner.  Bumps half way through corners provided no tail wag or hop that my GTV6, Sport Sedan, or Milano would provide.   Acceleration was smooth and strong and under most situations the paddle shifting was fast and easy… perhaps too easy.  Downshifts were equally quick throughout the 6 speed shifting.  The engine makes great music as you run up the revs, with each gear change adjusting the tone, you have no need for the infotainment system in the car.  There is no risk of cell phone use or texting as it would distract from the experience with the car. IMG_7733

The low weight of the car is quickly noticed in the responsive steering and easy braking.  Though there is no assist with the steering any forward movement at all and the thick steering wheel turns easily.  The stop pedal gives excellent feedback as the large brakes bring the car to a stop so quickly it made my behind pucker a little. 

Overall, the car is not going nearly as fast as you think you’re going.  Any well dressed guy in BMW M5 will blow your doors off until you get to a corner, then he’ll be worried about his dry cleaning bill while you easily pass on the inside line.   The treat is that the car feels and sounds amazingly fast and you don’t care if it isn’t. 

I was worried about who would be selling these cars at dealerships.  Not any more, as after I climbed out, I realized these will sell themselves.  The looks, handling, sounds are exactly what makes an Alfisti’s heart race.  The car is a ton of fun, even if you’re driving to visit your mother-in-law.  Go place your order as soon as they put up their Alfa dealership sign.

Words by Fred Russell   Photos by Sean Russell


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