Go ahead and compare the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C to the Porsche Cayman all you want, you’ll be splitting hairs and you’ll miss the big picture: the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C is a four-cylinder Ferrari. I’ve driven the Porsche Cayman R, S and a few Porsche Boxsters – it’s an extremely capable, excellent driving German sports car. The 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C feels nothing like the Porsche’s in any way. Sure, on paper, they are pretty close and arguments can be made about their performance similarities.
Feels like a Porsche? Hell no. The 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C feels like track-biased Ferraris from the past. It reminded me of a Ferrari 360 with a slightly harder ride.
It took a full day of driving the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C hard to reach this conclusion. It was on the last lap I took on the Sonoma Raceway (formerly Sears Point Raceway and Infineon Raceway) in the screaming 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C, that I began to formulate this conclusion.
The 2015 Alfa Romeo is a sports car – period. It is not a grocery-getter, a GT car or some beefed-up coupe that the Hollywood elite can gracefully emerge from. It is a sexy, fast, stiff, angry little car that is only for serious drivers. It has NO power steering, NO frills interior (including: no glovebox, no door pockets, no sunroof, no backup camera, no behind-seat storage) and only the rear engine-cover/hood/boot has a storage compartment that can hold a large backpack next to a racing helmet. The nose section does not open.
The 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C has two (small) cup-holders located at your elbow.
Driving: Slam your foot down and, at 6,000 rpm, you’ll be making 237 horsepower. There is a tiny bit of lag, but the power comes on strong with a savage growl. Fortunately, you’ll be making maximum torque (258 lbs) starting from 2,200 rpm all the way up to 4,250 rpm – that’s a great torque curve for such a lightweight. It’s output is about one-horsepower per 10 lbs, which represents an excellent power-to-weight ratio. You DO get pushed back in your seat.
All this is hooked up to a six-speed, dual-clutch, sequential transmission that works very well. It’s one of the best examples of this kind of transmission and it can be driven in anger, or like a simple automatic unit. When I asked – – – – – about the possibility of a manual transmission, he abruptly said “NO.” He wasn’t being rude, he was making a point that this car’s all carbon-fiber tub and drive components are purpose built and there is no engineering room for a manual.
Still, I think the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C needs one.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that dual-clutch six-speed. Once you’re moving, it’s a simple and intuitive device to use, but it’s a pain in the neck to use for commuting. There are no gear levers, just buttons. If you push #1 the Alfa is in regular drive, R = reverse and when you want to park, you hit N which equals neutral before pulling the parking lever. Oy, all that for driving around town.
It’s a hard car to back-up in. There is no backup camera and the rear obstacle sensor doesn’t communicate very well. There are blind spots over each shoulder and the rear-view is compromised by the engine cover. Front outward vision is pretty good and your not as low to the ground as you would be in other sports cars.
Alfa says the American version of the 4C weighs about 340 lbs more than the European version. Some of that weight is based on additional NHTSA safety additions, A/C and the stereo system among other things. We never listened to the stereo – not once in seven hours of driving time. Yep, it sounds that good.
The 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C is extremely wide, like Corvette wide. Andre and I (both well over six-feet and wide at the shoulder) never even bumped elbows while driving. The seats are remarkably comfortable holding my large frame comfortably for hours, and the passenger’s seat is adjustable (unlike the European model). It’s also extremely difficult to enter and exit. The door sill is over a foot wide in some spots and, unless you’re Jackie Chan, quick entry/exit times will be nonexistent.
Every complaint you just read will be irrelevant when you rip down a curvy road or take it to a track.
Once you get to know the transmission and its three settings “D.N.A” you’ll be surprised at how different each setting is. Oh – and there’s a fourth setting too. It’s super secret.
D is for Dynamic and it makes the engine and transmission much more aggressive. This is the back-road setting and it’s AWESOME for hearing the amazing exhaust/intake noise while driving. Dude, it sounds like a rally-car in this mode!
N is the girly-man Natural setting. It’s the basic driving setting and it’s okay for daily driving. It makes the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C feel a tad sluggish.
A is for All Weather and we never got a chance to test it. When Alfa Romeo sends TFLCar the 4C to test in the Rocky Mountains, you bet we’ll give the “A”-setting a go.
Now this part is important: RACE mode. The RACE mode is activated when you push the toggle past D and hold it until the display says RACE. This is where you put on your big-boy/girl pants because it’s ready to race. ESC and ASR are deactivated and every setting in the 4C is there to give you maximum performance. It’s a beast and it will also allow you to trigger launch-control (while using the left paddle shifter) too.
I recommend the D-mode for any spirited drive. It’s a gas and its the easiest way to exploit the nifty down-shifting you can do by tapping on the brake. It will drop a gear in a fraction of a second as you’re blasting through the corners at spirited speeds.
Steering feel is good and, with the steering only being powered by your strength, wheel placement is precise. Getting used to the girth will take time and MAN those brakes are grabby at slow speeds. On the track, the brakes are robust and never faded.
Prices for the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C start at a very reasonable $53,900. The first 1,000 Alfa Romeo 4Cs to come to the United States will be the special Launch Edition models that start at $68,400 and come loaded with extra badass driving kit. There will be over 80 Alfa Romeo dealerships in the United States (mostly consisting of expanded FIAT and a few Maserati dealerships) when it goes on sale soon.
Corvette prices for an Italian exotic? Yes, that’s a fantastic way to bring Alfa Romeo back to the USA!
There’s a lot more to say about this amazing sports car, but I know you’re already watching the video.
That’s okay, we have a truckload of videos for the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C coming and you’ll learn a ton from each one!
By the way: the EPA rates the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C at 24 MPG city, 34 MPG highway and 28 MPG combined.