Alfa Romeo 4c: Adding lightness creates the perfect track toy

Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Track Pack  | MSRP: $63,900 | Price as Tested: $72,795

Engine: 1.7L; 237 h.p.; 258 lb.-ft. | MPG: 24 city / 34 hwy

Features: Twin Clutch Transmission, 7-inch Display Drivers Dash, Pirelli P Zero Tires, Carbon Fiber Exterior Mirrors, Race Tuned Suspension, Sport Tuned Exhaust,  etc.

237 horsepower seems like such a lowly number in this day and age of 707 horsepower factory options. Especially when you consider that you can get 290 horsepower in a hot hatch or even a minivan. What that number doesn’t tell you is that since the Alfa Romeo 4c only weighs in at 2500 pounds, those 237 ponies only have to move 10.5 lbs. a piece. That 290 horsepower hot hatch weighs in at 3400 lbs., so each of those ponies have to carry 11.7 lbs. each. This is why Lotus founder Colin Chapman was such a believer in adding lightness to cars, as you don’t need a lot of horsepower to move a little weight. The benefit of a low curb weight is that it also helps with the cornering and stopping, which is what allows the 4C to have small (by today’s standards) 12-inch rotors up front and 11.5 inch in the rear.

The most striking thing I noticed when the Alfa Romeo 4C was delivered to me was that it was not Red! Here we have the quintessential Italian sports car, and it is YELLOW! To be completely honest though, this car looks amazing, even in yellow, and I would take it in this flavor any day. There are not many cars out there that truly look beautiful, but this is definitely one of them. All the sexy curves and swoops are done just right, not too over the top, and they actually look 

functional. The A pillars, mirrors and windshield header are all capped with carbon fiber on this Track Package 4C and truly stand out against the yellow, giving this car a very special touch. 

The carbon fiber theme carries on to the inside where you can see the beautiful exposed carbon-fiber tub and more carbon fiber throughout the interior. There is a mix of really expensive-looking stuff paired up with controls and other panels out of an econo car. The offset yellow stitching on the black dash looks amazing, the steering wheel looks properly sporting and the paddle shifters are easily accessible. I realize the stereo was probably an afterthought, but come on folks, when was the last time anyone had a detachable face radio from the factory? Another issue I had was with the key. This $73,000 car comes with a flip key, just like a Volkswagen, and you need to use it to start the car. How about just having a FOB in your pocket and then poking a push-to-start button? 

Speaking of driving around town, the Alfa Romeo 4C  is not meant as a daily driver, it is more of a track day or nice sunny weekend drive kind of car. That being said, I did drive around town and out on the highway for a while and it is bearable, I just don’t think I could live with it every day. The unassisted steering is very direct, so it takes a while to get used to not over correcting. The first few miles you tend to overcorrect and it makes you seem like a drunk driver. For that same reason you will be using your big boy, or girl, muscles to turn the butch steering wheel when trying to park or when you are just crawling through a parking lot. 

That is all forgotten as soon as you pull out of the pit lane and on to the big 4-mile track at Road America! By the way, thanks to Northwood’s Shelby Club for allowing us to run on track during their event, what a great group of people! Oh yes, back to the track. It is amazing that this little 237 horsepower bumble bee can put down lap after lap like a champ with never a complaint.  The 4C is very neutral in its handling and very easy to steer with the throttle. Turn in is quick and then it can put all 237 ponies down on corner exit, with help from the Q2 differential control system. The braking works really well, but the car would get a little squirrelly when braking in to turn 5 and Canada Corner.  Those are the hardest corners on brakes at Road America and the 4C’s brakes laughed them off lap after lap. There was never any fade or stopping concerns over the 25-30 minutes on track sessions. One 25-minute session did take the smallish 10.5-gallon fuel tank down from full to a quarter of a tank, so plan on refueling a lot if you are spending the day at the track.

One of the best things about the particular 4C we had was that it came with the track package and racing exhaust. The track package gets you the stiffer suspension, track tires which force you to get the staggered 18-inch front, 19-inch rear set up, and a bunch of carbon fiber bits. The racing exhaust option deletes the muffler and makes the car sound amazing. With the dual-clutch transmission popping off shifts quickly, the car makes some beautiful music. If you haven’t already, go to our website mychinews.com so you can listen for yourself. I did not tire of hearing it, you even get some bypass-valve flutter noises when you lift. The dual clutch transmission is not quite up to the Porsche PDK or VW/Audi DSG, but it is still quicker than most humans will ever be, and it will make a lot less mistakes than you will. 

Leave it to the Italians to find a more interesting way to call the vehicles performance modes settings. Alfa Romeo calls it DNA which stand for Dynamic, Natural and All Weather. In reality it should be called R-DNA, as there is also a Race Mode. Race Mode is the most extreme and minimizes the intervention of the nannies. Use with caution! For 99% of the people that will drive the 4C, Dynamic works just fine. When selecting a DNA setting, not only does the performance change, but also the driver’s display. In Dynamic mode the display turns red and you get a boost gauge and oil temp. In Race mode the display is yellow with a G-meter. This can get distracting as you blast through a corner and want to see how many G’s you are pulling! I believe these screens are customizable, but didn’t really get a chance to play with them. 

To summarize my experience with the Alfa Romeo 4C I will just say this. Buy it as your second or third car, just for those weekend twisty road drives and track days! It may not be the fastest car out there, but it is one of the most entertaining and beautiful cars on the road today. The Alfa Romeo 4C left me with a smile on my face every time I drove it.

Enrique.R@mychinews.com

Special thanks 

to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles 

for providing this week’s car, 

 

     the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Track Pack.