The luxury sports car category is a very competitive segment, with numerous different takes on what the perfect model should be. However, each manufacturer seems to balance comfort and performance to some degree - but not Alfa Romeo. The 4C is focused almost exclusively on lightness and agility, with little thought spent on the comfort of the creatures housed inside the carbon-fiber tub. The benefit is a car that weighs very little and is visceral and raw. With a six-speed dual-clutch auto doing duty alongside a 1.75-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, in a car that weighs less than 2,500 lbs, this is a proper sports car with astonishing acceleration. The downside to such commitment to handling and performance, is minimal insulation from road noise and bumps, something that the likes of the Porsche Cayman and Lotus Evora have shown concern towards. That said, the 4C comes standard with Italian style and a level of drama that few can imitate - the perfect car for that one day a year when the stars align.
Not much has changed over last year's model, with the only updates being minor. The 2018 model now allows for yellow stitching on cars that are Basalt Gray, Black, or White, when previously this was only available if the exterior paint was similarly colored. A carbon-fiber interior fascia package is also now available. Reviewed separately, the Spider (convertible) model is also a new prospect for 2018. Power output stays the same, as do standard equipment features.
The 4C starts at $55,900 and can be had with various interior upholstery configurations, but one trim is carried throughout. With add-ons like bigger wheels, an Akrapovic exhaust system, and stiffer suspension, the price of a fully-loaded 4C can quickly escalate over $70,000. The 4C's price does not include taxes, registration fees, or the standard destination charge of $1,595. If you live in Hawaii, add another $50 to that destination charge.
See trim levels and configurations:
1.7L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
If a comfortable cruiser is what you're after, stop reading now. The suspension on the 4C is stiff and doesn't absorb much - almost every little imperfection in the road is transmitted to your spine with little buffering in between. As a daily drive, the 4C is not easy to live with, even in Natural mode. In fact, it's impossible to live with, the air conditioning barely cooling the cabin, grains of sand ricocheting off the carbon chassis sounding like gunfire inside, and not enough ground clearance to clear even the lowest of speed bumps. The unassisted steering is heavy and dull, and even when pushing on it lacks feedback - something an unassisted setup should never do. Quite simply put, the 4C is the worst possible incarnation of a car around…
Except… except for the one day a year when the car gods smile upon you, gifting you with the right piece of smooth, twisting tarmac - no traffic, and no hindrances. On that one day a year, you can forget about the horrendous ride quality or the heaps of turbo-lag. You can even forgive the complete and utter lack of sound deadening. Because on that one day, the balance of the mid-engine sports car and lightweight carbon fiber chassis augment human thought, sliding at will and gripping when you need it. The turbo flutter and exhaust flatulence from every upshift of the dual-clutch transmission spur you on, and the 4C Coupe becomes one of the most emotive driving experiences you'll ever have. On every other day of the year, you'll hate your decision to drive the 4C, but after that one, you'll never look at another driving experience the same way again.
Should you buy the 4C or not? Well, if you have an intense hatred for road manners, long-distance sanity, electronic driver assist programs, fancy infotainment, headroom, and general comfort, then the 4C is for you. As far as purposeful vehicles go, the 4C is arguably the worst excuse for a motor vehicle an Italian company has ever dared ask $50,000 for. But you can't help but want one - not for the daily commute, not even for the weekend warrior breakfast run. No, you want one to stare at, to gawk at and drool over when it's parked in your garage. You want one for the exclusivity of saying you own the beginning of Alfa Romeo's 21st-century renaissance. But most of all, you want the 4C for the one occasion in a blue moon when the stars align and it's an extension of yourself, for the raw emotion and character it possesses that makes you feel like you're piloting a Group B rally car. It's not a Cayman, nor an Audi TT - it's something completely different that makes no sense at all, and yet you can't help but yearn for it. Is there anything more Italian than that?
With only one trim option available, the 4C's ordering process is relatively simple, but we do recommend adding on the Convenience Package which includes rear parking sensors, so as to minimize the risk of dinging the rear bumper. The optional dual-mode Akrapovic exhaust is also worth considering, as the standard exhaust makes itself heard throughout the rev range and could use some subtlety when you're crawling home.
The Alfa's extensive use of composite materials, as well as its Italian heritage and built-for-purpose two-seater layout, make it a mini-exotic, and its price tag reflects this. As such, it must do battle with more powerful, more luxurious offerings. The Porsche Cayman is one such rival that also utilizes a turbocharged four-cylinder motor. The Porker's two-liter flat-four is more powerful, though, making 300 hp and 280 lb-ft. The 718 is also available with a six-speed manual as standard, and is renowned as one of the best performing sports cars around, with stunning handling. However, the Porsche outdoes the Alfa in the cabin too, with touchscreen navigation and infotainment system and satellite radio. Much more refined, comfortable, and faster, the Porsche is one of the ultimate all-rounders and has everything you could possibly want from a sports car. Available in numerous trims too, there is more breadth of scope in terms of choice too. The Porsche is simply the better car, objectively speaking.
The fastest Lotus ever made, the Evora 400 is something of a change from the British company's usual exploits, being bigger and more GT-like than the usual Lotus offerings. However, much like the Alfa, the focus, as always, is on lightness. Constructed with an aluminum tub, the Evora is powered by a much bigger and more powerful 3.5-liter engine, which is also boosted, but by a supercharger rather than a turbo, making 400 hp. Available with a choice of manual or automatic transmissions and featuring a proper infotainment system with navigation, the Evora is simple but arguably better than the Alfa. Unfortunately, it costs the dear amount of over $90,000, and for almost supercar money, doesn't look nearly as gorgeous as the 4C. The Evora is quicker, better equipped, and more practical due to its slightly larger dimensions, but even with all of that, it doesn't have the charm that only an Italian can provide. We'd have the Alfa.
The most popular competitors of 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe: