Is it a Bugatti? A Ferrari? What is that thing? The Alfa Rome 4C confounds. It boasts the curves of a $300,000 supercar, enough precision steering to slosh your organs, and a turbo dump with enough swoosh to make Nike sue for infringement. The 4C marks Alfa Romeo’s resurrection into the American market, but with a sparse interior and cramped quarters, America may not quite understand this Italian rear-wheel-drive mid-engine coupe. And with a price tag of $53,900 comes a polarizing question: is the 4C a massive waste of money, or the deal of the century?

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Alfa Romeo was a fairly popular brand during the mid-to-late 20th century, offering models like the Spider (the car Dustin Hoffman drove in The Graduate) and the GTV6. But the 164 ended their US presence in 1995. Rumors of their return came in 2007 by way of the $250,000+ 8C Competizione but only 90 of the 500 produced made it to America by 2008. Thankfully, in 2013, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne announced that the mass-produced 4C would mark Alfa Romeo’s return that year; but it was pushed to 2014, and then to 2015. Better late than never.

The 4C boasts the curves of a $300,000 super car, enough precision steering to slosh your organs, and a turbo dump with enough swoosh to make Nike sue for infringement.

At first glance the 4C has a Lotus Esprit/Tesla Roadster shape to it, but the lines are sexier and more dramatic than that. The converging hood lines create a sort-of beak on the car and the protruding lights add to the animal-like appearance. The 4C’s silhouette reveals a Batmobile-like cockpit and the integration of the side scoop into the rear arches and the tail. Our basalt-gray metallic model came with special wheels (18-inch front/19-inch rear) which completed the package. Based on the constant questions and paparazzi-level stalking this car brought while driving around town, it’s clear everyone liked the way it looked.

The interior, however, is where people will take issue with the $54,000 price tag. Getting into the car is like entering a stripped-down track car. There’s an extremely light door, a large doorframe, which displays the carbon fiber monocoque chassis, and very tight seating. At six-foot-one, I had to slide the seat back fully to get in, then squeeze in one leg at a time. There should have been an option for detaching the steering wheel for easier ingress and egress.

Under the Hood
Engine: 1.7-liter 4-cylinder turbo
Horsepower: 237 horsepower
Torque: 258 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 4.1 seconds
MPG: 24 (city) / 34 (highway)
Base: $53,900

The floor mat was essentially a shop towel, the seat was barely more comfortable than sitting on the floor at the airport (anything to charge my phone), the cup holder was made for a can of Red Bull or a single shot of espresso, the interior storage reached capacity with a wallet and phone and the speakers and stereo were confusing and horrible. The trunk offered passable storage at 3.7 cubic feet (more than an R8 by .2 cubic feet), but the performance-focused engineers apparently felt that having struts to hold the trunk open were unnecessary, and so I flashed back to childhood memories of holding open our minivan’s rear lid with a broom.

Dropping $54K on what felt like an Italian kit-car sounded horrible…until the engine started. Then the $54K sounded glorious. The 1.7-liter 4-cylinder turbo brought shocking power and a fanboy super-smile as the turbo spooled and dumped with each shift from the 6-speed dual clutch. The compact size of the car provides a connected experience, possibly because the driver is about two inches off the ground and equidistant from the 1.7 liter 4-cylinder turbo.

To adjust the drive modes you simply use a toggle switch in the center console, alternating between dynamic, natural and all-weather (DNA). Each mode modified the shift points and traction controls. The modes were indicated on the beautiful thin-film-transfer digital dash, which sported a clean design.

The Alfa Romeo 4C is a beautiful machine birthed from a place of pure sport.

The noticeably absent power steering wasn’t missed (save a few tired arms from parking lot negotiations) and was worth the trade-off for the go-kart-like responsiveness we found in return. The 4C is ridiculously light, thanks to a carbon fiber monocoque, aluminum crankcase and front and rear frames. And, with a sheet metal compound used for the body, the whole thing weighs in at under 2500 pounds (less than a Ford Fiesta).

The Alfa Romeo 4C is a beautiful machine birthed from a place of pure sport. Sure the stiff suspension left me with a sore back for a week and grocery runs had to be solo, but the 4C never claimed to be a comfortable ‘round-town cruiser. It’s meant for attacking twisty roads while looking unlike anything else on the road. For that, it nails it. Now if only they had a drop-top.