Used 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C
Edmunds' Expert Review
With Italian style, racecar-influenced manufacturing processes and stunning performance, the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C joins the ranks of exclusive exotics. But the 4C gives up a lot of comfort to attain its performance. Similarly priced sports cars are much better for daily driving.
Alfa Romeo made a quiet exit from the U.S. nearly 20 years ago. Despite producing some iconic roadsters (the Spider) and an impressively sporty sedan (the 164), Alfa's sales and reputation suffered because of unreliable cars that weren't especially cheap to buy in the first place. But the Italian automaker, owned by Fiat and now related to Chrysler, is trying its hand at the American market again, this time with the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C.
Alfa has applied a lot of the manufacturing techniques normally used for exotic sports cars to create the new 4C. This is a stubby, midengine sports car built in Modena, Italy, that utilizes a carbon-fiber tub, with aluminum used for the suspension, roof structures and crash supports. A diminutive but turbocharged 1.7-liter four-cylinder engine cranks out 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Sure, this isn't a whole lot in today's world of 700-hp Dodge coupes and sedans, but the 4C doesn't need much power, as it weighs less than 2,500 pounds. That engine is visible through a glass panel, Ferrari-style, and is paired to a six-speed, automated-clutch manual transmission with paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
A Brembo/TRW brake package ensures the 4C stops as quickly as it goes. If that's not aggressive enough for you, a Track package with more aggressive tires and suspension settings and an absurdly loud sport exhaust system are available. Exclusivity is ensured, with just 1,200 examples in the pipeline for North America, and only 500 examples of a special 4C Launch Edition that feature a carbon-fiber rear spoiler and mirror caps, aluminum rear diffuser, a race-tuned suspension, sports seats and a leather-wrapped instrument panel.
"Race-tuned" is the operative phrase here, as the 4C is happiest on a racetrack. In normal daily driving, the 4C suffers from a stiff ride, minimal storage and a lack of common convenience and safety features. Based on price alone, the 4C lies in the range of competitors like the 2015 BMW M4, 2015 Chevrolet Corvette and 2015 Porsche Cayman. Truth be told, all of these are vastly more livable than the 4C and yet still a blast to drive. But if you want something that not everybody has and love participating in high-performance driving events, the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C could very well be your car.
Trim levels & features
The 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C is a two-passenger sport coupe available in base and Launch Edition trim levels.
Standard equipment on the base 4C includes 17-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels with high-performance tires, manual rack-and-pinion steering, LED taillights, keyless entry, one-touch power windows, four-way manually adjustable cloth-upholstered seats, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power side mirrors, air-conditioning, a digital instrument panel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a four-speaker sound system with a USB interface and an auxiliary audio input.
Option packages start with the Exterior Appearance package that includes a body-color rear spoiler and satin-finish exterior mirrors. A Leather Interior Group includes a leather-wrapped instrument cluster and door panels and a lockable rear console leather bag. The Convenience package includes cruise control, an alarm, rear parking sensors and a premium-speaker upgrade. The Track package adds a carbon-fiber instrument panel surround, carbon-fiber exterior mirrors, a track-tuned suspension, a leather/simulated suede steering wheel and a body-color rear spoiler.
Stand-alone options include premium paint, xenon headlights, a sport exhaust, various wheels up to 18 and 19 inches, painted brake calipers, red interior details and a battery charger.
With minor variations, the effectively loaded Launch Edition includes the Leather package, the Track package and the Exterior Appearance package (with carbon fiber), plus the xenon headlights, sport exhaust, 18- and 19-inch wheels, red brake calipers and a sequentially numbered Launch Edition plaque. The only options are the Convenience package and battery charger.
Performance & mpg
Powering the 4C is a turbocharged 1.7-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Power is routed to the rear wheels through an automated-clutch manual transmission. A four-mode driving selector and an electronically controlled rear differential are also standard.
In Edmunds performance testing, a base 4C with the Track pack and sport exhaust blasted to 60 mph from a standstill in just 4.2 seconds utilizing the built-in launch control system. That's right about the same time as the Corvette and a few tenths quicker than cars like the Cayman and M4.
Standard safety features include antilock disc brakes, multimode stability and traction control systems, hill-start assist, front and side airbags and a driver-side knee airbag.
In simulated panic stops from 60 mph, our test driver recorded a 104-foot stop, which is appropriately short for a sports car.
Relatively wide door sills and bolt-upright seats make getting in and out a little tricky. Once inside, the highly contoured, flat-bottom steering wheel feels terrific in a driver's hands; that is, until it's time to parallel park. The steering system is unassisted, so be prepared to wrestle with the wheel at speeds under 10 mph. But what a treat at speed to have absolutely nothing but a mechanical connection between you and the front tires. "Precise and informative" only begin to describe the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C's unadulterated steering. Not since the last and similarly performance-focused Lotus Exige have we enjoyed pure rack-and-pinion steering and the utterly instantaneous response and poise the car exhibits. We'd be wary of ordering the optional track-ready suspension, however, as it is nearly unlivable for daily driver duty.
The most prominent aspect of driving the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C, however, is the engine, but not in a way that most enthusiasts will find familiar. At the polar opposite of a growling, bellowing V8 is the unique sound of the Alfa's highly turbocharged inline-4. If you've ever heard a World Rally Car (WRC), or perhaps a four-cylinder drag racecar, you'll recognize the "whoosh PAH-pah-pah" sound as the turbo pressurizes the intake and the blow-off valve releases unused compressed air. The horsepower rating of "just" 237 doesn't seem like much, but what is astounding is the mere 1.7 liters that produces it.
The rapid-fire dual-clutch automated manual is remarkably adept at creeping into a parking spot, shifting smoothly at speed and adapting to the driver's mood. It is perhaps the most "normal" aspect of this otherwise frenetic car.
In 15-minute doses and on the right sort of road (or a racetrack), there are only a handful of cars as thrilling as the Alfa 4C and they all cost two or three times as much. But as a daily sports car the Alfa falls far short in many critical ways, specifically lacking comfort and features that many buyers will expect. This is a laser-focused, extremely talented track-day car that happens to be street-legal, which is why it has earned just a "B" rating from the Edmunds testing department.
You'll have to search high and low for a car constructed as the Alfa Romeo 4C is. Like a racecar, the passenger compartment is a "monocoque" made entirely of carbon fiber that is purposely left visible, especially in the footwells. Other racy elements include carbon-fiber seat frames with minimal padding and bottom-hinged aluminum pedals. But because saving weight was paramount for the 4C, there's very little else inside. There are no armrests or glovebox; the seatbacks don't recline; the dashboard, instrument panel, door panels and seats are minimally adorned (if at all); the cupholders are useless; and there's essentially no in-car storage.
The four-speaker stereo has Bluetooth and a USB connection, but its operation is hard to master and, well, rather futile since the 4C is so loud (especially with the sport exhaust system). The view through the windshield is excellent, but the small windows, side mirrors, essentially useless rearview mirror and enormous blind spots make it a challenge in the real world. As such, the optional rear parking sensors are a must. Cargo capacity is nearly nonexistent at just 3.7 cubic feet and you best not pack anything heat-sensitive there, as it is adjacent to the hot engine.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
More About This Model
How long have we waited for this moment? Not simply when an Alfa Romeo was sold in North America again, but when one was sold that was actually worth buying.
In case you're thinking 8C, think again: That car was a cut and shut Maserati in all but shape and badge. The last proper and real Alfa Romeo driver's car was the ugly but amazing Zagato-built SZ. And that was more than 20 years ago.
The 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C is more than just a car. It marks a turning point in Alfa Romeo's history. Time and again Alfa's die-hard army of fans around the world have hoped for something special, only to be let down by the final product. Now, all those decades of hurt could be swept away from just one look at the production 4C. This car is not just beautiful; it is a beautiful Alfa Romeo.
A Masterpiece of Modern Technology
But preaching to the converted is never going to ensure the success of the 4C. What the car must do is also speak to those, many in the States, who do not bleed Alfa Romeo. And this time it will speak to them with both Italian style and cutting-edge technology.
The 4C's structure is a fascinating mélange of carbon fiber, aluminum, steel and plastic. And once it's all been bolted, glued and bonded together it makes for a car with a quoted weight of fewer than 2,000 pounds. That figure is for a car with no fluids or people onboard, however, so figure an actual curb weight of around 2,100 pounds.
Unfortunately, 4Cs headed to the U.S. will carry another 220 pounds of weight, most of it due to "marketing and homologation reasons" says Alfa. That means things like airbags, sturdier bumpers and various in-car entertainment units will likely push the weight of the U.S.-spec 4C to something over 2,300 pounds: still incredibly light by any standards, but not quite the chiseled whippet Alfa would like you to believe it is.
With so little weight to push around, the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C doesn't need huge power to go fast. It packs a turbocharged, 1.7-liter four-cylinder rated to produce 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The only transmission is a paddle-shift six-speed double-clutcher that sends power to the rear wheels through an open differential.
The suspension setup consists of a conventional double-wishbone arrangement at the front end, and MacPherson struts at the rear. Alfa has all sorts of convincing reasons for putting a suspension you'd normally find at the front of the car at the back, but I strongly suspect that both it and the transverse installation of the engine can be traced back to the powertrain's front-drive origins.
A Cabin Stripped of Anything That Isn't Needed
You can't slip easily behind the wheel if you're much over 6 feet, as it's a long way down and you have to negotiate your way past a high and wide carbon-fiber sill. But you won't mind a little indignity getting in because once in position the car fits like a fine Italian suit. There's enough head- and legroom for the driver, though your passenger may be less happy: His or her seat is fixed and can only be moved by a dealer.
Ahead a TFT screen looking like the little brother of that used in the 2013 Lamborghini Aventador blinks into life. It's actually quite hard to read but it looks cool so you're not likely to care. The rest of the interior is completed pared: Where there's not hard plastic, there's exposed paint, metal and carbon fiber. It is probably an aesthete's vision of hell, but to a rabid car enthusiast, this is closer to heaven than most car cockpits have ever come.
You actually turn a key to fire the engine, no silly buttons here. Wish we could say there was a stick shift, too, but it's paddles or nothing. The next thing you notice is that the car is making a great deal of the wrong kind of noise. All the test cars had the optional sports exhaust fitted, and we would advise you to avoid it like the milk you forgot to put back in the refrigerator last night. A 1.7-liter turbo-4 was never likely to sound great, and turning it up to 11 has done the car no favors at all.
Incredible Performance With One Noticeable Flaw
As we start to move, two things strike us almost at once. First the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C rides beautifully, which is not necessarily what we were expecting. The suspension is firm but beautifully cushioned by Magneti Marelli dampers, so it irons out most of the lumps in the road without ever pitching, heaving or lurching.
Less impressive is the steering. Alfa has audaciously left it free of assistance and although it has a respectable weight, there is a sensitivity that does not inspire the confidence it should. Once you're turned into a corner, it's fabulously precise and full of feel, but that nervousness as you come off-center saps your confidence just a little. It may be that the car was engineered to work on the smaller, standard wheels and tires; indeed, an Alfa engineer intimated that this was the case.
But this is still a highly capable performer. With launch control in "Race" mode (dynamic, normal and all-weather modes are available, too) and near instant shifts from its double-clutch transmission, it feels easily capable of the 4.5-second 0-62-mph time claimed for it. The heavier U.S. cars will reportedly take an extra half-second to make the same sprint.
Grip levels are extraordinary, even on standard road tires, let alone the optional road-legal "race" Pirellis that can be optioned. It corners flat, very fast and consistently above 1.1g according to the tiny meter that appears on the screen in Race mode. If you can find the space to push it past its limits, you'll find that it just understeers politely. We were told U.S. cars will be more stiffly sprung to compensate for their extra weight and achieve what Alfa engineers describe as "the same characteristics."
An Imperfect Car That's Still Desirable
Unlike so many other modern Alfas, this one is the real deal, a car with the raw ability to cash the check written by its astonishing appearance. It is an utterly desirable car, one that will remind you of why you fell in love with driving in the first place.
That said, we still feel as if the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C could have been just a little bit better. It feels like a car that has been 98 percent developed. With a slightly more nuanced steering feel it could be one of the most outstanding driving machines of our time.
Then again, anyone who considers the 4C's looks, technology and speed probably won't care about its less-than-perfect steering. They want a car that'll make their heart sing, their passengers scream and their neighbors go green with envy. And for that, this Alfa is dead on.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Overview
The Used 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C is offered in the following submodels: 4C Coupe. Available styles include 2dr Coupe (1.7L 4cyl Turbo 6AM), Launch Edition 2dr Coupe (1.7L 4cyl Turbo 6AM), and Spider 2dr Coupe (1.7L 4cyl Turbo 6AM).
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Should I lease or buy a 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.