First drive: 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C in Italy

First drive: 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C in Italy

2014 Alfa Romeo 4C 3
Overseas media trips usually follow a strict regimen — you eat, sleep and drive whatever’s on “The Plan” and you do not deviate from it. So while the original plan was to drive a couple of Fiats, a Wheels scribe from our little Middle Eastern group requested to drive an Alfa Romeo 4C in the free time before we flew back to Dubai. And our Italian handlers obliged. What came next was a drive that shattered expectations.

This mid-engined 2-seater sports car is more of a head-tuner than any Alfa before it, including the much pricier 8C supercar from a few years ago. Very short in both length and height, it is rather wide, with a tiny boot in the back and no opening bonnet up front.

2014 Alfa Romeo 4C 4

After falling into the mildly-adjustable bucket seat, we remember there being leather door-pull straps, gear-selector buttons, paddle-shifters, drive-mode selector, a proper handbrake and a big LCD screen for a gauge cluster. There’s lots of exposed carbon-fibre too. In fact, part of the car’s chassis is a hand-assembled carbon-fibre tub, like a McLaren MP4-12C. A Porsche Cayman rival this ain’t.

We drove the 4C in the area around the hotel, filled with cramped town streets, that too unlit in the late evening. After realising there is no “D” option, I pressed the “1” button to get into first gear and drive off. Crawling out onto the road, the first things I noticed were the ground-hugging bathtub driving position and the obvious lack of power steering.

You need to keep the car moving to be able to turn the flat-bottomed steering wheel, otherwise trying to redirect those ultra-wide front tyres at idle becomes a proper resistance workout. The odd thing is it still isn’t as full of feedback as we would’ve expected it to be, only offering it up in dollops if the road is rough, like the cobblestone driveway of the hotel.

2014 Alfa Romeo 4C 2

And then I let it loose.

I figured it was the narrow streets that enhanced the sensation of speed to stratospheric levels, but no, it really was that fast, as getting shoved back into the seat proved whenever I floored the throttle pedal. It really isn’t what you expect from a car powered by a 240 hp 1.75-litre turbo-four. Even we own a 240 hp Honda S2000. But the 4C is even lighter than that. Much lighter, at only 895 kg. They say it does 0-100 kph in 4.5 seconds. And it sure felt like it.

The weighty steering is very sharp and direct, so you have to be precise with your inputs to keep turns smooth. In “dynamic” mode, that goes for throttle too. The 6-speed dual-clutch automanual transmission really makes its shifts felt, but it’s satisfyingly quick in its responses to my manual inputs. And boy does it sound brutal. I started to think there’s no exhaust muffler, given how loud it growls.

At this point I actually started to get nervous. And I never get nervous driving an automatic car. It feels so on-the-edge that the unfamiliar, dark and cramped residential streets were starting to bother me as I moderately pushed this car. And the 4C really eggs you on to push harder. It feels uneasy driving it slower than the speed of light.

2014 Alfa Romeo 4C 6

At one point, I ended up on a dead-end street and had to back out. That was the most nerve-wracking part of the drive. The visibility out the rear window is pathetic, and the mirrors are tiny. It didn’t help that the steering got heavier the slower I went.

Right after this, I went on a short jaunt after scouting out a small oval roundabout and a short dead-straight road. The grip limits are, obviously, very high and there was pretty much no body roll or tyre squeal at the well-above-average speed I jumped into that oval. But I got out of it after one round due to traffic concerns. On the straight, I got my final burst of speed. I don’t remember the ride being overly harsh, but a weak point is the brake feel. It stops hard when you pounce on it, but doesn’t seem to do much on partial tip-in.

Anyway, as the sun set, I made my way back to the hotel before getting into trouble on foreign soil. It’s a car I’d have loved to drive harder, but on roads that I’m familiar with. Even then, my drive that lasted for, maybe, a little more than 5 minutes was enough to overwhelm me. It’s an evil little supercar.

What do you think?



  1. Mash. I know it is subjective but can’t this be a daily drive sporty 2 seater ? Every decent review including yours had criticized the steering and by not having even the front bonnet for some storage compartment I guess it falls well short of Cayman/Z4/SLK 55…though that this is much of a headturner no doubt about it.

    • Author

      Any car can be a daily driver, as long as you don’t mind noise and don’t need much luggage space. 🙂

      The lack of power-steering kills it for me though, as a daily city driver, unless you’re Arnold S.

  2. looks more like a cheap fun toy to drive around tuscany..

    don’t like it personally, though

  3. Wow Drop-dead gorgeous car!!

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