By Eric Barton
City & Shore Magazine
Three coworkers trailed my friend Jonathan when he walked out of the office tower where he works in downtown Fort Lauderdale. They were car guys, coming to ogle the double-parked Alfa Romeo 4C.
There were a lot of “wows,” and somebody called it the prettiest car he’d ever seen.
Painted the color of an opera singer’s lipstick, the 4C is a collection of rolling Dolomite hills. Mountains rise over the front wheels, and plateaus climb stylishly over the rear end. It looks lower than any car made nowadays, and with all those curvy cliffs it looks like a shrunken Ferrari. It’s impossible to find a single inch that’s not worthy of being on Instagram.
“I want one,” someone said lustily.
This is the kind of reaction you get everywhere with the 4C. This is Alfa Romeo’s first foray back into America in two decades, and it’s an Italian masterpiece. It’s the obvious successor to the car from The Graduate, the car you should drive to stop your true love from marrying the wrong man.
Sure, the trunk is laughably tiny; it’s loud and often uncomfortable, and, no, you probably don’t want to take it to work every day. It should occupy that extra spot in your garage, the one reserved for the Sunday-morning sports car.
The good news if you need to convince a significant other about buying a third car: The cost is relatively manageable. It starts at $53,900, and even fully loaded with race exhaust and suspension it’s still under $70,000. Competitors like the Porsche Cayman or Jaguar F-type offer loads more comforts – the Alfa’s radio for instance looks like an after-market special, and forget about luxury options such as heated seats. But you could spend three or four, maybe even 10 times as much, and not buy a car this much fun.
Before getting lunch, Jonathan and I took a joy ride. An inch over 6 feet, Jonathan just barely fit. With a huge door well, getting in required making a yogalike move of putting in a foot first, then dropping his butt, before careening his final leg into the tight compartment. He then slid the seat – which has no reclining function – all the way back, with just enough room to fit his legs. The low-slung roof grazed the top of his head.
As he took Andrews Avenue south, Jonathan wore a devilish grin every time he hit the accelerator. “This thing is amazing,” he kept saying. Loudly, actually, because talking in the 4C is done over a constant howl. On nearly every shift from the automatic transmission, the exhaust cackles and barks. The turbo charger, seemingly directly behind the driver’s head, hisses like a cornered cobra using a loudspeaker. You might hate all that noise, but if you like cars, it’s a Milanese symphony.
“I know where we can go,” Jonathan said, as he accelerated from the light at Andrews and State Road 84. There was a bit of foreboding in his voice. The road took a jog to the left before getting to I-595, and Jonathan pushed the accelerator to the floor. The Alfa did nothing but turn, no body roll, no back-tire spin, nothing but pure handling.
That is what this car is all about: Its insanely low weight, at under 2,500 pounds, means acceleration that’ll leave your breath at the last light. The four-cylinder may only have 237 horses, but the lean frame makes it a rocket. The steering is so accurate you’ll feel as if you can handle any turn, zipping through 90-degree rights at lights.
That steering does have a downside. In an effort to keep weight down and preserve that go-cart handling, there’s no power steering. From a stop, a U turn requires a hand-over-hand maneuver. Once at speed, though, the wheel lightens, and the accuracy of the steering rivals any other car on the road.
We entered the warehouse district ringing the airport, and Jonathan turned us onto our destination. He explained that it was part of the old loop road around the airport. It’s now just a two-lane strip of asphalt with little around but slash pines and cabbage palms.
“Will you record this?” Jonathan said, handing me his cell phone. That should’ve been a warning. He directed me to put the phone up to the speedometer, a stunning digital display straight out of a video game.
Jonathan put one foot on the brake and another on the accelerator, which initiates the car’s launch control. The tachometer held at 4,000 rpms as he lifted the brake. The engine isn’t much without the turbo working, so that initial jump feels like hesitation. But then comes all the power in a hurry. The Alfa’s engine roared. We were at 60 in a heartbeat.
Three digits came after that, and I saw 105. Then I stopped the record button before asking my buddy to slow down, not wanting to document my fear of what would’ve come next.
“Holy cow!” Jonathan said, as the auto gearbox downshifted back to reasonable speeds.
There aren’t many cars out there that perform like that. Sure, plenty of them can go fast and handle well, but this is a car that will bring you to exclamations of blasphemy. The Alfa Romero 4C is that rare thing, a car that looks prettier, handles better and seems quicker than any other vehicle on the road.
If you buy one, I’ll show you where to find that road.
Rick Case Alfa Romeo, 3500 Weston Road, Davie,