2018 Alfa Romeo 4C Review
The 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C checks a lot of boxes on the exotic sports car wish list: It’s from Italy, its engine is behind the seats, the chassis is a carbon-fiber monocoque, and the entire car weighs less than 2,500 pounds. The 4C also uses rack-and-pinion steering — with no power assist. That particular cutting-edge automotive technology showed up in, oh, the 1930s. But having it in a 2018 car when everything else has numb-feeling, electric-assist racks is almost a revelation.
In the 4C, manual steering both saves weight and provides greater feedback to the driver, and this car is all about lightness and feedback. The engine shouts right in your ear, the suspension communicates every minuscule imperfection in the road, and the minimally padded seats make sure you feel every vibration. This raw, unfiltered driving experience is both what makes the Alfa a unique standout among modern cars and what makes it an unlivable daily driver. The 4C is definitely a second — or maybe third — car.
For the money, there are plenty of engaging sports cars that are significantly easier to live with (you know, if you don’t have a garage big enough for a small fleet). The Porsche 718 Cayman and 718 Boxster, the Chevrolet Corvette, and the Jaguar F-Type are all exceptional driver’s cars. All have their strengths and weaknesses, but they’re all more comfortable and more practical.
what’s new on 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C
For 2018, the 4C gets optional carbon-fiber exterior vents as well as yellow accent stitching to the interior.
we recommend buying 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C
The biggest choice you have to make is whether you want the coupe or the convertible, and that is the kind of personal decision we would not presume to dictate. But we do strongly encourage you to opt for the Convenience package, which adds rear parking sensors. Since there’s no backup camera available and rear visibility is poor, we think the sensors are a must. The dual-mode Akrapovič exhaust is also a nice add-on since it provides both a robust exhaust note and a more subdued mode.
2018 Alfa Romeo 4C trim levels & features
The 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C should only be considered by buyers willing to live with the inherent day-to-day difficulties of driving a seriously hardcore mid-engine sports car. Its no-frills attitude is reflected in its skimpy list of standard and optional features. After all, more features make for a heavier car, and the 4C is all about keeping the weight down. If you should want a few extras, the Convenience package adds a few luxury elements, the Track package includes performance upgrades, and the Carbon Fiber Interior Trim package is self-explanatory.
The 4C is powered by a turbocharged 1.7-liter four-cylinder engine (237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque) paired to a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission sending power to the rear wheels. Standard equipment for the coupe includes a 17-inch (front) and 18-inch (rear) wheels, summer performance tires, LED running lights and taillights, heated mirrors, air conditioning, power accessories, cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 7-inch driver information display, Bluetooth connectivity, and an Alpine sound system with a CD player, a USB port and satellite and HD radio. The 4C convertible also has a manually operated soft top, leather seats and an alarm system.
The leather seats are optional on the coupe, and leather seats with faux suede upholstery are available on both body styles. An optional Convenience package adds rear parking sensors, cruise control and, for the coupe, an alarm system. The Track package includes a more stiffly tuned suspension, available 18-inch (front) and 19-inch (rear) wheels, a flat-bottom steering wheel and additional carbon-fiber exterior trim. Additional carbon-fiber styling elements are included with the Carbon Fiber Interior Trim package. Notable stand-alone options include xenon headlights, a subwoofer, a carbon-fiber roof, a sport exhaust and an Akrapovič dual-mode exhaust.
2018 Alfa Romeo 4C trim tested
Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe (turbo 1.7L inline-4 | 6-speed dual-clutch automatic | RWD).
NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Alfa Romeo 4C has received some revisions, including an upgraded standard sound system and the availability of an Akrapovič dual-mode exhaust system in 2017. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year’s Alfa Romeo 4C.
2018 Alfa Romeo 4C Scorecard
|Overall||3.0 / 5.0|
|Driving||5.0 / 5.0|
|Comfort||2.0 / 5.0|
|Interior||2.0 / 5.0|
|Utility||1.0 / 5.0|
|Technology||2.0 / 5.0|
2018 Alfa Romeo 4C driving test
Performance is the primary mission of the 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C, especially when equipped with the Track package and high-performance tires. As such, this 4C is at or near the front of the pack for acceleration, braking, steering and handling. Everyday drivability suffers for the same reasons, though.
Turbocharging a small engine sometimes produces surging acceleration, but not in the 4C. The four-cylinder has excellent urban manners along with Corvette-challenging speed. Zero to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds is darn quick.
The rare bottom-hinged brake pedal gives an extremely firm feel, has a short travel, and operates much like a race car’s. You’ll need to press firmly, but the action is positive and reassuring. Our 4C came to a halt from 60 mph in 104 feet. That’s short, but some rival sports cars do even better.
The steering has zero power assist, so it gives crisp, precise and extremely informative responses at speed. For a sports car, there’s nothing better. But the low-speed heaviness, especially when parking, will be a problem for some.
A Dynamic-mode stability control, lightweight body and chassis construction, mid-engine layout, sticky tires, and race-carlike steering and suspension provide uniquely dynamic handling qualities that few cars, even exotics, can match.
Both the engine and the quick-shifting dual-clutch transmission are surprisingly easy to live with, even in traffic. But the ultra-loud sport exhaust and exceptionally firm suspension (both optional) will grow tiresome quickly.
2018 Alfa Romeo 4C comfort
If you’re looking for a comfortable sports car, run elsewhere. The 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C, especially when optioned with the purposefully stiff suspension and loud exhaust found on our test car, isn’t easy to live with. An example of this: There are no armrests anywhere in the car.
The driver and passenger seatbacks are essentially fixed and don’t recline beyond about 90 degrees, so you’ll either fit in this Alfa or you won’t. Padding is minimal, but it’s in the right spots. A lack of elbow rests means sore shoulders on long drives.
The 4C’s stiff suspension is great on a racetrack, but it makes for a harsh ride and highway groove-following dartiness. A lot of rival sports cars come with adaptive or adjustable suspension damping to help smooth out the ride, but it’s not available on the 4C.
noise & vibration
Purposefully built with bare-bones lightweight materials and minimal sound insulation (plus the optional exhaust), this Alfa is one of the loudest cars we’ve ever tested whether at idle or cruising but especially at full throttle.
2018 Alfa Romeo 4C interior
The Alfa Romeo 4C’s interior features barely tolerable ergonomics, clumsy entry and exit, little legroom, appalling outward visibility, and virtually no cargo or storage space. This is absolutely not a daily driver.
ease of use
Eccentricities abound, with a strange audio head unit (with a detachable face), a confusing instrument panel and an arduous trip-meter reset protocol. Some controls are marginally easier to operate, such as the window switches, push-button transmission selector and drive-mode rocker.
getting in/getting out
The carbon-fiber monocoque passenger compartment requires wide doorsills, so the 4C is the kind of car you fall into and climb or hoist yourself out of. To make matters more difficult, the doors lack intermediate and end stops.
Compared to those of similar sports cars, the Alfa Romeo’s cabin has a sense of open space with a low dash and ample headroom. For those over 6 feet tall, however, there’s little legroom in either seat.
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. Optional rear parking sensors are a must, especially because there’s no rearview camera available.
Some buttons feel embarrassingly flimsy, but the 4C’s chassis is constructed like a race car with beautiful handlaid carbon-fiber and aluminum cradles front and rear. That alone is worth the base car’s price.