Exotic Street Cred on a Budget

Alfa Romeo made a bold choice to re-enter the U.S. automobile market with the near-exotic 4C. They chose the sleek and sexy coupe to signal that Alfa would be a premium sports car brand. Now as the rumor mill presages the end of 4C production, it’s time to take a look at this car’s collectibility potential.

The 4C was formally unveiled at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. From the outside, the little Alfa looks like a baby exotic. It’s quite a bit smaller than a Ferrari or McLaren. It’s more akin to the lightweight Lotus Elise/Exige models.

The monocoque is made from carbon fiber, covered with plastic composite bodywork. The drivetrain/suspension in back and steering/suspension in front are mounted on aluminum subframes. The U.S.-spec 4C coupe weighs in at 2,315 pounds and the Spider at 2,337. For reference, that’s about the same as the 2018 Mazda Miata.

The 4C suspension design is modern but not exotic, with double wishbones in front and MacPherson struts in the rear. To complete the package, the 4C gets really big brakes and impressively wide tires on your choice of fancy wheels.

The part you really care about is the driveline. The 4C is a mid-engine, rear-drive design like any good exotic. The engine is a transverse-mounted, all-aluminum turbocharged 4-cylinder of 1,742 cc, but they call it a 1750.

Never let it be said that Alfa doesn’t nod to its history — the Alfa 6C 1750 of 1929 won everything in its path.

The 4C engine is rated at 237 horsepower and 258 ft-lb of torque. Power is passed to the rear axle through a 6-speed dual dry-clutch transmission. You can paddle-shift it — or just punch the A/M button into automatic mode and drive.

This car’s power numbers won’t turn any heads in the modern world, and they might spark a few condescending comments from Ferrari owners. That said, Motor Trend found that the 4C will go 0–60 mph in 4.1 seconds, which is about the same as a Porsche Cayman GTS or even an Aston Martin Vantage. The real exotics do 0–60 mph in about 3.0 seconds or less.

The top speed is governed to 160 mph, and someone once used a 4C to lap the Nordschleife in 8:04. It’s good to have a goal if you get there, right?

What’s it like, really?

I’ve had the 4C on weeklong press loans a couple times, and I’ve been out for warm laps at Laguna Seca in the car, too.

The skinny is, you’ll like it more if you’re skinny. Larger individuals don’t get into the 4C so much as put it on, but you can pretend you’re Tony Stark. Once inside, the 4C is race-car comfortable, which is to say that the seats are supportive on all sides, but don’t go looking for the massage function — it ain’t there.

On the dash you’ll find a bare-bones sports car presentation. There’s a nifty digital information display and a stereo of some kind. I don’t recall ever turning it on. There’s lots of black suede with red topstitching everywhere. Technically the base seats are upholstered in cloth, but I’ve never seen a 4C without leather.

On public roads, at least in summertime, you’ll have to work to find the handling limits of the 4C. It feels and drives like an exotic car — just without quite so much power. It’s plenty quick, but it’s not the same kind of unbelievable wind-out that you get with a true exotic.

The 4C is really at home on a tight mountain road, where you can enjoy the paddle shifting, the engine noise behind your head, and the feeling that the tires have infinite grip.

It’s also a top-notch track-day car, and it was there we found that the 4C in stock trim will push at the limit. But like any good sports car, you’ll get plenty of warning through the wheel. Dial it back a notch and the stock 4C will run respectable track sessions, and you won’t run out of brakes.

Why should you care about the Alfa 4C?

A brand-new 2018 Alfa 4C coupe is currently selling from $58,995 to about $75,000 if you tick every option box. Add about $10,000 for a Spider. That’s why you care. You’re getting a bona fide super-sexy Italian sports car for a small fraction of the price of a true exotic. When you pull in to your local Cars & Coffee in a 4C, you’ll get the same respect as anything this side of an Aventador.

Here’s another thing: The 4C is holding its value, and it will continue to hold value. It’s still early for these to be hitting the auction circuit, but the most recent sale of a Launch Edition coupe from 2014 was $64,320, which is about the original MSRP. Hemmings has a few listed, and all are around $50,000–$55,000. When the 4C goes out of production (as it surely will soon), those numbers are likely to rise.

The bottom line is that the Alfa Romeo 4C is an affordable near-exotic that will hold its value, and you can drive it without being concerned that every mile is subtracting resale value. ♦

Jeff Zurschmeide

Jeff Zurschmeide - SCM Contributor - %%page%%

Jeff is a lifelong automobile enthusiast with a penchant for sports and racing cars. He has raced SCCA, local circle track, and stage rally as a co-driver. He makes his living as a freelance automotive journalist and is the author of six books on automotive topics. As a rule, he practices catch-and-release fishing when it comes to collectible automobiles, trying to leave each one in better condition than he found it. Enduring passions include his MGA and Austin Mini, and his 1969 Corvette. He recently purchased a 1920 Ford Model T Touring because “you just have to have one of these once in your life.”

Posted in Affordable Classics