Driven: 2017 Alfa Romeo 4C

I found myself sitting behind the wheel of a 2017 Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe – a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, Italian sports car weighing less than 2,500 pounds. I had been given the keys for a day and adventured up Mount Madonna to discover Sankaṭ Mochan Hanumān, a temple founded by Baba Hari Dass that serves as a place for the practice of Bhakti Yoga.

It was ironic to have such a chaotic little car in a place of peace.

I describe the 4C as “chaotic” because it’s a no-nonsense, no-frills, two-seat sports car made for the driving enthusiast.

Highlights? The 4C can sprint to 60 mph in just over four seconds, giving drivers the smile that only an Italian sports car can evoke.

You won’t find any luxury or coddling as you sit behind the flat-bottom steering wheel. You sit in a carbon fiber tub with nearly nonexistent creature comforts while the 1.75-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine makes all kinds of glorious Italian sounds fed through nearly un-muffled exhaust tips.

The 4C’s driving experience is likely only appreciated by the hardcore driving enthusiast – it doesn’t have any power steering, however, the lack-thereof provides an amazing experience allowing the driver to feel every bump and grove in the road, but you don’t feel beat up afterward. Additionally, the 4C has paddle shifters to control the twin-clutch 6-speed transmission to let you properly exercise the available and turbocharged 273 horsepower.

Two composite-framed leather sport seats are employed to hold the driver and passenger in place. The backs are adjustable within only a 2-degree range and the fore-aft adjustment for a tall or short driver is limited. The carbon fiber tub is visible, seen mostly when the doors are open, but also under the floor mats.

However, nothing is perfect and the 4C’s design has a few drawbacks. The 4C has visible hood seams but don’t even try to open it. The hood comes bolted shut for aerodynamic reasons and if you have things to carry, have fun squeezing them into the small area next to the engine at the rear of the car.

Visibility out of the rear window makes even the purest driving enthusiast thankful the 4C has ParkSense Rear Park Assist to alert the driver with audible sounds. While not necessarily bad, something to note is that the rear deck cover opens via a rod. Sorry, no struts.

The AC controls look pretty low-tech and outdated while the stock radio looks anything but stock and resembles an interface purchased at your local audio store.

The design of the 4C is very focused and purposed to reflect Alfa Romeo’s racing heritage. Each vent and intake is fully functional for an intended purpose.

The Alfa Romeo 4C is fun, eye-catching, beautiful, and unmistakably Italian, and for a base price of $65,900.

From the moment you insert and turn the key in the ignition — that’s right, no silly key fob or lame push-to-start button — the engine, located right behind the driver and passenger, is gurgling, snarling, howling, crackling and whistling — and it’s absolutely mesmerizing.

It might be difficult to hear over the engine to conduct a telephone call but, hey, if you’re driving this car properly, you’re too busy to chat anyway.

The radio was used sparingly though you probably shouldn’t even be messing with the radio, for that matter. You feel every moment of speed in the 4C, and you better hang on. The 4-cylinder engine may not strike you as intimidating or powerful, but when you factor in the car’s weight and

The 4-cylinder engine may not strike you as intimidating or powerful, but when you factor in the car’s weight and full boost of 21.75 psi, you’ll feel as if you’re driving an over-powering if street-legal go-kart. There is some turbo lag, but it doesn’t hold the car back from doing zero to 60 in 4.1 seconds.

The 4C also provides the driver with a raw and unfiltered feel of the road through its “manual steering” setup. I’ll admit I didn’t initially know how I’d feel about driving around without power steering, but in less than five minutes I was hooked and became an advocate.

The 4C easily establishes a strong connection between the car, road, and driver, but then goes the extra mile to enhance the clarity of the experience, requiring the driver to be alert, in control, and one step ahead.

The steering is so responsive, even the slightest movement of the wheel translates to the road. There’s no noticeable body roll and the car feels tight, sturdy and stable at any speed during elevation changes, cornering, or when given full throttle on a stretch of straight road. You feel the road, but you don’t feel beat up afterward and in more than one hundred miles of driving all over the Monterey Peninsula, I never felt uncomfortable.

The only time you really feel the weight of the car in steering is in turning from a stop and in parking. Even a little movement of the tires helps lighten the load in steering.

That said, you really need to give the 4C some gas to get it going. The twin-clutch-transmission has Dynamic, Natural, or All-weather modes and drivers can shift via paddles or simply let the gearbox do its thing. Automatic modes are a bit rougher but are made interesting with blips of the throttle on downshifts while paddle shifts are instant, clean and clear.

Simply put, the Alfa Romeo 4C provides the driving enthusiast with a pure and addictive yet wildly satisfying experience from the moment the key allows the engine to roar to life. It makes intoxicating engine sounds, lives up to those sounds with the way the car handles, and you’ll also enjoy all the thumbs up you get while you’re driving down the road.

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