It’s not often that a major automaker gets to reintroduce itself to the American market, but that’s what’s been happening with Alfa Romeo. New Alfas have been absent from our roads for the last 20 years, but now the brand is back as part of the Fiat/Chrysler merger. The new Alfa Romeo is more than a reintroduction, however. Between the near-exotic 4C and now the powerful and elegant Giulia, it’s a complete reinvention of the brand as an extremely high-end marque. We should not expect to see the more affordable end of Alfa Romeo in America any time soon – though it’s certain that those cars would be popular here. If you think the MINI has brand appeal going for it, google up the Alfa Mi-To for something truly sexy.
Alfa Romeo has always been known for sports cars. Even its sedans were sporty. The brand was founded in 1910 as a racing marque, and even Enzo Ferrari drove for Alfa before opening his own car company. For most people, though, the defining image of Alfa Romeo was the red convertible in the movie The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman. That car defined Alfa for a generation. Among sports car enthusiasts, Alfa has always been a gold standard, even for the comparatively low-powered sedans. Under the skin, they carried the same drivetrains, suspensions and brakes as their racing counterparts.
In Europe, Alfa Romeo produces everything from four-door sedans to subcompact hatchbacks, but new the presence in America is all about near-exotic sports cars and now the big German-killing sedan. The first Alfa to hit our dealerships was the breathtaking 4C coupe in 2014, then it was followed up with a convertible last year. Now the big Giulia sedan has come along, ready to take on the sport-luxury sedan market.
The most recent car we drove was the Alfa 4C coupe, and this car is simply breathtaking on the street. If you’re on dry pavement, the little 4C is a pocket rocket that gets all kinds of attention. The 1.75-liter turbocharged engine and 6-speed twin-clutch transmission give you the feeling that a master race driver is sitting with you shifting the car for you. All you have to do is use the 4C’s razor-sharp handling and throttle response to enjoy your drive.
The 4C is tight for larger drivers, but if you make the effort to slide in behind the wheel, you’re rewarded with a snarl from the engine and the feeling that you’ve taken control of the sportiest car this side of a Formula One machine. Yet the 4C has a supple quality that lets you know that the car is optimized for the road.
In the course of our time, we also had the 4C out on the race track at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where we managed to find the limits of its handling and acceleration. While it was fun on the track, it was not quite the street-legal racer that you can find in the Lotus Evora, for example. A tendency for the front end to skip and push became apparent in true high speed cornering – but unless you find yourself on a world-class track like Mazda Raceway, you’ll never find that limit.
The 4C offers 237 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque, and does 0-60 in 4.4 seconds. If you took it to a drag strip (but you wouldn’t) it would cover the quarter-mile in 12.7 seconds. Starting price is $53,800, but the way you want it, plan on spending about $65,000. Is the Alfa 4C worth $65,000? Hell yes. You’re getting most of the performance envelope and all the Italian sexiness of a Ferrari at about 1/3 the price. That’s a hell of a deal by any standard.