By on November 25, 2014

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This week, TTAC reader vaujot from Frankfurt am Main chimes in.

To start, you may wonder why I bought this car.

Two reasons:
Firstly, I am an Alfista. I have memories of sitting in my uncle’s Giulia sedan as a five-year old and the unusual smell of leather interior (he eventually gave up on Alfas, they’re not well suited for Swiss winters). Since eight years, I own a 1962 Giulia Spider and through this have made the acquittance of nice and interesting fellow Alfa owners. I think it is great that they again make a car that you can drive to a meeting of Porsche owners and get compliments.

Secondly, the car is special. I see Porsches around where I live all the time. Some of my neighbors don’t even bother to keep them in a garage, parking on the street instead. In contrast, I have only once met another Alfa 4C owner and that happened after making an appointment via the 4C-forum. We met at the Nürburgring.

Alfa treats the car and its buyers as special, too. When you take delivery, you get a box containing an owners card, a key ring, a memory stick (the long users manual is stored, there) and a leather-bound folder including among other things a few photos that according to the salesman show the making of your very car.

In Europe, the 4C is sold as a low-volume model. They may only sell 1000 cars a year and it is exempted from certain regulations (I think pedestrian impact, side airbags and, of course, noise – the car is embarrassingly loud in town). Each car gets its own numbered certificate of conformity and mine is number 604 out of 1000 for this year.

Looking forward to your questions.

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78 Comments on “TTAC AMA: I Own An Alfa Romeo 4C...”


  • avatar
    swester

    Ever since owning a ’88 Spider Quadrifoglio passed down by a family relative, I have been and will always be a lifelong Alfisto. It wasn’t particularly fast, or reliable, or well-built, compared to, say, a Miata. But my goodness, the sheer pleasure of driving it was unlike any other vehicle I’ve ever driven.

    There just isn’t anything else like them out there, and Alfas new and old will always be head-turners (stateside, at least).

    Enjoy the 4C!

  • avatar

    Just read the first line of your review and skipped down to comment. No I don’t wonder why you did, I wonder why some than can don’t.

    Now, I’ll go read the rest, :)!

  • avatar
    Vega

    ” I see Porsches around where I live all the time. Some of my neighbors don’t even bother to keep them in a garage, parking on the street instead.”

    Frankfurt Westend I presume? If so, hello neighbor!
    Street parking is indeed crazy here (e.g. Aston Rapide, Artega GT and even a Phantom).

  • avatar
    erall

    omg I envy you but not when you’re faced with the spyder version

    are the little annoyances enough to dissuade you from recommending it to another enthusiast who’s willing to compromise practicality and sense for beauty and love?

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      I wouldn’t recommend it as your only car, unless you really do not need a car at all. I am glad to have a daily driver/beater for things like grocery shopping, visits to Ikea or skiing trips.

  • avatar
    Brian P

    No questions from me, but I compliment your choice! Light weight is A Good Thing.

  • avatar
    NN

    how big are you and is it comfortable at all? Do you wish it had an honest stick shift?

  • avatar
    kennyh

    Derek, thank you for your time. Some immediate questions come to mind as I am considering the 4C:
    – Reliability: How is it thus far?
    – Alfa: How confident are you in their dealer network. Here in the states, it’s minimal. Definitely a concern of mine.
    – Tractability: I live and park my car(s) in Manhattan. Even the best city drivers occasionally hit speed bumps, have to traverse poorly planned parking garages, handle sporadic bad weather, etc. Think the Alfa could / should handle it?

    I recently had an ’04 360 Spider 6-speed (transmission mentioned for credibility) that was basically totaled during an incident in a parking garage. Would you recommend the 4C as a good replacement?

    Thank you again-
    KH

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      Your question only showed up now (spam filter…)
      Reliability has been acceptable. I have driven 4000 km in four months. The only problem I have had is a false warning that something’s wrong wiht the lights. The car’s currently at the dealer to fix this. In Europe, Alfa never left the market and Germany’s headquarter for FIAT and Alfa Romeo is in Frankfurt. So, no problem to find a dealer close by.
      I think the 4C should handle Manhattan traffic and parking about as well as your 360 did. Ground clearance is low, the suspension is stiff and the front scrapes a bit when I enter the garage where I keep the car.

  • avatar
    vaujot

    I fit well but I am neither tall (175 cm) nor wide (80 kg if I have a a lot for dinner). I once had a group of teenagers come up to me saying, our friend here is 2.02 meters tall, can he try to fit in the car? I let him and he managed to get in. But I heard on an online forum that someone else who claims to be 6’7″ (or is it 6″7′?) sold his 4C after a few months because he couldn’t sit comfortably. That being said, I also hear that Jeremy Clarkson, apparently not a small man, is a huge fan of the 4C.

    I’m undecided whether I’d prefer a manual. I am kind of a purist but enjoy the semi-automatic, too.

  • avatar
    319583076

    What is the best part of driving the car?

    Acceleration?

    Handling?

    Attention?

    What is the worst thing about owning the car?

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      Best part? It’s very engaging and entertaining to drive. Byron Hurd published a review here a few months ago that describes the experience rather well.
      Acceleration? Pretty spectacular in the lower gears. At high speeds (more than 160 km/h / 100 mph) on the Autobahn, a Porsche Turbo would be better.
      Handling? Very direct. The steering gives lots of feedback, sometimes (e.g. when you hit a bump on the Autobahn at high speed) more than most people would like.
      Attention? Plenty. So far, only positive reactions.
      Worst thing about owning? Not sure, what to answer to this. It is not a practical car but I think anyone buying should be aware of this.

  • avatar
    sproc

    Is that binder a full owner’s manual or just an abbreviated guide of some sort? I expect a paper copy in my car at ANY price point. The memory stick is a nice touch, though.

    Also, have you had a chance to drive a Cayman? If so, are there ways that you feel it’s markedly better than the Porsche?

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      The manual is not in the binder, but in a separate booklet. I think, the manual on the USB is more exhaustive – I have not really looked at it that closely. All I needed to know so far was in the paper manual. If you have seen pictures of the interior, there isn’t much in there that isn’t self-explaining to me. Except the factory-fitted radio, which is the worst part of the car.

      I have to date never driven a Cayman but driven and riden in other Porsches. I think a Cayman is likely a much better car in many ways, just not as entertaining as a 4C. But certainly more liveable and practical.

  • avatar
    bobman

    Curious about the nose level inside the car. Is it something that one could live with over time? Some of the reviews I’ve read also speak of the quality of finish inside the car being inferior to other cars in that class, what is your impression?

    Is there a smile on your face when you drive it? That’s one thing that seems to be common with most reviewers also.

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      The car is definitely noisy. I have the sport exhaust, the normal exhaust probably better. The most annoying part is that in the sixth gear, it has a resonance right between 120 and 140 km/h (75 to 90 mph). That is a speed you drive fairly often on the Autobahn (common limit for restricted sections is 120 or 130 km/h).

      Interior materials are of lower quality than what I think you would get in a base Cayman. But the carbon is real, not decoration.

      Most of the time driving, it’s fun. Not so much around town, though.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    vaujot,
    Thanks for sharing; congrats on the new ride. I wonder what kind of reactions you get to the 4C, esp. from the ladies?

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      The car gets a lot of attention and all the reactions have been positive. I know quite a few Porsche owners and they all liked the car (or told me so).
      As for the ladies, referring back to Byron Hurd’s review (“Lotus can sell a car to Bruce, the Internet track day hero who bores expensive escorts with stories about passing 911s in his favorite braking zone. Alfa Romeo needs to once again resonate with luxury buyers—buyers like Ronaldo, the playboy who serial-dates 10s for their personalities.” link above) I guess I am more Bruce (sans the passing 911s in braking zones) than Ronaldo so I cannot tell you anything in this respect.

  • avatar
    robc123

    Never heard anyone ever speak of this-

    What about the scraping of the CF on the inside (floor, around the transmission well)?

    are you taking shoes off or……. I suspect these 4c’s after a while will look pretty ratty inside with all the rocks and crap that is rubbing around in a normal car.

    This, to me is the biggest draw back…..

    answer, remedy, confirmation?

    anyone?

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    While I am a fan of white, I like this car in red better.
    Why white? Also.. let’s talk power. Adequate?
    More than you expected, disappointed?

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      Why white? If I had had a choice, I would’ve taken blue because that’s my favorite colour on cars. The 4c is not being made in blue by Alfa. I have thought about having the car wrapped in blue but I thin the white has grown on me. My car wasn’t ordered as delivery time would be 12 to 18 months and I was impatient. So, I went and looked for a car that was available immediately/ordered by the dealer without a buyer. And if it was red, I think people would mistake it for a Ferrari.
      About power. It’s more than adequate up to about 160 km/h. The other day, I accelerated hard in the dry and when I shifted to second, the rear broke traction. Above 160 km/h, a ten-year-old Porsche Turbo (which could be had for less money) would be more fun. At those speeds, the low weight doesn’t matter too much any more because aerodynamic resistance takes over.

  • avatar
    STRATOS

    From what i read from different testers ,this car is a hell of a ride as go cart fun.As with all good things in life ,you have to compromise a bit of everyday comforts and practicality like the Lotus cars.But the rewards are worth it.

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    “…wonder why I bought this car…”???

    the headlights alone would do it for me. very cool!

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      That’s interesting that you like the headlights. In my experience, that’s the most criticised aspect of the car’s exterior. Due to this, the US versions will get different, more convential-looking headlights. Second-most-critiziced would be the placing of the license plate.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Shame you can’t go old school and have the plate painted on the nose of the car ’60’s style. At least, I assume that is no longer allowed.

        • 0 avatar
          vaujot

          Some people make stickers that look like a plate with the number on it and keep the real plate in the car but that’s not legal. I am too law-abiding for that. And I don’t really mind the plate that much.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I must say, I found the presence of the Chrysler name on the Certificate of Conformity to be rather shocking.

    Welcome to our modern, conglomerated, world.

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      Indeed. At least, Alfa has some unique products to sell, unlike Lancia. Not sure if you’re aware stateside but Fiat tried to sell facelifted Chryslers as Lancias in Europe. That wasn’t a resounding success.

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      reposting…
      Indeed. Fortunately, Alfa is better off than Lancia, though. Not sure if you heard in the US/Canada: Fiat tried to sell facelifted Chryslers as Lancias. Not a resounding success.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Nice car! I have to admit, though, that I prefer the US-spec headlights. I appreciate the attempt to do something different with the Euro lights but I don’t think it really worked.

    Do the heating and air conditioning work reliably? In the past that was a serious issue with some Italian cars. I wouldn’t mind a harsh ride or a lot of noise in a sports car like this, but I couldn’t put up with poor heating or A/C.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I love this car. In car shopping over the past few months, the 4C was high on my list. I always see comments about storage space or rough ride, but they miss the point. This is perhaps one of the best expressions of pure driving there is (in my opinion). An excellent choice for a driving enthusiast.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Fortunate Bastard, how’s the interior build quality? Do the parts fit together well?

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      I think it’s adequate for a spartan sports car. The materials are simple and some would probably consider them cheap. No leather on the dashboard on my car (I think that’s reserved for US and/or launch edition cars). The air conditioning controls probably come from a Fiat (there are pictures in Byron Hurd’s review).

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      Reposting…*
      I think the interior quality is adequate for a spartan sports car. Some would consider the materials a bit cheap. The air conditioning controls probably come from a Fiat and the dash is not covered in leather. I don’t mind, though.

      *admins: this would be more enjoyable if one wouldn’t have to write the replies more than once.

  • avatar
    vaujot

    Hello editors: I am having difficulties posting more comments. Am I perhaps stuck in the moderation que?

  • avatar
    robc123

    Concern about CF on floorboards or transmission well scratching up?

  • avatar
    zaxxon25

    What is your daily driver (if you have one)? Compare/contrast with the 4C?

  • avatar
    vaujot

    Folks, in this part of the world, it is past midnight and I need to retire for now. Thanks for the questions and if there are more, I’ll get back to them tomorrow.

  • avatar
    superchan7

    Sweet ride! Greetings from California…I had briefly entertained the idea of replacing my Cayman with a 4C.

    I may check one of these out in a few years. But how is the ride quality in the city? The Cayman, especially the earlier 987.1 version, had a notoriously stiff suspension.

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      I have never riden in a Cayman, so I cannot make a comparison. The ride in the 4C is quite stiff. I have the sports suspension option and have read that the normal suspension is better. If I had the car made to order, I would probably get the normal suspension setup.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    Beautiful car!

    Any chance you’re interested in showing it off in person to a Swiss-Canadian who’s regularly in the area (FRA and Mainz)?

  • avatar
    ReSa

    1962 Giulia Spider… so jealous right now, even as a Spider Veloce owner :)
    So, when it comes to Fahrvergnügen: the Spider or the 4C?

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      It is totally different kind of driving fun. In today’s environment, the Giulia Spider is slow, the 4C fast. The Spider is great for leasurely drives on country roads on sunny days. The 4C is for carving from corner to corner. One advantage of the old car is that you don’t need to exceed speed limits to feel fast on country roads. I think the Giulia is the only car I ever owned in which I have never gotten a speeding ticket. In the 4c, you easily exceed the limits.

  • avatar
    ccode81

    Nice choice!
    From an owner of RZ, the spiritual predecessor of this car, I recomemmend to stock as much spare for exterior/ interior and rubber parts as possible. Alfa is not that good for keep supplying those for long years…

  • avatar
    PriusV16

    Greetings from another Frankfurt Westender…. I guess that makes us three here on TTAC…. :-)

    Great insights and comments about the car, vaujot.

    Fantastic looking car, I’ll keep an eye out for it.

    (And if that owner of the blue Artega GT that frequently roams the Westend is here, too….. an AMA about *that* puppy might be very interesting as well…)

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    How are the traction control and ESP in the wet? I’m asking because the Abarth (which is the nearest cousin of the 4C that we get in North America) has terribly invasive TC which you need to turn off at the slightest chance of rain/dust/snow/etc.

    How’s the engine management? Do you need to constantly switch between modes (sport, city, etc), or is the default mode good?

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      I have not driven much in the wet. The traction control and ESP have four setting: Wet, Normal, Dynamic and Race (Alfa uses slightly different terms). I mostly drive in Normal but once made a test in Dynamic on a wet skidpad. In that setting, the power will not be shut off and if you stay on the gas lead footed, it will let you understeer under power out of the corner.

  • avatar
    superchan7

    Feel free to answer as much or as little as you like, but I’m curious about your personal situation in life……….married? Kids? Other cars in the family aside from the E30 and the Giulia?

    Have you ever commuted to work with the 4C?

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    I really would like to see head-on comparison to the Lotus Elise. The Boxster is civilized compared to this one, so the Elise would seem to be natural competition.

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      I have never driven or ridden an Elise. I only once tried to get into one. That was probably 15 years ago. As far as I remember, the Elise is even harder to get in and out than the 4C. Considering I am 15 years older now, I’d say its considerably harder.

  • avatar
    svan

    I think it was Clarkson who said that in the future, all cars will be built like this.

    Agree? Can you see any of the technologies in the 4C trickling down?

    • 0 avatar
      superchan7

      The supply chain would need to evolve to support these new materials. The disposal of these cars will present environmental and economic challenges. How developed is CFRP recycling? It would be interesting to investigate chemically separating CF into its raw materials for re-use.

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