New York Auto Show: 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C

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Alfa-Romeo-4CWhat is it?

The Alfa Romeo 4C is an entry-level Ferrari in the very realest sense of the phrase. This Italian two-seat sports car uses a carbon fiber monocoque frame supported with aluminum subframes, fiberglass body panels and everything stripped down to the thinnest and strongest of bones. It should be no surprise that Fiat also owns Maserati and Ferrari, and clearly, their investment in Alfa Romeo will pay off if they can deliver on their decade-old promise of returning to the U.S. market.

Why should you care?

The 4C weighs 2,200 pounds and has a 237-hp 1.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mounted behind the seats and hooked to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. There is no power steering. The driver sits a few inches off the ground. The front hood is sealed shut since there’s nothing but racing-type suspension components crowding the space. All of this means performance of epic proportions: 0-60 mph in the 4-second range, 1.1g of lateral acceleration and the kind of handling and road feel that makes grown men behave like 12-year-olds at a slumber party. Somehow, all of this will only cost around $60,000, and for that price, you can have a Corvette or an exotic Italian sports car. Fuel economy is expected to be stellar, too. The choice is easy.

What’s not to like?

For 14 years, Alfa Romeo has been lying to us about coming back to America. Every promise they’ve made has been broken, and beyond the coupleĀ  hundred people per year that will buy these toys, Alfa Romeo wants to become a full-line automaker with practical models of all sizes. Right now, the 4C is only on sale through the country’s few dozen Maserati dealers and there is no concrete plan to have Alfa Romeo dealers pop up. Fiat is still trying to expand beyond a two-car lineup with about 130 dealers, so as nice as the 4C and upcoming 4C Spider will be, we can’t believe Alfa Romeo will be anything but a boutique brand by the decade’s end. And let’s not even talk about maintenance and service costs for a mostly handbuilt car.

When is it on sale?

The 4C Launch Edition, loaded up with leather, racing exhaust, staggered wheels and all sorts of luxury goodies not found on the base car, goes on sale in June. Pricing hasn’t been announced. Only 500 Launch Editions will be offered, and after that, we’re not sure how many Alfa will ship over.

Clifford Atiyeh

Clifford Atiyeh

Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own. Based in Connecticut, he writes for BestRide, Car and Driver, The Boston Globe and other publications.