Our Four Seasons 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C is a specific-use tool, kind of like a chainsaw. It’s a compact, carbon-fiber sports coupe that’s spellbindingly good on canyon roads and race tracks. But what happens when we use that chainsaw to, say, open a can of Coke? How does it feel to slog through traffic and run errands in the 4C?
“There’s the whistling from the turbo, the grumbling from the exhaust, and the road noise from the tires, and it all gets mixed up inside the cabin, banging and resonating off the exposed carbon tub,” says features editor Rory Jurnecka. “It can be a bit much, even when you have a short commute.”
Jurnecka likes the Alfa’s well-padded seats and comfortable driving position, but he can’t stand the attention the car attracts. “You won’t quite get Justin Bieber levels of attention, but you might get a taste of what it’s like to be, say, David Gilmour. I’m not attention-seeking (one reason I like Porsches), so if I have to run a couple errands on the weekend when lots of people are out, I’ll just take my wife’s car.”
Copy editor Kara Snow, on the other hand, loves the attention. “Every corner I turn is another chance to be gawked at, be given a thumbs up, or be asked to roll down the tiny window and answer questions about horsepower, weight, and price. Folks don’t even know what this thing is. Several people asked if it was a Lotus, which is understandable, and one woman yelled, ‘Nice Bugatti!’”
Attention can come at the wrong times and in the wrong places. The Alfa’s rear blind spots are made worse, for instance, when grown men camp out in them, trying to snap a semi-decent iPhone photo they can share with their 12 Instagram followers.
We also prefer people don’t gather when we’re trying to park the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C, which isn’t pretty. You have to constantly feather the throttle to get it going since the six-speed dual-clutch transmission is hesitant to engage at low speeds, and unassisted steering means a lot of unattractive yanking and grunting when snugging up to a curb. The 4C frequently bottoms out, sometimes so badly you have to ask your passenger to get out so you can make it up or down a steep driveway.
West coast editor Michael Jordan piles on: “There’s nothing worse than driving slowly in a mid-engine car. The mid-engine sports car is the worst package of components for everyday driving that you can imagine. You can’t get in or out with any semblance of grace, and the lengthy doors guarantee that you’ll bash the car parked next to you. You can’t see anything behind your head, and the view over the nose is not so great either. And you’ll want to pack light, since the rear cargo compartment won’t carry anything larger than a take-out lunch from Tail o’ the Pup. The mid-engine sports car’s failings in everyday life remind me of some creaky horseless carriage from Britain of the 1890s, as if I need to be guided at 5 mph by a guy with a red emergency lantern every time I turn into a parking lot.”
There are cars better suited for the daily grind—like all of them—but few are able to elevate the daily grind into something more special, which the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C does. At the end of the day, when the traffic clears and we find an empty stretch of two-lane road, the 4C reminds us there’s nothing better than driving fast in a mid-engine sports car. “The on-rushing landscape seems to pour past the canopy in a blur of color, as if you were buried underwater in the barrel of the best wave ever,” says Jordan. “It’s easy to get excited by a mid-engine sports car because nothing else makes you feel so singularly personal.”
It’s a car that coaxes you to drive hard. So hard, in fact, that we completely wore down the Alfa’s rear tires and had to order a new set of four tires. Instead of springing for a set of original-equipment Pirelli P Zero tires, we called our friends at Tire Rack and asked for their recommendation. We spent $920.06 to buy, mount, and balance a set of Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R tires, which Tire Rack describes as extreme performance summer tires developed for driving enthusiasts looking for Bridgestone’s fastest DOT-legal street radial. They’ll make the Alfa Romeo 4C a better chainsaw, and frankly that’s all that matters.