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Alfa Romeo 4C review: A snarling high-tech response to boring Silicon Valley car design

Jon Phillips | March 24, 2015
Sometime in late February, right when so many tech journalists were debating the merits of the presumptive Apple Car, I was careening through Marin County switchbacks in the Alfa Romeo 4C, and thanking the car gods for a snarling, stupid-fast Italian exotic that's actually difficult to drive.

Visibility out the back is horrible. Ingress and egress requires a strategy. I love the look of the beautifully machined, floor-mounted pedals, but I could never find an acceptably ergonomic seating position with relation to the throttle pedal. More than 20 minutes of driving made my right ankle sore.

Maybe even worse, the 4C's brake pedal felt absolutely dead. Oh, make no mistake — this car has incredible stopping power. But the brake pedal felt hard as rock, and lacked all the communication that Alfa Romeo nailed so well in the 4C's steering.

A hedge against the robot invasion

Any American who cares about performance cars should be thrilled the Alfa Romeo 4C is sold in our country. The Lotus Elise and its even racier Exige variant are no longer available in the United States, so that leaves Alfa as the only manufacturer to sell a mid-engined, lightweight, reasonably priced exotic on Yankee shores.

We need cars like the 4C. It sucks up all of Silicon Valley's antiseptic techno-utopianism, and dumps it out the wastegate of a turbocharger that prefers stinky exhaust fumes to kilowatt hours. It also demands that we not just drive ourselves, sans robot assist, but also pay strict attention to every aspect of the driving experience.

If I punted my Lotus tomorrow, I wouldn't run out and buy the 4C, all its luscious Italian exotica notwithstanding. No, I'd buy a used Lotus, because it's cheaper, a more agreeable daily driver, and 500 pounds lighter than the 4C. But I'm really, really glad the 4C exists. It's a perfect hedge against all the tech trends that are killing our fun.


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