NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Want a car that accelerates from 0 to 60 miles-per-hour in 4.1 seconds and handles 1.1G on the skidpad, all while yielding a whopping 34 miles-per-gallon -- and all for only $55,000? Oh -- and it looks like a Ferrari, is hand-built around of a carbon-fiber racing-car tub, and weighs under 2,500 lbs.
You're in luck. The Alfa Romeo 4C is the right car if you want to buy a new Ferrari, but you don't need to go any faster than 162 MPH and you'd rather save $200,000 up front plus the resulting savings on depreciation, insurance and maintenance.
Fiat-Chrysler (FCAU) owns both Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, and it simply decided to make what basically amounts to a four-cylinder Ferrari and sell it for what can only be described as a jaw-dropping bargain price. The fly in the ointment is that only 2,500 per year will be made (out of which only 1,000 will come to the U.S.) because it takes the company up to six weeks to make each car.
Let's get the negatives out of the way first. This isn't the car if you need luggage space. You can fit two small gym bags and two people; that's it. There aren't any door pockets or other places to stick your passport or other essentials.
Sound system? It's called the engine. I tried to fiddle around with the outdated "infotainment" system, but it was useless, given that all sound was overpowered by the car's racing heart. If you don't like the sound of a roaring engine, this car is not for you.
In terms of the instrument cluster, it might as well not have any, because you won't be looking at it. You'll be busy concentrating on driving, so that you don't fly off the road while doing 120 miles-per-hour.
The steering is completely unassisted, which will cause you to grow popeye-sized biceps at lower speeds. It also needs to be tamed very firmly at higher speeds -- you will be holding on for dear life.
The trick to enjoying the Alfa Romeo is to put the transmission selector in "dynamic" mode and then chronically floor the accelerator. Basically, this is a go-kart, and in order for you to have fun, you need to drive it like a go-kart.
As with go-karts, I recommend buying the one with the removable roof, called the Spider. It's an extra $10,000, so that takes you to $65,000. On top of that, you might want to add another $5,000 of optional equipment, so realistically your Alfa Romeo 4C Spider will top out at $70,000.
Of all the cars I drove in the last year, only the BMW i8 garnered more attention from passersby. The Alfa Romeo 4C looks like a Ferrari 458 that lost all the excess fat and added some elegance.
If you are to own only one car, this is probably not for you. You aren't going to want to drive the Alfa Romeo 4C everywhere, all the time. It's too noisy, and more importantly sometimes you may need to go pick someone up at the airport, or transport anything more than two small gym bags plus a passenger.
In other words, it is a pure toy. But what a toy it is! It's not electric, so you can start an unplanned transcontinental road trip at a moment's notice -- just remember to pack light. The fuel tank is 10.5 gallons, so the rated range is 357 miles at 34 MPG.
Driving the Alfa Romeo 4C in slow or stop-and-go traffic is no fun at all. It feels like being in a straitjacket. This car thrives only on the open road and on the race track. The one benefit is that while you're in city-slow traffic, you will be making lots of new friends, as people swarm around this car:
"What kind of Ferrari is this?"
"Wow, this is the best-looking car I have ever seen!"
"How much is it -- half a million?"
That tells you all you need to know: That you're driving the best-looking thing on the road today, effectively a better looking Ferrari for $200,000 less than you -- or anyone else -- would expect to pay.