Alfa Romeo 4C brings new Italian style to US

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Presenting the Alfa Romeo 4C, a flashy way to get back into the premium sports car segment in the U.S. (KABC)

The return of Fiat to the United States has been a big success for the company that now owns Chrysler. Now get ready for an even sportier blast from the past, with Fiat's sister company Alfa Romeo. The Italian sports cars are designed for the American road.

We haven't seen an Alfa Romeo badge on a new car in the U.S. for quite some time. But the badge and the brand are back: Presenting the Alfa 4C, a pretty flashy way to get back in the game, the premium sports car segment.

The Alfa 4C has a cozy cockpit for two, with a high-revving turbo engine sitting just behind. The structure is lightweight carbon fiber. And of course it has sports-car handling, not to mention exotic looks.

Base price is $54,000, though the first batch in showrooms will be special editions commanding almost $70,000. Pricey, but that's right in there with the competition. The Porsche Cayman is the car most will compare it to, and that has a base price in the mid-$50,000 range. There's also the mid-engine Lotus Evora, and that starts at just under $70,000.

Like those others, Alfa Romeo has a long history in spirited motoring, going way back to the early part of the 20th century. Big in their home country and other parts of Europe, the last one sold here was an aging roadster that dwindled away in the mid-1990s.

It's a different story today, as Alfa is part of the larger Fiat Chrysler company. With the Fiat brand now re-established in North America, it was time to spread the Italian style around.

The 4C is not intended to be a high-volume vehicle. It's a two-seat sports car with not a lot of room inside. There will be other Alfa Romeos coming along in the years ahead. The 4C's mission is to make a splash, and re-establish the brand in the U.S.

Fiat is the entry brand, and of course Maserati and Ferrari are at the top of the ladder: the exotics. Alfa Romeo's mission is to slot in between: premium cars for premium budgets, rather like BMW.

The 4C will start trickling in this summer, and you'll see more of them later in the year. And when you do see one, feel free to welcome it back to our country with a friendly, "buongiorno."

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