Alfa Romeo 4C Spider & Chevrolet Tahoe
Alfa Romeo 4C Spider | STARTING PRICE: $65,000
Ah, the Italians. With their penchant for flash and audacity, they present to us the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. Making its debut in the U.S. market, the 4C is an interesting choice. It is undoubtedly a head-turner, so it will surely garner a lot of attention from onlookers. Potential customers? That’s another story. It’s a hard-core sports car; it’s pricey and has a very small potential audience. But Alfa Romeo isn’t going to let that stop it.
That penchant for flash I mentioned? The 4C is full of flash. It’s a carbon fiber wonder on wheels. Taut body, big staggered wheels, and a targa top let you know this car is here to play. Even its bi-xenon headlamps look like the eyes of a feral cat laser- focused on its prey.
You could call the 4C a lightweight heavy hitter. The entire monocoque body chassis combo is made of carbon fiber, not unlike a Ferrari; the crankcase and front and rear frames employ aluminum for strength and rigidity while maintaining its girlish figure. For the outer body, sheet molded compound (SMC) is used, which is 20 percent lighter and more stable than steel. It also resists corrosion. All told, you get a 2,504-pound two-seater ready for speed.
And that speed comes from the mid-mounted 1.7-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine mated to a dual-clutch automatic transmission. It can launch from 0-60 in 4.2 seconds — as fast as the Ferrari F40. The quarter-mile measures out in 12.9 seconds at 107 mph. The 4C is exhilaratingly swift and delivers 237 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque.
Because it is priced starting at $65,900, let’s talk about what you’ll get out of this car. It’s a performance car, and as you can see from the numbers, it performs extremely well. That being said, this is not meant to be a daily commuter car. It’s rough, gritty and loud. But if you’ve got a clear schedule and an open road, this is where the 4C shines. Put the top in the trunk and leave your cares behind. Steering feedback is unmatched and will give you a sense of oneness with the road. There are cars that beg to be driven, and that’s exactly what you’ll be doing behind the flat-bottomed steering wheel of this spider. Despite not having an available manual transmission, you can choose to snap through the gears via the paddle shifters or just let the ever-capable dual clutch do what it does best for you.
Inside, everything is positioned for the driver. The Italian leather seats are low-slung, which makes ingress and egress somewhat of a challenge, but once you’ve ingressed, you won’t want to egress. Being a mid-engine two-seater, there’s not a whole lot of play in seat position, either. However, if you can ignore all that, you’re in for a thrilling driving experience — and plenty of attention.
Chevrolet Tahoe | STARTING PRICE: $40,000
In the world of big SUVs, really big SUVs, we get names like Expedition, Armada, Sequoia and… Tahoe. Big road beasts named after big things. The Chevy Tahoe along with its big brother the Suburban are no exceptions, nor are they any stranger to big-ness.
When Chevy rolled out its redesigned Silverado last year, that meant the Tahoe inherited those changes. They include new body design, a boxed frame, and more high-strength steel, all of which translate into improved structural rigidity and weight loss (though it is still quite hefty at 5,756 pounds). Another new feature is electrically assisted power steering, which helps with fuel economy. This also gives the Tahoe a lighter touch, making it much more maneuverable than one might expect from this large SUV.
As expected, the Tahoe shares the same engines with the Silverado: a healthy 5.3-liter small-block V8 that delivers 355 horsepower and 383 lb.-ft. of torque. Equipped with direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation, this gives you a respectable 16/22 city/hwy mpg. You get slightly better mpg on the two-wheel drive version. All that power and fuel economy comes by way of a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting and tow mode (which means it holds gears longer and downshifts sooner).
Towing capacity rates at 8,400 pounds for the 4X4 and 8,600 pounds for the 2X4. Equally as impressive, and perhaps as important when considering towing factors, are the Tahoe’s brakes. Strong and fade-free, the Tahoe can go from 70 to 0 in about 176 feet — respectable even for a mid-size sedan.
One way the Tahoe differentiates itself from its pick-up truck counterpart is with its exterior design. For the first time, it does not share the same front doors, meaning it gets a look all its own. And that look feels quite up-leveled from a brawny pick-up. Its design is quite sophisticated, with sharp angles and an upright greenhouse delivering a sophisticated, expensive look.
This leads to the inside, which is also somewhat different from the Silverado (though it does share some gadgetry). A nicely appointed dash features all the comforts you could imagine, with less plastic for a more expensive feel. There’s plenty of room inside, and enough USB ports to keep all the gadgets you can imagine fully charged. While the load floor is high (to accommodate the full-size spare underneath), you can fit a full 95 cubic feet worth of stuff within the cavernous space created when all rows are folded flat.
The Tahoe’s ride is pleasant for both driver and passengers alike. While the ride isn’t quite luxurious, it comes pretty darn close. Wind noise is kept to a minimum even at highway speeds. Its independent front suspension and live rear axle provide a smooth enough ride, given the largesse of the thing.
Starting in the high $40K range, the Tahoe will be both capable and versatile enough for anything you can imagine.
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