Good looks with power
It’s been a long wait, but this little low-slung missile delivers the goods, PETER BARNWELL writes
ALFA Romeo’s 4C “distilled supercar” ushers in a new era for the famous Italian company, a time when it actually has a hero car to crow about instead of stuff that made it cringe.
But the advent of the 4C will lift it in the public’s eye and also help assuage the desires of the legion of devoted Alfisti (Alfa lovers) who have been waiting for something like this for years.
And they won’t be disappointed because the 4C is a piece of work, a low slung, strikingly styled carbon fibre missile with a distinct Lotus flavour to the way it goes, handles, powertrain layout, even looks. HOW MUCH
At a starting price of $89,000 for the “standard” model and $109,000 for the launch Limited Edition with bigger wheels and extra kit, the 4C costs a bit more than, say, a Lotus Elise. But it has a more potent engine, along with an automated six-speed dual clutch transmission that offers real auto function and a choice of sport and race modes as well as launch control.
Like everything from Lotus, the 4C is not an everyday driver but does have a degree of civility about it that makes it easy to pilot.
Compared to the Lotus, access is much easier and it has a reasonable amount of creature comforts to enhance driving time without losing the raw edge sought after by enthusiasts wanting a real sports coupe.
The 4C gets a lot of its underpinnings from other mainstream Alfa passenger cars. The mid-mounted engine is a direct lift from the new Giulietta, for example, driving the rear wheels instead of the fronts. THE CHASSIS
Weight is minimised through the use of a carbon fibre monocoque chassis with aluminium subframes carrying the suspension, engine and other parts.
It means the 4C tips the scales at a svelte 1025kg, which when combined with the healthy engine output of 177kW/350Nm, means the 4C is a decidedly quick car. Use launch control and you are talking a 4.5-second 0-100kmh pass.
Weight distribution is 40/60 front to back, with benefits to handling and responses.
The car is only 1.18m tall and 4m long — compact, but there’s adequate room inside for two. UNDER THE BONNET
The engine is a four-cylinder turbo of 1750cc capacity with direct fuel injection and variable cam timing for inlet and exhaust. A sporty dual outlet exhaust system is fitted that delivers the required bark and snap, crackle and pop when you accelerate and decelerate.
It has a wishbone front suspension and strut rear setup with an electronic differential to help handling out of corners.
Brakes are by Brembo and the steering is manual (not power assisted) rack and pinion.
The DNA drive mode system activated by a switch on the centre console offers dynamic, natural and all weather, as well as race and auto modes. THE LOOK
What can you say here? Has to be one of the most striking cars going around at the moment — a smaller version of the Ferrari 458 perhaps but different and just as attractive. DRIVING
Plenty of kick in the midrange, make no mistake, but a car like this needs to sing sweetly to about 8000rpm in our opinion. The 4C runs out of puff around 6000rpm.
We found the steering a tad fidgety, meaning you had to be “on it” all the time to keep the 4C tracking straight.
But you become accustomed to the lightning fast steering reflexes and they would be an asset.
Brakes — sublime. Grip — same, hook around corners at pretty much any speed you like and the car stays flat and poised. VERDICT
Waited a long time for this one and it fully lives up to expectations. It’s not for everyone and would be a grind everyday, but on the track or as a weekend toy, there isn’t anything that looks this good and drives like this for the money.
Four stars out of five.