Good looks with power

It’s been a long wait, but this lit­tle low-slung mis­sile de­liv­ers the goods, PETER BARN­WELL writes

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE -

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.

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