Ital­ian re­nais­sance

Lo­tus-flavoured sports coupe will give pa­tient Alfa lovers some­thing to crow about

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

ALFA ROMEO’S 4C “dis­tilled su­per­car” ush­ers in a new era for the iconic Ital­ian com­pany, fi­nally giv­ing it a hero car to crow about.

The brand has built some crack­ing good cars in the past and some real barkers that have dragged down its name.

Thank­fully for the le­gions of de­voted Al­fisti (Alfa lovers), the 4C falls in the for­mer cat­e­gory. It’s a low-slung, strik­ingly styled car­bon-fi­bre mis­sile with a dis­tinct Lo­tus flavour to the way it cor­ners, goes and 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 has a po­tent en­gine and an au­to­mated sixspeed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion with sport and race modes as well as launch con­trol.

As with ev­ery­thing from Lo­tus, the 4C is not an ev­ery­day driver yet has a de­gree of ci­vil­ity about it that makes it easy to pi­lot. Ac­cess is rel­a­tively easy, the crea­ture com­forts en­hance driv­ing time but there is still the raw, “real” sports coupe edge sought by en­thu­si­asts.

We’re talk­ing about the sound and feel of the en­gine, the steer­ing wheel in your hands, the firm ride, strong brakes and ag­gres­sive driv­ing po­si­tion. It has driver en­gage­ment com­ing out its ears.

Alfa makes the usual claims you get for such cars — race bred, trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy to road cars, rich rac­ing his­tory — but the fact re­mains that the 4C gets a lot of its un­der­pin­nings from main­stream Alfa pas­sen­ger cars.

The mid-mounted en­gine is a di­rect lift from the new Gi­uli­etta for ex­am­ple, driv­ing the rear rather than front wheels.

THE CHAS­SIS

To min­imise mass — the 4C tips the scales at a svelte 1025kg — the car­bon-fi­bre mono­coque chas­sis has alu­minium sub­frames car­ry­ing the sus­pen­sion, en­gine and other parts.

This light weight, when com­bined with the healthy 177kW/350Nm en­gine out­put, 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 rear, en­hanc­ing han­dling and re­sponses.

The com­pact pack­age still has ad­e­quate room in­side for two, al­beit po­si­tioned fairly close to­gether. PRICE From $89,000 WAR­RANTY 3 years/150,000km SER­VICE IN­TER­VAL 12 months/15,000km CAPPED SER­VIC­ING No RE­SALE New model SAFETY Not rated EN­GINE 1.75-litre 4-cyl turbo, 177kW/350Nm TRANS­MIS­SION 6-speed dual-clutch au­to­mated man­ual; RWD THIRST 6.8L/100km

UN­DER THE BON­NET

The four-cylin­der turbo of 1750cc ca­pac­ity is fit­ted with a sporty dual ex­haust, which de­liv­ers the re­quired bark when ac­cel­er­at­ing and snap-crack­le­pop off the throt­tle.

An elec­tronic dif­fer­en­tial helps han­dling and trac­tion out of cor­ners and the drive modes, ac­ti­vated by a switch on the cen­tre con­sole, are Dy­namic, Nat­u­ral and All Weather as well as race and auto modes.

THE LOOK

The 4C has to be one of the most strik­ing cars around — it re­sem­bles a smaller ver­sion of the Fer­rari 458.

The 4C has a re­ally low frontal area with a new and ap­peal­ing ren­di­tion of the Alfa face and shield grille, deeply sculpted side lines in the com­pos­ite body pan­els and pumped-out mus­cu­lar haunches un­der­lin­ing its rear­wheel drive and mid-mounted en­gine. The rear is abrupt and punc­tu­ated by a pair of round tail-lights and wide-spaced dual ex­haust tips.

Sex on wheels? You bet.

DRIV­ING

Here’s where it gets in­ter­est­ing and the com­par­i­son with Lo­tus cars comes more into fo­cus be­cause the 4C is pos­si­bly a bet­ter drive up to about 7/10ths but af­ter that, the front starts push­ing and it runs out of puff about 6000rpm.

There is plenty of kick in the mid range, make no mis­take, but a car like this needs to sing sweetly to about 8000rpm in our opin­ion.

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’d be­come ac­cus­tomed to the light­ning fast steer­ing re­sponses and they would be an as­set.

Brakes are sub­lime and the grip like­wise. Hook around cor­ners at speed and the car stays flat and poised. It sounds good too, although it drones at some revs.

The Limited Edi­tion launch cars had ex­tra good­ies in­clud­ing firmer race sus­pen­sion, which means a jig­gly ride on rough roads but bet­ter “track” han­dling. It also gets big­ger wheels, a sports ex­haust, more car­bon in­lays and sports seats.

VER­DICT

Alfa fans have waited a long time for this one but it lives up to ex­pec­ta­tions. It’s not for ev­ery­one and would be a grind ev­ery­day.

On the track or as a week­end toy, there isn’t any­thing that looks so good and drives like this for the money.

On tthe money:: Allf­faa 4C iiss one off

tthe mosstt sst­tr­ri­iki­ing ccaarrss aar­round

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