New Car review
Alfa Romeo 4C
by Andy Enright
A rear-wheel drive, mid-engined sports car based around a lightweight carbon fibre chassis? That’ll be a McLaren or a Lamborghini, right?
That’s usually the case but Alfa’s £45,000 4C sports coupe joins that club.
With a turbocharged 1.7-litre engine behind the driver and a serious power to weight ratio, the good times look to be returning to Alfa Romeo.
One figure tells you a lot about the 4C’s potential. Its power to weight ratio is 259bhp per tonne. That’s right up there with powerhouses like the BMW M3 CSL, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo FQ-400 and the Audi RS5.
Heck, it even beats the Lamborghini Countach LP500S.
All of that comes courtesy of an all-aluminium, direct-injection four-cylinder 1750cc turbocharged petrol engine that makes 240bhp and is assisted by the 4C’s kerb weight of just 925kg.
That’s about the same as a Lotus Exige, so you know that this is quite a special beast.
It gets to 62mph in 4.5 seconds, which takes a Cayman S’s trousers down quite easily, drive being deployed via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox with paddle shifters.
The gearchange is 30 per cent quicker in Dynamic or Race modes and the clever rev-matching ability of the engine ensures that shifts are quick and smooth without any unnecessary dramatics.
There’s a lot of performance but also more flexibility than you might expect from such a small engine, with its best work coming between 2,000 and 5,000rpm.
The exhaust note has been tuned for a raucous effect and this combined with the wastegate sound effects means that you won’t miss an approaching 4C. The steering is entirely unassisted.
There was a little controversy over the decision by Alfa to change the 4C’s front headlamp design to something akin to a fly’s compound eye, but other than that the design looks neat and clean.
Walk around it and you might well see elements of Lotus Elise or Maserati Gran Turismo but other than that, the styling is recognisably Alfa Romeo. It’s small too, and you’ll feel that after you’ve clambered over the wide sill and dropped into the driver’s seat.
The Alfa Romeo 4C is an absolutely fascinating vehicle. It’s exactly the car most petrolheads would have urged Alfa to build while positioning themselves as fantasy CEO.
They would have demanded a carbon chassis, rear-wheel drive, light weight, unassisted steering, big brakes, sharp styling and affordable pricing.
Well, it’s now a production reality and despite many feeling that the 4C was always destined to be one of those cars that would grace motor show stands and then be quietly shelved, Alfa has been brave enough to bring it to market and looks set to be rewarded for doing just that.
For these reasons, we’d love the 4C to succeed and we’d be even happier were it to spawn a host of imitators, because it’s a car that does things the right way.
It’s not perfect. The engine and transmission look a perfect match on paper but at launch, there were some grumbles about the finer points of their calibration.
If you like a zingy, high-revving, hair-trigger of an engine, the 4C’s lazier, flywheely feel is probably going to frustrate. Likewise, there are elements of the cabin quality that could conceivably disappoint.
Try it before you buy it as it’s a car that touches greatness in so many areas.
It might well get there, but this is Alfa Romeo, a company well known for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Still, this one looks too good to waste.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
CAR: Alfa Romeo 4C
INSURANCE GROUPS: 16-23
CO2 EMISSIONS: 157g/km
PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph 4.5s/top speed 160mph
FUEL CONSUMPTION: (combined) 41.5mpg
STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: VDC stability control, ABS, twin front and side airbags
WILL IT FIT IN THE GARAGE?: Length/width/height mm 3989/2090/1183