2014 ALFA ROMEO 4C
words by samuel Cuthbert With PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF A.J. MUELLER FOR ALFA ROMEO
I'm pretty sure there are a few Lotus fans at Alfa Romeo, as the New 4C seems to be sticking pretty close to Colin Chapman's philosophy of "simplify, then add lightness." The new car has a stated curb weight of a scarcely believable 977kg (2153lb) in Europe and 1132kg (2495lb) in the United States. The substantial weight gain for the U.S spec car is caused by the safety laws there, requiring a thicker carbon fiber tub and additional safety equipment to sustain a head-on crash to their safety standards.
How does it manage it? Well, it's not exactly luxurious inside; no radio, no air-conditioning, no power steering, no side or knee airbags (in the Euro model anyway) and no carpeting - hell, it hasn't even got a muffler. It's literally a turbo, a catalytic converter, and you're done - paired with a tiny 10.6 gallon fuel tank and you're no doubt starting to get the picture. Not that this is something to complain about - enthusiasts have been crying out for years to manufacturers to forget about the horsepower race and drop put their models on a diet. At a certain level, extra power can only be sensibly exploited on the track, but less weight makes everything better, all the time. Braking, direction changes, acceleration - it makes you faster everywhere.
It's powered by a mad little all-aluminium 1.75-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that puts out 237hp and 258lb ft of torque at 21.75 psi of boost. By all accounts that translates into rather rapid acceleration, with the official figures hitting 62mph in less than 4.5 seconds. Although there is a rather large catch to all of this lovely information - it's only available with one transmission - a dual-clutch automatic. This won't put everyone off of course but it's certain to disappoint the people that need that third pedal to really feel involved. It at least pays off in MPG and CO2 emissions (if that is some small comfort) - helping in handily beating it's chief rival in the Porsche Cayman in both areas - 159g/km vs 192g/km and 41.5mpg vs 34.4mpg (UK figures).
The reviews have been mixed. Everyone is in love with the looks (though the low-rent interior is drawing some criticism) , it seems it's genuinely hard to find an angle where the 4C doesn't look fantastic (and going by the album I'm forced to agree) and everything seems great on paper. The real world tests are throwing up some different outcomes though:
Granted, we spent a lot of time at high altitude, but the engine still feels strangely uptight, and simply doesn’t generate the sort of grunt the figures suggest. At sea level, the 4C is fine when you keep it in the zone – between 2000-5000rpm – but it’s not what you’d call effortless. The turbo runs 1.5bar of boost and dominates the 4C to such an extent that, depending on your point of view, it becomes detrimental to the overall driving experience. Throttle response is also frustratingly soggy; the 4C looks like a car that’ll respond to pedal blips with superbike-style intensity, but instead feels like there’s a heavy flywheel. The revs decay lazily, too. Blame the anaesthetising effect of the turbo, the EU6 compliance, and the need to peg back emissions. -Top Gear
Understeer comes as standard equipment, although the Alfa will accept rotational commands in the corners via throttle or brakes. And yet despite its feathery mid-engine layout, 60-percent rear weight bias, and vivid sensations from the controls, this tiny dancer from Alfa Romeo isn’t ideally suited to the sprawling ballroom of Sonoma Raceway’s challenging layout. For one, turbo lag leaves both 4C and its driver breathlessly hunting for the right gear while exiting slower corners. - Automobile Magazine
For a balanced look at how it performs, I'll leave you with Chris Harris spending some time with the 4C and Cayman on some imperfect English roads (as well as a little track time) in order to best judge how a normal driver is going to get on with one. Seems like he, along with everyone else, really wants to love this car - but there are a few things getting in the way.