What's hot: Everything about the drive, brilliant handling, riotous speed.
What's not: It's noisy, you can't hear your phone (is that bad?), big tyres can 'tram-track'.
X-FACTOR: An instant classic, the 4C is totally involving on every level, and it looks simply sensational.
Vehicle style: Premium mid-engined sports coupe
Price: $89,000 - $109,000
Engine/trans: 177kW/350Nm 1.75 turbo four | 6spd twin-clutch auto
Fuel economy listed: 6.8 l/100km | tested: 9.5 l/100km
'Visceral': it's to do with the gut, from the viscera. A feeling that rises from the pit of the stomach, primal and instinctive; something from our inner animal.
And it's the inner animal that connects with the new, impossibly gorgeous, Alfa Romeo 4C.
The head might recognise the “return to heritage”, the classic lines of the 1967 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale in the sculpting of the 4C's flanks and rump.
And the heart might be inflamed with the exquisitely balanced but rorty race-engineered 1750cc turbo nestled at the left shoulder, roaring and wheezing and slamming through the gears; the perfect straight-leg race position at the wheel, and the sheer 'alive' feel and amazing alert responsiveness of this lightweight carbon-fibre and aluminium chassis.
It's loud, as raw as a butcher's tray, uncompromising, inconvenient, impractical, incredibly fast and absolutely irresistible.
If it's like a Lotus Elise, and it is to a point, then it's “goodnight Elise”.
As a racecar for the road, or a road-car for the track, Alfa's 4C is on a whole new plane. It is truly gorgeous to behold - you may want to hump it - and it has 'modern classic' written into every crease of its sublime race-car lines.
And it is - comparatively - inexpensive. When stocks begin arriving in volumes, the 4C will retail from $89,000. That is only $5k more than the toy-like but similarly powered Lotus Elise 111 S.
Even the special 'Launch Edition' models we drove, at $109,000, are cheaper than the comparable (but more powerful) $126,990 supercharged V6 Lotus Exige 111 S.
We drove it for two hours on road, mostly hard. We would love to drive it for a week or a month or forever. Here is our report from that brief encounter.
- Power side mirrors with demisting system
- Anti-theft alarm system
- Cruise control
- Rear parking sensors
- Bi-LED headlights and LED taillights
- Sports seats in black leather upholstery
- Alfa Romeo 4-speaker sound system with Bluetooth connectivity
This is an interior for a job. Don't go looking for a glovebox: you won't find it on the dashboard, it's a lidded cavity tucked in a slot between the seat-backs. Good for a couple of phones, and maybe a glove, but that's about all.
And don't look too hard for creature comforts.
The 4C has most modern connectivity features, but while quality hifi audio (for instance) might be among them, or might not, it is impossible to tell above the raucous howl of the engine and the tyre-roar from the tarmac.
And if there is wind-noise, who would know? There is simply so much going on with that mid-ship Alfa twin-cam 1750 turbo, that any concern about wind-noise is simply academic.
Quality plastics? Yes and no.
Other surfaces are ok given that this interior is designed to keep weight to a minimum.
There is also little in the way of carpet, a monogrammed mat is where it starts and finishes. The dominant feature of the interior however is the polished carbon-fibre tub that greets the eyes the moment the door is opened.
There are chrome and brushed-metal lips to the controls and a push-button TCT selector for reverse, neutral and drive (almost like an old Valiant push-button auto), which look good.
You will also find really appealing hip-hugging leather sports seats that not only grip in all the right places, but are in fact quite comfortable.
The flat-bottomed leather-trimmed multi-function wheel (adjustable for reach and rake) is a delight to hold, incredibly 'rapid', and, though unassisted, light and easy to use even at low speeds.
And, brilliantly, the pedals are floor mounted race-car style - like a Formula Ford - and placed absolutely perfectly.
Things in here are all about 'the drive' and not about pandering to flabby accountants with cosseting creature comforts.
So, yes, an interior for a job.
And if you want to go away for the weekend, there is a boot-space behind the East-West engine-bay that will easily swallow a couple of overnight bags and a half-case of fine wine.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine/transmission: 1750cc DOHC turbo/6-spd TCT (twin clutch sports automatic)
- Power/torque: 177kW/350Nm
- Kerb weight: 1025kg
- 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds
- Suspension: front, superimposed wishbone with coaxial spring-shock assembly; rear, McPherson strut
- Wheels and tyres: 205/40 R18 front, 235/35 R19 rear
To drive this car is to love it, truly. It has, as Alfa Romeo claims, “no purpose other than itself”.
Understand that sentiment as the guiding principle for the 4C, and you will understand why it is so raw and uncompromising, and so very much 'just itself'.
Designed by the great Lorenzo Ramaciotti, the 4C lives and breathes the soul of a race-car.
It is Italian to the core, and in everything that means in the way it drives, the way it strains at the leash, and its amazing responsiveness.
Start it, and it fires into life with a raucous blatt. Select drive, hold the three-position selector forward for 'Dynamic', keep holding for five seconds and you'll find 'Race Mode'. This turns the electronics off and hands complete control to the driver.
Other settings are All-weather, Natural and Dynamic, each operating as it suggests.
In Race setting jowever, it begs to be whipped; the lightest touch of the accelerator has it lunging forward. Firewall it, and suddenly everything happens.
The induction wheeze is electric, the 1750cc turbo howls and sputters like an outraged Banshee, and it slams through each gearchange: tip the paddle and the transmission responds in just 130 milliseconds.
All this is what happens when there is 177kW and 350Nm on tap, pushing a super-lightweight 1025kg carbon-fibre and alloy track warrior.
The 4C simply spears from the line - we recorded 4.6 seconds for 0-100km/h - whether using the launch control function, or simply lining it up and nailing it.
(In full auto, it seems equally quick, not engaging the clutch until the revs spool up, then absolutely slamming off the line.)
Overtaking? Rolling acceleration is blinding from 80km/h to... well... whatever.
And the way it corners is as close to a go-kart as you will find this side of a Lotus Elise.
This car is very fast, and very raw. It's noisy even at 80km/h, the tyres on those big 18- and 19-inch rims (18" front, 19" rear) roar their presence on coarse bitumen, and the front-end chatters over broken tarmac, ripples and corrugations.
Barking performance, with ventilated 305mm discs and four-piston Brembos up front (292mm rear discs), is simply sensational. Helped by a perfect pedal feel and super-light body.
And you'll feel everything - every single nuance of the road surface - through the tight but light steering wheel.
If there is a flaw to the feel, it's the way the 4C 'tram-tracks' on poorer road surfaces, particularly at higher speeds where the front-end seems to get especially light.
Also, your passenger can forget making a phone call on the hand-held. As we discovered, they won't hear a thing unless you pull over.
But bloody hell we loved this thing. Last week we drove the blistering Lexus RC F. We loved it too, but that car - with its sublime luxury, sledgehammer V8 and sporting sophistication - is as far from the 4C as the moon and the stars.
This car is entirely different; you wear it, it becomes part of you, it howls in your ear and gets right under your skin. It's like a bad puppy that you just have to take home.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Well, yes, the Lotus Elise and Exige of course. But you don't have quite the contortion getting in and out of the 4C, and they do behave a little differently on road.
While the 4C is twitchy and raw, it is more settled than the Lotus at slower speeds (like around town) and is not quite so hard and uncompromising when poking around.
Certainly, on the race track there will be scant margins in it, and here, when being given the whip, the Lotus is very good and may hold the edge on the 4C for steering feel.
We can't direct you to a recent review, we have a bit of an issue with the distributor, but you can check out our last review here.
- Lotus Elise 111 ($69,990)
- Elise 111 S ($84,990)
- Lotus Exige 111 S ($126,990)
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Accept that the Alfa 4C is all about the drive, and that, like a piece of art, “it has no purpose other than itself”, and it succeeds like few cars succeed.
Try to put it in a conventional pigeon-hole, and try to wax on about comfort, and features, and refinement, and it will fail on nearly every point.
But if you do that, you don't get it. Give it to someone else to drive.
Give it to someone who wants a car that is all car, that goes and turns and stops like few others, that screams in your face, and will be enjoyed for its sheer dynamism and the unadulterated passion of the drive.
This car, the new 4C, is to be the halo model for a revitalised Alfa Romeo. In its flanks is the history and heritage of a once-great premium sporting badge.
It will get noticed, absolutely. If you want one, because each is hand-built and supply will be limited, you may need to get your name on the list.
Here, for Australia, there are only 75 of the Launch Edition model, but further stocks will be following of the 'standard' 4C Coupe.
This car - Alfa Romeo's new 4C - is destined to be a classic.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- 4C - 1.75 turbo, 6spd TCT auto - $89,000
- 4C Launch Edition - 1.75 turbo, 6spd TCT auto - $109,000