2015 Alfa Romeo 4C First Drive Review

Alfa's mid-engine hero is here and it’s a game-changer; the 4C is fast, fabulous and flawed, like all the best supercars.

Alfa Romeo 4 C Driving Around Winding Road Jpg

So, what is it?

This is the Alfa we’ve been waiting for. Since the concept version exploded into the automotive world’s consciousness in early 2011, we’ve been waiting… impatiently. And finally, the Alfa Romeo 4C has landed on Aussie terra firma; arguably the most drop-dead gorgeous sports car to turn a wheel in the last decade.

As if anybody needed convincing, this perfectly proportioned gem confirms FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) design chief, Lorenzo Ramaciotti, as a genius. He and the team he assembled to create the 4C’s form in Alfa’s Centro Stile have produced an instant classic.

Thanks to its carbon fibre monocoque chassis (all 65kg of it), the use of aluminium for major hardware components, and lightweight SMC (sheet Moulding Compound) for the body, the car weighs in at just 1,025kg.

Powered by a transverse, mid-mounted, all-alloy, direct-injection, 1,742cc four cylinder turbo, producing 177kW/350Nm, driving the rear wheels through a six-speed dual clutch gearbox, the 4C is claimed to sprint from 0-100km/h in 4.5secs, and scream on to a maximum velocity of 258km/h.

Why should I care?

Alfa’s positioning the 4C as ‘The Affordable Dream.’ And even though 89 grand is no small chunk of change, it’s peanuts for a car with this kind of performance, dynamic ability, and stunning design. I mean, it’s built by Maserati in Modena for gawd’s sake.

What's new about it?

This is a clean sheet design. The only shared element is the alloy turbo four, also found under the bonnet of the Giulietta QV. But the 4C had it first, so it really is new from-the-ground-up.

That's all fine. What's it like to drive fast?

Having driven the car at its global launch in Italy, main point of interest was whether it’s lively and nimble nature would translate to the local environment, and we’re happy to report it does, 100 per cent.

The Alfa Romeo 4C is a real sports car, with few compromises made in the name of superior dynamic performance. Alfa has historically used the name Veloce to describe its lightweight models, and there’s no direct English translation for that word. The closest is probably ‘fast’, but the meaning combines notions of agility and quick responses, as well as outright speed. The 4C is alive with Veloce to the max.

Feel from the unassisted rack and pinion steering is like shoving your hands through the dash and grabbing the front wheels. In constant radius corners your fingertips pick up every subtle nuance of the road surface, changes in camber, and grip levels. It’s unbelievably good.

The 4C is fast, and feels it. You’re sitting low, with an expansive view ahead thanks to a large, wrap-around screen (think Lancia Stratos). Stones and twigs thrown up by the wheels tick and bang into the floor, the turbo whooshes and whines behind your head, and the flappy paddle dual clutch is fast and satisfyingly positive.

We tried the (standard) launch control function, and with the system engaged the 4C steps off hard. Acceleration is genuinely rapid, as in, 911 Carrera S rapid, and the ripping engine noise, centimetres from your ear drums, is sensational.

Alfa claims a 50:50 front to rear weight distribution, and the way the car remains on track and throttle-steerable in fast corners is phenomenal. The standard Pirelli P Zero rubber does its bit for outright grip, but the car’s overall poise and balance, delivered via a wishbone front, strut rear suspension set-up, is obvious.

The brakes, perforated and ventilated discs front and rear, with four pot Brembo calipers up front are brilliant.

And driving from home to the office in the city?

This is not, repeat not, a daily driver. But if you do decide to throttle-off and hit the commuter trail, the seats are as comfortable as they are supportive, the interior design is high-tech Italian cool, and concessions to comfort in the shape of climate-control air, cruise control, and rear parking sensors are in place. Having time to drink in the exposed carbon weave all over the interior is also extremely pleasant.

Is there anything bad about it?

There’s no doubt the 4C is fabulous but flawed. The price you pay for ultimate steering feel and response is the car’s tendency to follow dips and channels in the road, and prepare yourself for shocks and shudders from imperfections. But trust us, it’s totally worth it.

The combined engine and exhaust noise is bliss in the short term, but can do your hearing in after a while. Rear three-quarter vision for lane-changing is limited. And if you’re thinking about giving Anne Hathaway a lift, remind her to dress appropriately, because getting in and out can be an undignified process.

We’re also not fans of the carbon fibre headlight inserts which have replaced the pre-production car’s conventional glass bi-xenons. The latter is standard on the upcoming Spider version, and Alfa is making noises about eventually making them optional on the coupe, so all is not lost.

So, the 4C’s not perfect. But hey, even Cara Delevingne has Groucho Marx eyebrows.

How much would I have to pay for one? And is it worth the coin?

The ‘standard’ 4C is set at $89k, but FCA Australia has secured 75 examples of the 4C Launch Edition, which at $109,000 adds extra fruit to the standard equipment list in the shape of exclusive paint colours, bi-LED headlight, with illuminated daytime running lights, front fascia with side air intakes and carbon fibre rear spoiler and mirror caps, race suspension tune, special exhaust, staggered 18-inch (front) and 19-inch (rear) forged alloy rims (up from 17 and 18-inch), red brake calipers, sport seats, interior accent stitching, and carbon fibre used on the trim plates, instrument bezel, and gear shift surround. If you can get your hands on one it’s t-o-t-a-l-l-y worth it.

Would you take the Alfa 4C or Porsche Cayman 2.7?

Both great mid-engine two-seaters, but we’d take the Alfa in a heartbeat.

Click here to find out more about the Alfa Romeo 4C.


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