by Douglas Black, enerficiency On The Road, March 12, 2013
The Fiat SpA and bridesmaid Chrysler owned Alfa Romeo brand will soon be sold again in the U.S. after an 18 year hiatus. Responding to relentless questioning by the press at the Detroit Auto Show in January, Fiat Sp.A. CEO Sergio Marchionne would only tease that the expected return of the Alfa Romeo nameplate would be “Soon. Very soon.”
Nothing in Chicago at CAS2013, but Geneva proved to be the launch of the Alfa Romeo 4C, and the brand that Dustin Hoffman drove in “The Graduate” still looks sexy. In fact the iconic crest has been around since before Henry Ford started rolling cars out of the Woodward Avenue Plant in Highland Park back in the 19th century.
According to Fiat executives 900 Alfa Romeo 4C vehicles are scheduled for production of the 2014 model year, 500 of which will be earmarked for this side of the pond.
While enerficiency On The Road has not had the opportunity to kick the tires yet, our friends at Gizmag have written a fair review.
Here is what they have to say…
The overall design and build of the 4C Launch Edition appears the same as the most recent concept version, but it gets a few unique touches like carbon fiber trim and a Carrara White body color option. For those that prefer the color of passion, Alfa Red is the other available option. Other elements include a rear aluminum diffuser with dark finishing, bi-LED headlights, and 18-inch (front) and 19-inch (rear) alloy wheels with burnishing treatment. The Launch Edition also comes with admission to an Alfa-hosted event in Italy, which includes professional driving instruction.
In terms of its greater model styling, the 4C blends DNA from past models like the 33 Stradale and 8C Competizione. The broad muscles of the coupe’s haunches and flanks are interrupted only by the air intakes that feed the intercooler. Up front, Alfa’s shield provides the driving force for the styling, splitting the grill into pieces and launching V-like ribs up over the hood. The car measures 157 inches (399 cm) long, 79 inches (200 cm) wide, 46 inches (118 cm) high, and has a wheelbase of 94 inches (238 cm).
Peep through the rear window and you’ll get a look at the all-aluminum, direct-injection 240-hp 1.8-liter four-cylinder turbo, which is teamed with an updated TCT twin dry clutch transmission and launch control system. A four-cylinder sounds entirely too meek for a €60,000 Italian sports car, and it’s certainly enough to laugh away Alfa’s characterization of the car as a “supercar.” However, the basis of the 4C was always construction so light that a small engine could make an impressive mark on the spec sheets. Its dry weight is 1,973 pounds (895 kg), empowering a 4.5-second 0-62 mph (0-100km/h) time. The weight is lumped 60 percent in back, 40 percent in front.
The 4C achieves that curb weight with the help of a carbon fiber monocoque, aluminum structural components and a composite body. Even the bucket seats get in on the diet, employing a carbon fiber-fiberglass structure.
We’re already having fun mentally driving the ultralight, rear-driven panther, and the running gear only improves things. Alfa uses superimposed wishbones up front and a MacPherson system in the rear to optimize the 4C’s agility on the street. Alfa will also sell a suspension kit with specific calibration of the shock absorbers and rear anti-roll bar. The driver will maintain full feel of the road thanks to the lack of power steering and an available “Race” mode, which deactivates stability control and anti-slip. Several tire options will be available to buyers.
The 4C’s interior just seeps with driver focus and performance-assisting design. Like the Lamborghini Veneno, Alfa leaves the carbon fiber of the central tunnel untouched and visible, a reminder of the lightweight underpinnings assisting the driver’s every twitch across the aluminum pedals. Even in traffic, the 4C conveys a sense of driving pleasure: The dashboard and door panels have an “asphalt treatment,” providing a visual nod to its open-road inspiration. The bucket seating and digital displays are kept simple and drive-focused, and the center stack is angled directly at the driver. Shift paddles and an Alfa DNA selector with Dynamic, Natural, All Weather and new Race modes engage the driver, ensuring he’s not just sitting around looking at his lovely surroundings.
Time will tell if there is enough “fun” factor and brand affinity to stick. But it will certainly nice to see Alfa Romeo back in American showrooms.
About Douglas Black
Douglas Black is a photojournalist and
green technologies analyst out of Chicago,
and is currently Managing Producer for
Earlier Douglas promoted greentech in Detroit as
Senior Marketing Strategist and Architect.
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