My most anticipated vehicle launch from the Geneva Motor Show has taken place – the Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition is now on show. I add ‘Launch Edition’ on the end there because Alfa have put together a special offering for the first buyers of the vehicle that’s intended to re-cast Alfa Romeo as a worldwide brand (see the Launch Edition press release, below).
There’s a lot to like about the Alfa Romeo 4C, but I want to finish this article on a positive note, so I’m going to start with something I don’t like – at all. Photo from Autoblog.
The eyes are the window to the soul and when it comes to cars, the eyes are the headlights. It’s hard to make headlights look outstanding but it’s really easy to %#$! them up. They didn’t look this prominent in the first press photos but they do here (admittedly, under a pretty severe camera flash). I don’t know who had this idea of encasing them in grey plasticky stuff but from all the live photos I’ve seen, they don’t look complimentary. They’re not getting many compliments, either.
Reading the press release, I gather these headlight surrounds might be unique to the Launch Edition. If not, then I hope either Alfa Romeo or some aftermarket company sees the light (pun intended) and develops a more traditional headlight assembly that surrounds the LED’s in mirror-finish backing and a glass covering. These headlight surrounds are, IMHO, a major detraction from what is an otherwise glorious design. With so much resting on this car – the much-promised reintroduction of Alfa Romeo into the US market – I have absolutely no idea why they would choose to do the headlights this way.
Alfa Romeo – FIX THIS PROBLEM!
With that out of the way, it’s time to get to the good stuff……
An all-aluminium engine, carbonfibre tub and aluminium frame along with other weight saving measures mean the total vehicle weight of the Alfa Romeo 4C is just 895kg. That’s 1,973 lbs for you old-school types. The only way you’ll get a better power-to-weight ratio in your 4C will be diet and exercise.
The engine is a direct-injection 1750cc turbocharged petrol lump putting out 179kW (or 240hp) along with 350Nm of torque. It’s mid-mounted, just behind the seats for maximum stability and optimum handling.
To put that in perspective, here’s a comparison against one of my favourite all-time cars:
The Alfa Romeo 4C has (just) more power and torque than a Saab 9-3 Viggen – and yet the Alfa Romeo 4C weighs only 63% of what the Viggen weighed (510kg less than a 3-door Viggen and 530kg less than a 5-door). OK, you don’t get a hatchback and the practicality that a Viggen offered, but it gives you an idea of the driving experience on offer here – and driving experience is what the Alfa Romeo 4C is all about.
That power is sent to the rear wheels via a new TCT twin dry clutch transmission that comes with multiple modes and launch control. It’s good for a 0-100km/h sprint of just 4.5 seconds and it’ll pull 1.1g in the corners. The brakes are pretty decent, too – 4-piston Brembos on the front along with ventilated discs all-round that will pull 1.25g in deceleration force.
Interestingly, the Alfa Romeo 4C might just be the most expensive car ever (in nominal terms) to be offered without power steering. Given the vehicle’s emphasis on light weight, Alfa decided to leave power steering on the workshop floor. They promise it’s incredibly precise as a result, and the light weight of the car doesn’t make the task of turning it a difficult one.
The interior is totally driver focused. The carbonfibre tub (which weighs just 65kg, by the way) is left exposed and the dashboard has been given what Alfa Romeo call an ‘asphalt’ treatment to link the visual with the car’s intended purpose. Dials are all digital. The metal bits are all aluminium.
The best news is that all this beauty, technology and performance is going to be on offer for a starting price less than $80,000 here in Australia. For a car with a genuine carbonfibre tub construction, I’ve got to say that that’s outstanding!
All they have to do now is fix the headlights and I think this will quite likely be the target of my automotive existence for the next five years.
Here’s a quick gallery. The Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition press release is below. The Launch Edition will be available in either Red or White.
World première: Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition
- The exclusive ‘Launch Edition’ will make its début at the Geneva Motor Show. It will be produced as a numbered limited edition: 400 in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, 500 in North America and 100 in the rest of the world.
- Dedicated to the host of fans throughout the world, the limited edition of the new Alfa Romeo compact supercar is distinguished by exclusive characteristics such as carbon fibre trim and the ‘Carrara White’ body colour.
- The 4C ‘Launch Edition’ can be ordered straight away at a price which is almost the same throughout Europe, 60,000 euros including VAT (net of other local taxes).
- A unique privilege exclusively for 4C ‘Launch Edition’ buyers: the chance to take part in an exclusive event in Italy which also includes an Advanced Driving session with Professional Driver-Instructors.
- New all-aluminium engine: direct-injection 240 HP 1750 Turbo Petrol.
- Top speed of more than 250 km/h and acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds.
- Alfa TCT twin clutch transmission with shift paddles at steering wheel and new Alfa DNA selector with additional ‘Race’ mode.
The global launch of the Alfa Romeo 4C marks the return of the brand to the world of lightweight sports coupés, an extraordinary event, awaited ever more eagerly by the host of fans throughout the world. The exclusive ‘Launch Edition’ was created just for them, a numbered limited edition of 400 in Europe with exclusive characteristics developed specifically for this unique version.
It makes its début today, at the 83rd Geneva International Motor Show, where orders officially opened for the ‘Launch Edition’ of the new 4C compact supercar at a price of 60,000 euros in most European markets (price including VAT net of other local taxes). What’s more, all buyers can take part in an exclusive event which will include an advanced driving course, to learn how to make the most of its potential in complete safety.
The new Launch Edition can ‘clothe’ its body with two liveries – Carrara White or Alfa Red – and is marked out by the distinctive badge, inlaid beneath the paintwork. The line of the special car is enhanced by the carbon aerodynamic kit (including spoiler and door mirror covers), the rear aluminium diffuser with dark finishing, Bi-LED headlights with dark surround and 18″ (front) and 19″ (rear) alloy wheels with burnishing treatment.
To accentuate the sports look still further, there are front air intakes, brake calipers in a specific colour, racing exhaust system with BMC air cleaner and suspension kit with specific calibration for shock absorbers and rear anti-roll bar.
The interior has the same sports feel, with highlights provided by the leather/fabric sports seats with parts in Alcantara, as well as the distinctive, numbered carbon badge. In the case of the red livery, the Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition has red stitching on the steering wheel trim, handbrake, mats, handles and sports seats.
Of course, the Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition offers all the winning characteristics of the model that represents the essential sportiness embedded in the ‘Alfa Romeo DNA’: Italian style, performance and technical excellence, for maximum driving pleasure in complete safety.
Designed by Alfa Romeo and produced in the Maserati plant in Modena, the new mid-engined rear-wheel drive coupé with two bucket seats will be become available for purchase in 2013 and will mark the return of the Italian brand to the United States, inaugurating Alfa Romeo’s global growth plan.
The Alfa Romeo 4C derives directly from the concept which raised many eyebrows in admiration at the Geneva Show in 2011, so much so that it won three prestigious awards: the ‘AutoBild Design Award’ (2011, Germany), the ‘Design Award for Concept Cars & Prototypes’ (2012, Italy) and the ‘Most Exciting Car of 2013’ – ‘What Car?’ (2013, Great Britain).
The acronym ‘4C’ draws its inspiration from the brand’s glorious past, projecting the values of technology and emotions into the future. Indeed, it refers to Alfa Romeo’s great sporting tradition: the acronyms 8C and 6C in the 1930s and 1940s distinguished cars – both racing and non – fitted with the powerful ‘eight cylinders’ and the innovative ‘six cylinders’, confirming in its design layout and construction the goal of achieving the weight/power ratio of an authentic supercar, less than 4 kg/HP, yet focusing not merely on the maximum power delivered, but on limiting the weight to guarantee maximum agility and top performance. To this end, the Alfa Romeo 4C uses state-of-the-art technologies and materials derived from super sports cars (including the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione) – carbon fibre, aluminium, rear-wheel drive – and technologies from the latest standard models from Alfa Romeo, but updated to enhance the sports appeal of the new car even further. This is demonstrated by the new 1750 Turbo Petrol all-aluminium engine with direct injection, the sophisticated “Alfa TCT” twin dry clutch transmission and the Alfa DNA selector with the brand-new Race mode.
Designed by the Alfa Romeo Style Centre, the 4C immediately brings to mind some of the traditional iconic models which have left a significant mark in the history of the Brand. Above all others, in terms of dimensional and layout similarities, one stands out in particular: the 33 Stradale, a car that combined extreme mechanical and functional requirements with an essential style which “clothed” the engine and chassis appropriately with unmistakable Alfa Romeo treatments.
The 4C has followed suit, and thus completes a journey which was embarked upon with the 8C Competizione, emphasising some particular concepts of the brand, such as compact size, dynamism and agility.
The development of the 4C’s exterior was characterised from the start by the need to enhance the style of the car and the technical characteristics both from a dynamic and aerodynamic point of view. For this reason, all the style solutions adopted have been optimised in accordance with the ultimate goal of the car: performance.
The rear volume, sinuous and enveloping, simultaneously encloses and embraces the beating heart of the car: the mechanics and the engine, visible through the rear window.
All this, thanks to the development of marked musculature above the wheels, lends strength and power to the rear end.
The rear musculature supports its structure on round rear light clusters and on the side air intakes necessary to cool the intercooler and the air intake for engine aspiration.
From this energy-charged rear volume and the two side air intakes spring the two long muscles which lend speed and dynamism to the side, generating the necessary volume at the front end to house the headlights and, on the central part, the two robust ribs running along the bonnet, tracing the unmistakable “V” and coming to their natural conclusion around the shield.
This, together with the two side intakes, forms the famous “Trefoil”, a substantial facet of Alfa Romeo’s profile.
The elemental design and essential materials also distinguish the interior, which is all designed and built for maximum driving satisfaction.
Specifically, the carbon fibre of the central cell immediately stands out in the interior, left in full view to enhance the sense of low weight, technology and uniqueness of the car.
The dashboard and door panels have an “asphalt ” treatment to recall the vocation of the Alfa Romeo 4C, conceived to convey maximum driving sensation from the road.
The seats ensure dedicated sports posture, favouring the driver’s contact with the road without, however, compromising the comfort required for everyday use of the car.
The dashboard, simple and designed to make using functions simple too, reaches its zenith in the concept of extreme driver-orientation, thanks to digital instruments and gear shift controls located on the appropriately shaped steering wheel.
The cockpit, which powerfully suggests the world of motorcycle racing and race cars, brings together all information necessary to drive and control the car.
The information, which is rendered captivating through powerful, high-impact graphics, allows the driver to keep everything under control without distractions from controls that would be superfluous on this type of car.
The pedal unit and footboards for driver and passenger are all made of aluminium and embellish the lower part under the dashboard, highlighting sports character down to the smallest detail.
Dimensions and aerodynamics
The compact dimensions make this car with 2 bucket seats truly unique among its competitors: 399 cm long, 200 cm wide, 118 cm high and with a wheelbase of 238 cm. These dimensions serve both to emphasise the car’s “supercar proportions” and to accentuate its agility. What’s more, owing to the designers’ excellent work, the car achieves maximum aerodynamic efficiency levels, guaranteeing a negative Cz which, as in racing cars, contributes towards achieving increased stability at higher speeds thanks to the aerodynamic downforce.
New direct-injection 240 HP 1750 Turbo Petrol engine
The engine is the beating “heart” of an Alfa Romeo. In this case, it’s the new direct-injection 240 HP 4-cylinder 1750 Turbo Petrol, which was designed with a precise objective: to ensure exceptional performance without sacrificing driving fluidity and use in any circumstances, from the racetrack to the city streets. The Alfa Romeo 4C’s new mid-engine, all-aluminium power unit adopts specific optimised intake and exhaust systems, to enhance both response at low speeds and extension, with the assistance of a crankshaft with eight counterweights. In addition, it boasts cutting-edge technical solutions including direct petrol injection, dual (intake and exhaust) continuous variable valve timing, a turbocharger and a revolutionary scavenging control system that eliminates turbo lag. Torque delivery is generous, with a peak of 350 Nm, 80% of which is available at only 1700 rpm.
Alfa TCT twin dry clutch transmission
The 1750 Turbo Petrol engine is teamed with the Alfa TCT twin dry clutch transmission, which is a genuine benchmark in the category due to its limited weight and extreme speed of activation. The gears can be changed in sequential mode using the “shift paddles” located behind the steering wheel. Compared to the version already adopted on the Giulietta and MiTo models, the TCT on the Alfa Romeo 4C implements next-generation software and features the new ‘Launch Control’ function that optimises all car systems to provide the utmost acceleration possible. What’s more, to ensure the best performance in accordance with the road conditions and driving style, the Alfa TCT adopts optimised operating logic, interacting with the Alfa DNA selector, the braking system, the engine management system and the vehicle stability control system. For example, in automatic mode, the shifting logic differs according to the Alfa DNA setting.
The new Alfa DNA selector with ‘Race’ mode
A specific evolution of the Alfa DNA selector has been developed for Alfa Romeo 4C, which not only features the three standard settings available on other models in the range – Dynamic, Natural and All Weather – but also a fourth mode: ‘Race’, designed to enhance the driving experience on a racetrack even further. It only takes a long press of the selector in Dynamic position to activate it: in this mode, the Alfa DNA deactivates the stability control and anti-slip systems, leaving the driver in full, exciting control. Finally, the full-digital instrument panel with TFT display changes configuration – showing only information relevant to the chosen mode – and colour in line with the Alfa DNA setting: yellow for Race, red for Dynamic, grey for Natural and blue for All Weather.
Solid but lightweight structure
A stiff, strong but light structure is an essential pre-requisite for a high-performance sports car. The same principle inspired the creation of the Alfa Romeo 4C. A state-of-the-art combination of hi-tech materials of extraordinary stiffness and strength, together with a very low specific weight, was selected to achieve this result. In particular, the chassis is a monocoque made entirely of carbon fibre with ‘pre-preg’ technology derived from Formula 1 and adopted only by the most advanced supercars, which weighs only 65 kilograms, inside which a space is formed for the driver and passenger. The front and rear structures of the chassis and the roof reinforcements are made entirely of aluminium.
Additionally, the car’s bodywork is made entirely of low-density, high-strength composite material. Benefits of using this material include lighter weight (it is 20% lighter than steel) and resistance to corrosion. Dimensional stability is comparable to steel and better than aluminium.
Finally, the seats have a mixed carbon fibre and fibreglass structure which guarantees high resistance to stresses and a particularly low weight at the same time.
The final result is a significant reduction in overall weight (the dry weight is just 895 kg) combined with the best possible torsional stiffness and strength characteristics, as well as the optimisation of the car’s centre of gravity, which gives the advantage of increased agility and drivability on the most challenging roads.
The Alfa Romeo 4C has an extremely sophisticated suspension layout – ‘superimposed wishbones’ at the front, development of MacPherson at the rear – to ensure maximum agility and road holding. This solution, along with the rear-wheel drive and the extraordinary weight to power ratio, ensures Alfa Romeo driving pleasure, enhanced even further by the weight distribution (40% on the front axle and 60% on the rear axle). What’s more, for those wanting the maximum in terms of handling, a complete suspension kit will be available with a specific calibration of the shock absorbers and rear anti-roll bar.
Braking system, wheels and steering
To ensure decisive braking even under the most intensive conditions, the braking system has four self-ventilating perforated discs, with Brembo four-piston aluminium calipers on the front axle. In addition, to “stick” the car firmly onto the road surface, tyres with a different diameter and width depending on whether they are fitted at the front or rear have been fitted (two variants possible, either 17″-18″ or 18″-19″) which were developed especially to guarantee excellent performance (a kit of tyres with a softer mix is also provided for optimised grip). In line with the car’s setup, the steering system of the 4C does not feature power steering, to save weight but above all to secure a superlative driving feel. An appropriate steering wheel load is maintained thanks to the low overall weight of the car.
Real supercar performance
The implemented state-of-the-art technical and technological solutions drive the Alfa Romeo 4C to reach real supercar performance with a unique driving feel. This is demonstrated by a top speed in excess of 250 km/h, only 4.5 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h, 1.1 of side acceleration on corners and 1.25 g of maximum braking deceleration.
Excellence made in Italy
The very best technical and industrial expertise of the Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands was used to develop the Alfa Romeo 4C. Specifically, the teamwork between the two brands was aimed at the integration of the Alfa Romeo design department with the Maserati production plant. This was boosted by the technical and technological contribution of other Italian companies, international leaders in the sector of high-performance sports car components. In short, this too is a distinguishing trait of Alfa Romeo, a brand with a century of history that continues to be one of the most famous and popular ambassadors of Italian products across the world.
Turin, 5 March 2013