Video: Chris Harris Explains The Alfa Romeo 4C

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The Alfa Romeo 4C is beyond important. It signals the latest re-birth of Alfa Romeo at a time when car companies simply don’t have multiple chances left to get it right. The marque has been let down over the years by a series of fumbled plans and front-wheel-drive cars that whilst beautiful to look at, failed to live up to a brand promise forged over decades of racing success.

Alfa Romeo 4C - front view
Alfa Romeo 4C – front view
Alfa Romeo sales have continued to drop over the last 10 years and it’s widely known that the brand will have to re-enter the US market in order to grow. Fiat has talked about Alfa Romeo returning to the US for years but the brand has lacked the right product to do so. The cars have been merely ‘adequate’ where a marque with Alfa’s history needs ‘exceptional’. You can’t position an Alfa as a family car against a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry, which is what they would have to have done with cars like the 156 and 159. This is a brand that needs something special beyond its looks and Alfa hasn’t had that for some time.

Until now, we hope.

Alfa’s latest incarnation as a brand began with the 8C from a few years ago – a super-exotic V8 powered swoon-mobile that in recent Alfa tradition, didn’t drive quite as good as it looked. The 4C is a more accessible car than the exclusive 8C (i.e. it has a healthy price tag but doesn’t cost megabucks) but offers the promise of advanced design and construction to give it a much lighter weigh-in and better handling.

My heart sank with the first review I saw (can’t remember the source). They went pretty hard on the car and marked it down quite harshly. I haven’t seen a lot since, but this review by Chris Harris from /DRIVE has me feeling more buoyant.

It’s 8 minutes long and I think you’ll enjoy it. The car looks, sound and seems to drive very nicely indeed.

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For those who skipped the video…..

The engine is fantastic, has heaps of torque and propels the car beautifully.

The non-powered steering is a delight and gives great feedback combined with the stiff, carbon-fibre tub chassis.

Harris drove the car on both the track and the road. Both situations were extremely rewarding and the 4C got plenty of interest and admiration around town. Goodwill for Alfa Romeo seems to be alive and well.

Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition

The downsides….

The mechanical package is extremely tight and this, combined with a need to make the car relatively affordable, may have resulted in some suspension compromises (this rings true with that first review I saw). And, the steering, while fantastic, is let down by the steering wheel, which looks and feels rather average when it should be much classier.

I like Chris Harris’ work and place a lot of currency in his opinions. He’s a driver and a genuine car nut. He wants cars that should be good to be good and whilst he recognises the compromises, he doesn’t slam a car because of them if the positive aspects are genuine.

Such is his opinion of the 4C – a car that Alfa desperately needs to be received the right way. I’m really pleased to see that it has been received positively in this instance because I really, really want to see Alfa succeed.

And yes, I really, really want a 4C one day 🙂

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3 Comments

  1. I’m really liking those headlights. I’m tired of the gigantic “slanted eyes” that are so prevalent. I really hope for a successful USA version just so I can see them on the road occasionally. I still remember GM talk about combining Alfa and Saab dealerships — just dreaming what could have been,

  2. I find it strange that reviewers compare this car solely to the Boxster/Cayman. I think that people are more likely to cross-shop with the M1/135/235 (or whatever it’s called). The Porsche has a “I’m so rational it hurts” image, whereas the BMW shares the Alfa’s bad-boy image: it probably won’t be very reliable, and you won’t want to drive it every day, but it surely will hit the sweet spot on the right day.

    There’s this notion in the automotive press that buyers want “a mid-engined European two-seater between $50 and $80,000,” or some similar made-up category. In my experience, people who buy these cars just want something that will make them feel a certain way about themselves. All the rationalizing about engine architecture and weight distribution comes later, after they’ve made their purchasing decision. Heck, it’s always hard to tell if they’ll end-up with a motorcycle, a Porsche or a Jeep.

  3. This Alfa is quite a gem and even though I have never driven a mid-engined car I have ridden in my father’s Toyota MR-1 in England and 20 years ago I rode in an MR-2 at a BMW sponsored Track Weekend when I took my SPG to it’s limit at my favorite track, Road America,Wisconsin, just 50 miles north of me. I also took my SPG back for an hour after I had already driven a million miles on this bullet proof car. My Viggen has also been there to have the cobwebs removed from its engine.

    This is a lap in a Toyota MR-2 Turbo and I can only imagine how much better the the Alfa 4C is

    http://youtu.be/p-iO0Dl4OGU

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