SIMPLY SENSATIONAL: THE NEW ALFA ROMEO 4C

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A full-on Italian sportscar for well under $100,000? I’d like to see that… Well, here it is; with a recommended price of just $89,000 the all-new Alfa Romeo 4C comes from one of the world’s longest running makers of racing and sports cars.

Enzo Ferrari raced Alfa Romeo cars before setting up his own organisation and Alfa has won multiple Grand Prix races and F1 world championships. The company celebrated its 100th anniversary worldwide in 2010 and continues to make gorgeous machines to this day. However, most of them are now somewhat everyday cars as Alfa Romeo got into financial strife a while back – as is the way with many sportscar and racing car makers – and is now controlled by Fiat.

As well as the standard $89,000 (plus on-roads) Alfa 4C there’s also a Launch Edition special at $109,000, still a bargain price. It has larger wheels and tyres on firmer suspension, a sports exhaust, sports seats and steering wheel and red brake calipers.

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Alfa Romeo 4C is anything but everyday in its makeup. Have a look at the low front, there’s no engine under there to demand height, the famed Alfa Romeo shield grille is upright and bold and flares well into the bonnet’s style lines. Big cutouts give the front a purposeful look. The side profile is low and positive with the big rear air intakes. The lines that begin near the doors’ fronts add a real talking point.

Complex shaping of the long tail features very Italian round lights, a built-in spoiler and boldly shaped diffuser with twin exhaust outlets at the outer corners.

This is a stubby little car, being just four metres long and only 1.2 metres high.

Alfa Romeo 4C is constructed largely by hand using lightweight components, chiefly carbon fibre and aluminium. It weighs in at just 1025 kilograms. This makes it not only more nimble on the road but also means it can get stunning performance from an engine that displaces just 1750cc – a capacity that’s been famed for Alfa for many years.

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The engine is borrowed from big brother Alfa Romeo Giulietta and sits transversely just behind the two-seat cabin and drives the rear wheels. The turbocharged, direct-injection, twin-cam four has been worked to produce 177 kW at 6000 rpm, with torque figures of a hefty 350 Nm all the way from 2200 to 4250 rpm.

It’s tuned to be a full-house sporty unit both in the way it responds and, just as importantly, in the way it sounds, more about this in a moment.

As is the way with full-on sports machines these days power transmission is by a fast-shifting double-clutch automatic, in this case with six forward ratios controlled through paddle shifters.

Alfa Romeo 4C is all about driving, but before you can do that you need to get into it, which requires sliding over wide door sills of the tub and settling into seats mounted not far off the floor. Those who favour miniskirts may find it a problem…

Once in you are nicely supported by true sports seats, which is just as well, because cornering forces of 1.2 G have been measured, and Brembo brakes and bespoke Pirelli P-Zero tyres can haul speed off at 1.25 G. These are big numbers and indicate the serious intentions of the 4C’s designers.

We weren’t able to sample the 4C at a track to get the full benefit of this road grip, but on-road testing in some quiet areas north of Sydney certainly showed it has huge levels of grip. Ride comfort isn’t particularly good, though certainly acceptable in the ‘serious sportscar’ class. Low ground clearance can cause scrapes underneath if you’re not paying attention.

A further advantage of the light weight of the Alfa is that it doesn’t need power steering. So you get the full feel of exactly what the tyres are doing. Sensitivity of the steering takes some getting used to, there’s initially a feeling it’s tram-lining (following lines on the road without you making any steering inputs) but in fact it may be that it’s the sensitivity that you’re feeling. When we get a further chance to experience the 4C over an extended period we will get back to you on this.

The sound of the engine is addictive. It sits just behind you and induction, turbo and exhaust noises are transmitted to the cabin – loudly. You will have to raise your voices to carry on a conversation, particularly when you really get stuck into this hot little Alfa.

Zero to 100 km/h time is listed at just 4.5 seconds, that’s true supercar territory, we measured it by handheld stopwatch and came up with 4.6 seconds, so it sounds as though the factory number is spot on.

Alfa Romeo 4C is a pure sportscar, not a pretty coupe – and we love it for that. This isn’t a car for everyone, which is perhaps just as well because the initial shipment may well have been completely sold out by the time you read this, and the waiting list is likely to become very long very quickly.

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