Alfa Romeo reveals new 4C sports coupe ahead of Geneva

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Alfa Romeo hasn't sold a new sports car in North America for almost 20 years, whereas the entire brand left our market in 1995. Just revealed ahead of next month's Geneva auto show, Alfa's upcoming 4C sports coupe not only previews a return to the North American market, this model expected to lead the Italian brand back to our shores, but it also hails the premium carmaker's return to a relatively affordable sports coupe.

The gorgeous 450-horsepower 4.7-litre Maserati V8-powered Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione was priced in the six figures and made in very limited numbers, whereas the 4C is expected to cost much less and be much more widely available, while pulling power from an all-aluminum direct-injected and turbocharged 1.75-litre (1750 cc) four-cylinder engine that will make an estimated 240-horsepower (it puts out 232-horsepower in the Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde, but is expected to get a slight boost for the 4C) and drive the rear wheels via Alfa's twin-clutch "TCT automatic" transmission, most likely with six forward gears although the press release wasn't specific. Alfa refers to the paddle-shift actuated automated gearbox as a "genuine benchmark in its segment due to its low weight and extreme speed of activation," and also interesting, the engine it's mated to features "a revolutionary scavenging control system that gets rid of any turbo lag," says Alfa.

Engine, transmission, suspension and steering responsiveness will be variable via Alfa's driver-controllable DNA selector, which allows the choice of Dynamic, Natural and All Weather modes, plus a Race setting designed for track use. And it should be a formidable foe on unrestricted tarmac, as much of the lightweight 4C is made from high-tech materials such as carbon fibre and aluminum, so it should perform like a supercar with a power to weight ratio of four kilograms per horsepower.

In this respect the new 4C shouldn't be confused with the upcoming Alfa Romeo Spyder roadster, slated to join the 4C and other Alfa Romeo models in North America as parent company Fiat expands the brand globally, but at a much lower price. That car will be a front engine, rear drive layout featuring chassis architecture shared with Mazda's upcoming MX-5 (Miata) replacement. As noted by the materials used in its construction the 4C is more exotic, being a mid-engine rear drive configuration most often utilized by supercar manufacturers such as Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini and more recently Lamborghini's parent Audi, with its R8. Mainstream mid-engine cars sold here in the past yet unavailable now have included budget-minded models like the Fiat X1/9, Pontiac Fiero and Toyota MR-2, as well as the near-exotic Acura NSX, amongst others. The Alfa Romeo 4C would slot somewhere in between these cars in price and prestige if only they were still available, probably priced in the mid-to-high five figures between the now defunct Lotus Elise and current Evora, and doing battle with the latter as well as Porsche's mid-engine Cayman, as well as other premium sports cars.

The 4C's bodywork, penned by the Alfa Romeo Centro Stile (Style Centre) in Arese, Milan, Italy, appears inspired by the classic 1967 Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale, which should make it appealing to the young and more mature sports car fans alike. Those that fell in love with the 4C concept two years ago in Geneva should be happy too, as this production version is very true to the original prototype. The overall shape is nearly the same, but Alfa has given the road car more traditional side mirrors for practicality's sake, and while no interior photos have been released a sneak peek through the windshield shows a more conventional two-seat cabin layout got the production nod rather than the concept's unorthodox split cockpit design. An interior highlight includes an exposed carbon fibre central cell that enhances the 4C's "sense of uniqueness, of technology and light weight," says Alfa Romeo.

The lightweight 4C spans a mere 4 metres from nose to tail with a 2.4-metre wheelbase, is 2 metres from side to side and less than 1.2 metres in height. To put these measurements in perspective refer to the aforementioned Lotus models; the 4C would fit right in between the Elise and Evora.

What's more, while small in size and therefore more agile than a larger supercar, it should have no problem sticking to the road at top speed. According to Alfa Romeo the 4C "achieves maximum aerodynamic efficiency levels, recording a negative Cz (downforce coefficient) which, as in racing cars, contributes towards achieving increased stability at higher speeds."

Just like the previously mentioned 8C Competizione, the 4C will be produced for Alfa Romeo by sibling Maserati, so expect premium levels of build quality.

The new Alfa Romeo 4C will be officially unveiled at the 83rd International Motor Show in Geneva in early March, after which more details will become available. Production will follow shortly thereafter, with sales starting later this year.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sports Coupe, Alfa Romeo, 2014, 4C,

Geographic location: Geneva

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