Alfa Romeo 4C
13th April 2013
£52,000 that is all it is going to cost to buy a real Alfa Romeo, if you hear anyone call it a mini Ferrari lay them out but only after reminding them of who’s the Daddy! The 4C was released on the 4th March 2013, remember that day it is the start of something new. We have one of the most advanced chassis in existence. This is the stuff of dreams, you would have to pay way over double this price to get anything like this specification any where else.
A while back, probably 6 years ago, there was a discreet link up between Lotus and Alfa Romeo where Lotus was going to put the classic Busso V6 into the back of the Elise which would have been interesting. However Lotus in its usual style started to make the chassis more and more complicated and eventually it came to nothing, however I suspect that Alfa Romeo’s engineers may have taken more than a passing interest in the project as the Elise and the 4C are very similar concepts.
So where does the Alfa Romeo 4C fit into the market place? That is a difficult question as no major manufacturer has made anything quite so hard core before, as I said in the previous passage Lotus was the only real competition and in ten years of production they only managed to produce around 20,000 cars and you have to remember that most of the Elise’s were convertibles not Coupe’s. Lotus only produced around 1000 Coupe’s while Alfa Romeo intends to produce around 45,000 4C coupe’s. Then there is the Porsche Cayman, the 4C is in a different league as it is 400kg lighter! Every horse has to propel under 4kg with the Alfa while every Porsche pony has to carry 4.8kg that is quite a difference when you are at this level. There is of course the Audi TT which really isn’t worth mentioning at all, in fact why did I waste words with it. So in reality, Alfa Romeo in the UK is going head to head with the British kit car manufacturers, which is an interesting concept as the main reason for this sectors success is in its flexibility and ability to respond. However against the depth of knowledge that a large manufacturer has available to it and its ability to transfer technology this may pale into insignificance; we shall see.
So Alfa’s offering, the 4C, what is it? The basis of the car is an extremely light weight carbon fibre tub in which the driver and passenger sits, this weighs in at 52kg. Bolted to the front and back are two aluminum sub frames which take the suspension and engine mountings and are also designed to absorb energy in case of collision. Front suspension in the very best of Alfa Romeo tradition is by double unequal length wishbones, while at the rear the design utilizes a McPherson strut. The engine is mid mounted and sits to the right hand side of the car. The engine while mid mounted is essentially the same one that is in the Giulietta and sits just in front of the axle line, this gives a 60/40 weight bias to the rear without passengers, with say 160kg of passengers the weight distribution will be much nearer 50/50. The beauty of a mid engined design is not necessarily that the weight is distributed evenly over both wheels it is more due to the weight being centered in the middle of the car, this gives the car a low polar moment of inertia and so it will change direction much more easily. If you have driven an Alfetta and managed to get it out of line you will be aware that you need very quick reactions in order to catch it, an Alfetta has a high polar moment of inertia as the engine is way out front and the gearbox is hung out of the rear of the car.
The Alfa 4C uses a lot of the technology that has been developed for the Giulietta and this is where it has an advantage over the kit car manufacturers. It is going to use the 6 speed TCT transmission, this is one of the modern generation of twin plate clutch transmissions that can change gear nearly instantly. TCT and its predecessor Selespeed gearboxes do take a bit of getting used to but once mastered are quite fun to drive. Selespeed being a single plate design was a lot slower than the TCT system which already has the next gear engaged ready to change while selespeed has to change gear between disengaging the clutch and re-engaging it again. The TCT transmission is connected into the engine management system which controls all throttle inputs. The dynamics of the car are governed to some extent by the DNA system, which like other modern Alfa’s modifies the throttle and anti lock braking systems responses. The 4C also adds another function to the system; RACE mode. To enter RACE mode push the DNA lever forward and hold it there for 5 seconds, this switches the vehicle dynamic control off completely except when you have your foot on the brake, which sounds very interesting.
The engine is the 1750 turbo, this is an “all aluminum” direct injection four cylinder where the fuel is injected straight into the combustion chamber not onto the back of the inlet valve as older type fuel injection systems used to do. One advantage of this is that the air coming into the engine is clean and has no fuel in it at all, this means that you can use the variable timing on the exhaust cam to keep the turbo spinning. This is done by leaving the exhaust valve open as the piston rises in the bore and the force of the air coming out of the open valve keeps the turbo spooled up, so when you next apply the throttle there is no turbo lag. The engine is slightly more powerful than in the Giulietta thanks to a slightly modified inlet and exhaust manifold system. The 1750 engine kicks out 240 bhp @6000 rpm (which is OK with only 895kg to propel) however the thing that will really impress is the torque, 80% of maximum torque is developed at just 1800 rpm. This should mean that o matter what speed you are dawdling along at if you floor the throttle it will take off like a scalded cat, and if you are trying to make an impression off the lights you should be able to reach 60 mph in around 4.3 seconds.
Braking will be by Brembo 4 pot calipers on the front onto 305mm disks while the rear has TRW calipers on 292mm disks. The disks are ventilated all round and are very similar size front and rear, that is due to the 60/40 weight distribution as discussed earlier, with more weight at the rear you can apply more braking and get the car to stop faster. The brake bias is 65% to the front and 45% to the rear. Enveloping the brakes on the front are some lovely 205/45 17 pirreli P Zero’s with 235/40 18’s on the rear of the standard car, however if you get the RACE suspension you get upgraded to 205/40 18’s on the front with 235/35 19’s on the rear.
So in my opinion how good will it be? After the swinging criticism of the 8C’s handling Alfa Romeo are not likely to be in a mood to let the handling disappoint. From what I have heard on the grape vine the 4C can pull 1.1g through a corner and the last Alfa Romeo that could just about manage that was the SZ which saw 1.1g for very short periods, that together with the blistering sprint to 60 mph and a top speed of over 155 mph this should be a very, very good car.
At the risk of being a little smug as always the Alfa workshop is the most reliable source of information about Alfa Romeos on the web, three whole years ago we promised you the 4C, yesterday it was launched, we said it would have the 1750 engine, correct. We said it would have the TCT paddle shift correct again, we promised you 235 BHP you got 240 BHP we said it would tip the scales at 850 Kg it weighs in at 895Kg, if its Alfa it is here!
So what is the 4C? It is a carbon fibre monocoque chassis with aluminium front and rear subframes with integral roll hoop, clothed in composite outer panels. It is powered by a 1750 turbocharged engine that produces 240bhp and it has proper low down torque, this baby will move like lightening if you prod the accelerator at 2000 rpm and will only stop when it hits the rev limiter, 0-60 4.3 seconds with 100kmh coming up .2 of a second later. The 1750 engine has variable camshaft timing on inlet and exhaust camshafts and direct injection into the combustion chamber. Alfa Romeo uses the variable cam timing to help reduce emission's but also to practically eliminate turbo lag. It does this by leaving the exhaust valves open for as long as possible, using the compression stroke of the engine to keep the turbo spooled up. Because it is a direct injection engine there is no fuel mixed in with the inlet charge so there is no chance of harmful emission's.
The suspension is classic double wishbones at the front with four pot Brembo brake callipers acting on 305 mm ventilated disks, the rear end is supported on McPherson struts with TRW rear brake callipers acting on 292mm ventilated disks, that should stop it! Alfa Romeo have also promised that "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" which sounds very interesting!
The price for all this loveliness is £52000 for the limited edition "launch edition" while I still suspect the standard car will be around £45000
The 4C is getting nearer, there are spy shots of it everywhere on the internet and they are appearing in disguise all over the world (well in the USA and Italy anyway). We are getting leaks from everywhere as to the specifications, it has got to be the worst kept secret in the world. As I predicted nearly three years ago (see below) it will have a 1750 TBi engine producing 235 bhp and weighing in at a lightweight 850 KG, remember you heard it here first! The car's mid engine configuration will help with road holding and after the supposed issue that Alfa Romeo had with the handling of the 8C Coupe I expect that this car will be absolutely sorted from the launch, the suspension is double unequal length wishbones at the front with Macpherson struts on the rear. The thing that I really cant wait to see is the little details, have a close look at those headlamps, they are gorgeous and the interior does look like a very special place to be. The chassis tub will be a carbon fibre with Aluminium hard points as on the prototype and I suspect that it will be produced at Maserati's factory at Moderna at a rate of around 2000 units per year.
The cost of this little beauty is likely to be just under £50,000 on the road, if you can get one!
Well they are going to produce the 4C all be it in limited numbers so you need to get your order in now if you want to stand any sort of a chance of getting one. The 4C will have the 1750 TBi engine and it will be producing 235 bhp. The gear box will be a twin clutch paddle shift type and the power train is going to be the same as the Giulietta cloverleaf. After headlining a weight of 850 kg I expect that to be right on the money. These figures put the 4C head to head with the Lotus Exige which is a hard act to follow. The Alfa Romeo chassis has had a lot of input from Dallara in its design but the production of the chassis is almost certainly sub contracted out to another company. Dallara's chassis expertise is almost unrivalled and I will be very disappointed if it is not at least as good as the Lotus's.
Well now what is this, the Alfa 4C looks as if it is going to be produced and in my humble opinion it is exactly what the marque needs at the moment, the GTV is now long dead and the GT is at the end of its production run so Alfa need a coupe and this will do the job nicely. It is quite a radical departure for Alfa Romeo, I cant think of the last time Alfa made a mid engined production car (you cant really call the Stradale a production car), the Montreal was very nearly mid engined but they moved the engine up front at the last second which was a shame. The 1750 TBI engine produces 235 bhp and that should propel the car along well especialy if they can keep the weight down to 850 Kg. I expect that the 4C should be able to top 150 mph and have a 0-60 time of around 5 seconds, a real mini Ferrari. As for looks you really cant improve on what looks like a cross between a Lotus Elise and a Lancia Stratos, wow
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