If I’m honest I still can’t stomach the continued use of the word ‘supercar’ in Alfa’s press materials, otherwise I’ll take my 4C in black with the optional 18-inch/19-inch 5-hole cloverleaf wheels.
But if like me you’ve yet to register your interest, then you’ll have to move fast. Alfa will produce 3,500 4C’s annually (more than double its original plan), with only 1,000 of these coming to Europe. The order books will open from October, with first cars delivered shortly thereafter.
It marks the beginning of Alfa’s renaissance as a global brand and its return to the U.S., following the successful launch of the diminutive Fiat 500, which has gained celebrity endorsements from the likes of Charlie Sheen and Beyonce.
Over the next few years, Alfa will follow the 4C with a new saloon, a two-seat roadster being developed with Mazda and a compact SUV to rival the Range Rover Evoque. It’s all part of Alfa’s strategy to raise the profile of its brand, competing at the heart of the premium market.
To do so, as with the 4C, Alfa will work closely with sister company Maserati, which helped engineer the 4C and now hosts its production at the Maserati plant in Modena.
And the 4C is being priced at the premium end of scale too – the special Launch Edition model produced in either ‘Carrara White’ or Alfa Red will retail at £52,000 here in the UK, with just 1,000 cars being available worldwide. Thereafter, the regular 4C will be priced from £45,000.
Alfa have been at pains to point out that its build process and attention to detail is on a par with a Maserati, even though it takes around a third of the time to build a 4C. Hence they’d like us to consider it an inexpensive ‘supercar’ rather than an exotic sports car, even though it’s built around a ‘pre-preg’ carbonfibre monocoque which is hand-laid in a one-piece mould and then oven cured. That carbon tub weighs just 65kg, which contributes towards the 4C’s class leading dry weight of 895kg.
Despite its similarity to a Lotus Exige, Alfa see the 4C’s nearest competitor as the Porsche Cayman, which it confidently predicts is not as fast or as involving as the 4C. Outdriving the Cayman sounds more than a little ambitious (especially at its first attempt), but it looks to have its measure in terms of power-to-weight. Assuming a kerb weight of closer to 930kg once fluids are added, the 4C delivers around 255bhp/ton while the Porsche achieves 242bhp/ton, so performance should be ‘close’.
In Alfa’s efforts to make the 4C more involving than the competition it has developed what’s described as an ‘enveloping seat design’. The idea is for drivers to ‘feel’ what the car is doing by being more directly connected into the car’s main sensory touch points. The brakes are said to provide unparalleled feedback, while the unassisted steering is progressive and very direct. The steering ratio of 16.2 has been designed to allow 90% of bends to be taken without the driver taking their hands off the steering wheel.
With a weight distribution of 40% on the front axle and 60% on the rear, the 4C can decelerate under braking at 1.25g while pull 1.1g in lateral acceleration through the corners. The 4C accelerates from 0 to 62mph in just 4.5 seconds and can reach a top speed of 160mph.
Alfa’s official fuel economy figure for the 4C is just 41.5mpg with a very un-supercar-like 157g/km of CO2 emissions.
With the 4C’s market launch next month and its target positioning alongside Porsche, Alfa begins a new era. The car’s launch motto is ‘Just drive’, which Alfa’s European chief Louis-Carl Vignon will no doubt be hoping is the ownership experience which buyers are truly able to enjoy.