2014 Alfa Romeo 4C first drive
Alfa’s big comeback punches well above its weight
Photo: Alfa Romeo
Balocco, Italy – Pigeon-holing Alfa Romeo's new 4C can be a little difficult. It purports to be a supercar, yet it sports just four cylinders. It is the car that Alfa's return to its former glory hinges upon yet no more than 3,500 will be made in any given year. It is a "driving machine without compromise" says the press release, yet much of its interior is sourced from Chrysler and Fiat. There's also been speculation that the new 4C is nothing but a half of the company's extremely rare 8C, a conjecture rendered completely nonsensical by the fact that the 8C is a classic front-engine gran turismo while the 4C is a most modern mid rear-engine format.
Alfa prefers that we see the inspiration for the 4C in its classic 1967 33 Stradale, one of the most beautiful — and underappreciated — supercars of its era, but, even that is misleading since the Stradale was the most expensive supercar of its day — about 20 percent more expensive than the Lamborghini Miura SV — while the 4C is promised, by Harald Wester, Alfa's CEO, to cost but US$54,000 when it reaches the United States. Canadian pricing has not, as yet, been determined.
From a purely technical point of view, however, the Alfa most closely resembles McLaren's high-tech MP4-12C with its chassis comprised of a completely carbon fibre centre tub to which aluminum front and rear sub-frames are attached. But, while McLaren makes much of their use of the lighter-than-steel (and aluminum) man-made fibre, the MP4 still weighs almost 1,400 kilograms. The 4C — and this is where the some of the blogosphere's wild-eyed conjecture surrounding the 4C actually is true — weighs but 895 kilograms, much lighter than even a Mazda Miata and more than half a ton lighter than the McLaren.
Get this: It doesn’t have power steering!
Photo: Alfa Romeo
That lightness permeates everything the 4C does. For instance, the Alfa's steering is purely mechanical, there being no boosting at all — hydraulic or electrical — to assist the driver. Said steering is also very quick, the combination providing an incredible level of feedback to the driver. We pundits keep lauding BMW on the sensitivity of its steering, but, by comparison, an M3 is a Mack truck with a blown hydraulic seal.
Of course, that also means the steering wheel also follows every rut, bump or crevice in the road, the 4C the very antithesis of Camry-like calm on a glass-smooth highway. It's not that the little Alfa isn't stable, but the wheel is constantly jiggling in your hands as every road imperfection is fed back through the steering rack. And, as one expect, slow-speed U-turns can be a work out.