Geneva 2013: Alfa Romeo 4C

We’re a bit behind the curve on this one, but at Geneva, Alfa Romeo showed us its 4C sports car.  The 4C will soon be the basis for a re-launch of Fiat’s premium sports brand in the United States, and from what we’ve seen so far, it appears that all of the right boxes are checked.

Looking a bit like a kid brother to Alfa’s limited-production 8C Competizione sports car (which was sold in very limited numbers in the U.S. by select Maserati dealers from 2007 to 2010), the 4C aims for a more approachable Alfa Romeo than the quarter million dollar 8C Competizione did.

The 8C Competizione had a carbon-fiber body on an aluminum chassis, but the 4C one-ups it with a carbon-fiber chassis.  The 4C features a four cylinder engine that’s expected to produce about 240 horsepower.  That doesn’t sound like much (and it’s not, really, especially since its now-departed big brother’s Maserati-derived V8 pumped out 450 horsepower), but the key to the 4C’s performance will be its light weight.

How light?  Well, Alfa’s not saying just yet, but they did give us an important detail, and that’s its power-to-weight ratio.  Specifically, each horsepower (let’s assume 240, since it has a version of the engine powering the Giulietta, which produces 232 horsepower in that application) has to move 4 kg, or 8.81 pounds.  That means that the 4C may be tipping the scales at an incredible 2,114 pounds.  (If the engine’s power output is higher than we’re guessing, say 260 horsepower, the car’s assumed weight would increase to 2,291 pounds.  Still, really, really impressive.  It’s important to note that the 2,114 pound weight estimate is probably a dry weight, with no fluids.  Add another hundred pounds for a full tank of gasoline, oil, coolant, power steering fluid, etc. to get the curb weight.

Now, we’re still not expecting supercar performance from each horsepower having to move 8.81 pounds.  For some perspective, a 2006 Corvette Z06 was the lightest C6 production car, and weighed 3,132 pounds (curb weight) and produced 505 horsepower.  That’s 6.20 pounds per horsepower (lower is better, of course, when you’re talking about the number of pounds that each horsepower has to move).  A base 2013 Corvette tips the scales a

t around 3,200 pounds and has 430 horsepower – which is 7.44 pounds per horsepower, so expect the 4C to underperform the C6/C7 Corvettes by a bit in a straight line.  I saw a 0-62 MPH estimate of 4.5 seconds, which sounds about right – still quite fast, but not supercar fast (less than three seconds is supercar territory in 2013).

In terms of handling, I’m a bit more optimistic.  The light weight has the potential of making the 4C more like a Lotus Elise than anything else (the Elise weighed in less than 2,000 pounds in some variants, and didn’t have the same kind of horsepower that the turbocharged 4C is likely to), so as long as Alfa Romeo’s engineers do a great job of tuning the 4C’s suspension, it could be a world beater.

The 4C’s turbocharged four cylinder will be paired to a fast-shifting Alfa TCT twin dry clutch gearbox, and of course will have paddle shifters.

It’s a very small car (which, coupled with its carbon-fiber construction makes it so lightweight), but it may prove to be a tight squeeze for larger/taller drivers (that’s something that is important to Techshake staffers, may of whom are tall – including yours truly).  Alfa’s press release says that it’s just under 4 metres long, 200 cm wide, 118 cm high and with a wheelbase of less than 2.4 metres.  Putting those numbers against the specs for a Corvette and MX-5 Miata shows pretty clearly that the 4C fits pretty closely into the MX-5’s size neighborhood (except for its extreme width).

Alfa Romeo 4C C6 Corvette MX-5 Miata
Curb Weight 2,200 lbs. 3,200 lbs. 2,447 lbs.
Length 157.5 in. 174.6 in. 157.3 in.
Width 78.0 in. 72.6 in. 67.7 in.
Wheelbase 94.5 in. 105.7 in. 91.7 in.
Height 46.5 in. 49.0 in. 49.0 in.

We’ll see the 4C probably early next year at U.S. dealers – who will in large part be top-ranked Fiat dealers who agreed to make further investments in their facilities.  Pricing has not been announced, of course, but expect it to come in around the $60,000- neighborhood to start.  Don’t let the size and four cylinder fool you.  This is a mid-engine Italian sports car with an impressive racing heritage and carbon-fiber and aluminum construction.  It’s not a poor man’s Alfa; it’s going to be the brand’s U.S. flagship for the foreseeable future.  It’s a faster, better-looking, fixed-roof Miata that will compete in the Corvette’s pricing territory.

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Techshake's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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