On the brink of extinction Alfa Romeo got a last minute adrenaline injection. The 4C. I released 100 years of Alfa heritage on some of the best Cape roads and for a whole week. Mille grazie.
Photos by Matteo Conti
Maybe it was a good thing that Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne didn’t sell Alfa to Volkswagen’s CEO Martin Winterkorn. Latter is known as an absolute quality fanatic. He would have gotten a heart attack in the Alfa 4C. Just by looking at the inside. Which is, well, not Audi. But that’s it. It is not straight, it rattles. It feels like an Alfa. On an Alfa lousy quality is part of the character, style and heritage.
But in order to enjoy the inside, you have to get in first. To do this in a dignified and cool manner you have to practise at home. Imagine falling out of the 4 C in front of your favourite Italian restaurant. Ok, left leg into the footwell, than lowering the body down to avoid hitting the head against the roof. Once the head is inside, just let yourself fall into the small sports seat and pull your right leg in over the wide door sill. Getting out is the same in reverse. Actually it is a bit more tricky.
Once inside the sparse cockpit, the feeling of space is surprising. It looks bare bone. Aluminium and carbon fibre, a racing steering wheel. No glove box, no drink holders. It feels light. And it is.
Imagine a group of Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Porsche engineers outgunning themselves in a discussion over terms like torque vectoring, lightning fast electronic four-wheel drive systems and magic body control. Than an Alfa engineer, yes, with a small espresso cup in his hand, joins them and remarks: ‘895 kgs’. The curb weight of the Alfa 4C. Made entirely of carbon fibre, aluminium and SMC plastic. Only a Lotus Elise or Exige comes anywhere close to this figure. A Porsche Cayman carries about 400 kgs more weight. The 4C is handcrafted by Maserati in Modena and it takes 125 hours to build one of them. 3000 are being produced per annum and half of them are going to the US of A. Where the hell do they drive them there?
It looks like an Alfa, it feels like an Alfa. But how does it drive? Starting the 1.8-litre 4cyl engine, you realize immediately that this is much closer to a Ferrari than a Fiat. An Italian surprise. An amazing Italian job. With a hoarse scream the mid-mounted engine comes to live. Right between your ears. The DNA switch in the middle console influences acceleration, braking and gearbox shifts. ‘N’ is normal (who wants to be?), ‘A’ is for bad weather and slippery roads and ‘D’ is the fun or dynamic button.
I know, I was salivating about gorgeous exhaust symphonies in the past. Whether it was the sport exhaust in a Porsche Cayman GTS or the thunderstorm inside a F-type Jaguar convertible. Both personally ear-marked in Chappie’s half tunnel. But what emits from the 4C’s end pipes is pure madness. As loud and angry as his big Ferrari brothers, combined with the slurping sound of the air intake and the turbo’s beautiful whistling hymn.
And all of this with your ass only centimetres from the tar surface. Push the button with the ‘1’ and the Alfa pulls off like the race car it essentially is: 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds. But despite reaching 258 km/h, this Alfa is not about top speed. It is about cornering bends like a biker. I just can’t get enough of it. In the first two days as a reborn Alfisti, I clock almost 700 kilometers. Just around Cape Town. Franschhoek Pass, R44 and Chapman’s Peak Drive. Latter four times in a row! On narrow, slightly bumpy roads, you really have to grab the steering wheel tight with both hands. The steering is direct and fully mechanical. No power support here. The rear-wheel driven 4 C with its mid-mounted engine is a pure driving machine, that makes even a Porsche Boxster look old-fashioned.
The Alfa Romeo 4C is not a good car. And exactly because of that it is one. Its imperfections infatuate your senses. It is an Italian car made by people that show emotions like the vehicle they are producing. Remember how the Ferrari guys celebrated the first F1 GP win of the 2015 season in Malaysia ? All this passion and joy. That’s the essence of the 4 C.
Alfa Romeo 4C
Engine 1.8-l. 4cyl. turbo paired with a six-speed double clutch auto
Power 177kW and 350Nm
0-100 km/h 4.5 seconds
Top Speed 258km/h
Curb weight 895kg
Price R 1 050 000 (R 1.2 Mio for the Spider); red or black leather seats R15 000, racing pack R25 000, 17’’/18’’ wheels R15 000, tricoat metallic white paint R20 000.