The sexy mid-engine Alfa Romeo 4C that debuted at this year’s Geneva Motor Show is paving the way back to the United States for the iconic Italian marque. Measuring 157 inches overall on a 94-inch wheelbase, the compact two-seater is poised to take on the likes of the Porsche Cayman in both performance and price late this year when it arrives at a network of dealers that already sell the Fiat 500.
Compared to the Maserati-based Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione—a limited-run 4.7-liter, V-8 car costing $259,000—the 4C will be more accessible, due to its larger production volumes, lower price (rumored to be in the $70,000 range), and wider dealer network. Employing a carbon-fiber chassis, the 4C features a transversely mounted, turbocharged 1.75-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a dual-clutch automatic transmission driving the rear wheels. This gearbox features paddle shifts mounted on the steering wheel for manual override as well as an automatic clutch with no pedal.
Alfa Romeo is promising a blistering performance of 0-60 mph of less than 4.5 seconds and a top speed of more than 155 mph. With 240 hp on tap and Alfa's promise of the car delivering more than 1 hp per 4 kilograms of weight, the 4C should tip the scales at about 960 kg or just over 2,100 lbs.
While the 8C was sold in the United States by Maserati dealers, the 4C marks the start of the Alfa Romeo sales network and will be followed by the 2015 Giulia sedan, which will use a variation of the compact wide architecture used on the Dodge Dart. A compact SUV crossover to compete with the Audi Q5 is also in the works, as is a smaller, front-engine, rear-drive two-seat Spider built by Mazda and sharing a platform with the next-generation MX-5 Miata. Further on down the line, expect a range-topping rear-drive four-door sedan.
Alfa Romeo’s on-again, off-again reentry to the U.S. market has hinged on the brand’s ability to offer rear-drive vehicles in its portfolio as a credible alternative to BMW in the luxury and performance market—and now the 4C is a respectable offering indeed. (www.alfaromeo.com)