Alfa Romeo 4C, the Italian made to defeat English sport cars?

November 2019, a black month in the Alfa Romeo history. As it was not sufficient to cancel 8C and GTV projects, the Milanese manufacturer discreetly stoped the Alfa Romeo 4C production. Not the best moment to write an article about a model which is not on the catalogue anymore. Well… except if we consider that, in the second-hand market we trust! 

Time to invest in an Alfa Romeo?

Consider those elements: Alfa Romeo, which suffered a massive sales decrease in 2019, reduced its costs and streamlined the production. Of course, the brand decided to sacrifice the sportive segment, less profitable than the S.U.V’s one. The Alfa Romeo 4C will not be replaced, and this is, seemingly, a long-term policy.

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Take into account this second fact. It becomes more and more difficult for generalists (including Porsche), to propose a sportive range. In fact, these companies have to pay fines when their production exceeds the average of carbon emission allowed. Obviously, the amount of the fines can only be reflected on the price of the “polluting vehicles”. Otherwise it would unfairly penalize the rest of the models, and their buyers.

As the amount of the fine depends on the amount of carbon dioxide emissions and is not correlated with the price of the vehicle, it is easier to impute it on expensive cars, than on cheaper ones. Ultimately, with the years, it becomes more and more difficult to sell under 100 000€ sports cars. This is why Renault already scheduled to stop its RS range, at least in a 100% petrol configuration.

To finish, the value of young-youngtimers competitors already increased. It is the case for the Lotus Elise, which use to be really affordable, but is not anymore. Despite most of them delivers less than 200 HP.

Conclusion ? It definitely makes sense to talk about a model which is not on the catalogue anymore. You need a extra bonus ? Be aware that most of European countries exempt capital gains on modern cars. Well, now we can talk about serious things!

An Alfa Romeo 4C made for (Goodwood) track use ?

Dared to start an article, talking about financial issues ? Dared like the rest of our review ! We wrote with the aim to correct certain bias or hearsay. To us, the car has sometimes been unjustly misjudged, maybe born in the wrong period.

That was one of those fresh December meetings with friends. We had the privilege to come with the last Alfa Romeo 4C Edizione Speciale sold in France, just few miles after the end of its engine break-in. This is important to notice, the car being fresh and non-modified. But enough driven to allow the driver to push the race mode button.

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The location? Not less than the Goodwood racetrack. You may have, at least, heard of it thanks to the exceptional Goodwood Revival, the British rival of Le Mans Classic. Despite its shape of roundabout from a satellite point of view, it is a proper racetrack. I would say, one of the most selective. Where, more than elsewhere, you have to reach the limits to be quick. The bumpy circuit alternating between low chicanes and very fast corners, with a wall never far.

The Goodwood team welcomes us with a breakfast and coffee in the timeless clubhouse. Meanwhile we follow the briefing, our “exotic” Alfa 4C inspired from the iconic 33 Stradale is shot by passers-by. Seems like it is time to hit the bitumen !

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Due to my car education mostly composed of Lotus trackdays and Formula Ford, I tend to be a little motorsport orientated. So it occurs that I avoid some subjects which are not essential on a race car, or at least a sports car. If you are interested in nice photos, bodywork, leathers, car stereo, air conditioning… You can read Nico’s road test. (I’m not sure he will appreciate).

Yes it’s a proper sports car, but not as dangerous as said.

Even worst, it also happens that I disagree with reviews from specialized magazines. Probably because I don’t share the definition of what a good car is.

Like the Christ, I use parables. Tomatoes have never been as good looking than nowadays. Thanks to the technology and fertilizers, they have been optimized, in order to become the best ones from a scientific point of view. However, in my opinion, we have just lost the taste of what is a good tomato. Even if a good tomato can, times to times, be a bit rough.

The Alfa Romeo is a proper sports car. Whereas one can find it rough, I notice everything matches with my check list : a perfect chassis and suspension, the whole being well-balanced, and eventually a communicative engine.

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I read several times it was dangerous, following the imperfections of the road. Yes and no. It may not be a car to put in everyone’s hand, but so it was for most of the best cars produced before the 90’s. Do you remember, cars which use to procure authentic sensations? On the Alfa 4C, the steering is accurate, direct, despite very demanding. I am a man from the past. Leave your mobile phone on the passenger seat, and put your two hands on the steering wheel, you will see, it will be safer.

Feeling like a gentleman (lorry) driver.

However, I have to admit, the Alfa Romeo 4C has a major default : the steering is unnecessary heavy. It is even more exacerbated when you just exit a Lotus Elise or a Caterham. The sensation is strange, as it feels more like a tractor (I have been doing few harvest when I was younger, I know what I am talking about).

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It does not affect the performance of the car. But, it is exhausting to drive.  Approaching a corner, you need the whole force of your two arms to make the car turn. After three laps, hands are becoming hard. After ten, it’s time to pit. As can show the Elise, you do not need an hard steering to 1) correctly turn, 2) get sensations. The Lotus suffers no comparison, despite it is really soft to drive.

The car from Hethel additionally provides all sorts of informations, so you can figure out, at any moment, where the wheels exactly are. This is on of the most decisive element. A bolide needs to communicate to the driver, so he/she can exploit it in the most efficient way. On this particular point, the Alfa Romeo is not so bad. Not as good as the Lotus, but far more better than the Alpine A110. The is one of the reason why, to me, the french car cannot be a good track mate, because you never really know where the limits are.

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Some will explain that the difference between the Lotus Elise and the Alfa Romeo 4C is only determined by the weight  (which is explain by the difference of engine and comfort?). It is false. Firstly because the Alfa Romeo is already really light, around 900 kilos. And secondly because an Exige V6 which weights more than 300 additional kilos seems much more light to drive, hiding really well its overweight.

Nevertheless, a fairly quick car on track !

As it was a meeting between friends, a track day, not a race day, the journey was not stop watched. However, it was not hard to notice that the Alfa Romeo 4C was one of the fastest of the day, among all sorts of British cars (I’m afraid…).

Its top speed of 200 km/h in the Lavant Straight, where a Lotus or a Caterham is 30 km/h slower, probably contributed to the performance. Indeed, the technical sheet announces that the 240 HP turbo is able to accelerate in 4,5 seconds to reach 100 km/h, like a Lotus Supercharged. A 111 R takes 2 extra seconds to execute the same task. But more importantly on track, the turbo provides torque and power on a broader range of use, which makes the Alfa Romeo 4C more efficient, and less technical to drive.

To finish, the Alfa 4C owes its fastness to the double clutch automatic gearbox, which is good for the category, helping to win several tenths per laps. This makes all the difference, especially if when you consider that Lotus manual gearboxes are not precise at all, being the major default of the car.

I only blame the Alfa Romeo for its tendency to desperately refuse to engage the lower gear (maybe because the car was brand new ?), so it was not always easy to maintain high rpm in certain slow chicanes.

Conclusion: what is the best car to own for trackday?

Goodwood was not has bad as that for the Alfa Romeo 4C. Of course, on a smaller track, the Elise would be more at ease, thanks to its lightness. The Milanese would probably prefer a bigger one. But then it suffers the comparison with the Exige with its V6 supercharged delivering 350 horses.

You have the choice : two Lotuses in order to be quick everywhere, or one polyvalent Alfa Romeo. Of course, there is the Caterham which is probably the best track option of all times. If you forget that half of the time (increasing to 100% if you are Scottish or Irish), it is difficult to use because of the weather.

A question remains: British bombs, thanks to their low weight, are reputed to be very reasonable in terms of disk, brakes, fuel, tyres consumption. I remember we used to do 7 or 8 trackdays with same brake pads. Is it the case with the 4C?

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From a global point of view over the segment, and restricting myself to cars with number plates, nothing amaze me most than a Lotus Exige. The work done on the V6 is impressive considering the weight, but the price is also more important. The value of the Elise is also increasing. At a point that the Alfa Romeo appears now to be a good alternative, a bit more exotic, despite being not as pure as its British cousin.

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And as a bonus : you can enjoy the sound of the Akrapovic exhaust (on Edizione Speciale). The noise being the second thing, with the gearbox, which always disappointed me on a Lotus…

Ps : I couldn’t take photos of the 4C on the track since I’ve been driving it all day. Sorry guys.

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Alfa Romeo 4C, faster than English little bombs?

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