Alfa Romeo has re-launched in the Irish market with the headline-grabbing 4C sportscar. The outrageously pretty, Maserati factory-built two-seater is very much a driver-focused machine. Weighing just 895kg and with a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout, the 240hp car is all about performance and driver involvement.
4C is obviously a head-turner, and if you had to guess a sticker price you could easily say €100,000-plus. But it's 'just' €70,000.
4C's stunning styling is supercar-like: everywhere we went in the machine we caused whiplash injuries in onlookers! The loud soundtrack attracts attention, too.
The 1.7-litre (1750cc), four-cylinder (4C) turbocharged petrol engine makes a beautiful racket when accelerating hard. When down-shifting through the gears or lifting off the throttle there is a glorious burbling from the engine overrun, delivered through the twin pipe exhaust system.
4C sits very low on the road and getting in with any dignity takes a bit of a knack. Once in, the cockpit is all about the view forward - there is only a hint of rearward visibility through the centre mirror. Carbon fiber is present in the cabin's tub - the monocoque weighs just 65kg! Weight has been saved everywhere. The dash uses plastics you'd find in the cheapest Fiat, but 4C is all about delivering a highly impressive power to weight ratio.
On the track is 4C's natural environment. Having given the machine a few hot laps in Mondello (with the very talented racing driver Sean Doyle as my co-pilot) we certainly appreciated the car's nimbleness and thoroughbred handling.
The 4C uses an automated, manual paddle-shift-operated gearbox (TCT twin clutch) to deliver the power to the rear wheels. 0-100km/h takes just 4.5 seconds and 4C has a top speed of 259km/h. There are three driving modes (d,n,a) and a race mode, which adjust all the driving safety aids to settings that will let your talent, or in my case lack of it, loose.
A Q2 electronic differential is at the heart of the car's performance. It is adjustable and vital to getting the power onto the tarmac. Under hard acceleration 4C rapidly gains speed and the manual non-power assisted steering lightens in your hands. 4C has great brakes as you'd expect and can stop from 100km/h in just 36 metres!
Braking is best done in a straight line. When you hit the apex and get the power down fully, the 4C digs in and fires you forward. The only reminder the car gives you of its light weight is under heavy braking, where it can be skittish and certainly gets your attention!
On the road our 4C had the optional 'racing pack' fitted, so it was extra stiff. You know what's coming next - on all but the smoothest roads the car was, let's say, always 'involving' to drive. 4C, with its beautiful, big alloy 'tramlines', follows road imperfections on a whim, so you have to pay attention and actively steer the 4C more than most sportscars.
Inspired by the 700kg '33 Stradale' from 1967 - of which only 18 were built - the Alfa Romeo 4C makes a far more impressive sight in the flesh than in pictures. As for Alfa Romeo reliability? Alfa Romeo in Ireland now has a five-year warranty as standard.
4C is an absolute blast, an enthusiastic driver's delight and it is drop dead gorgeous, too.