We got our hands on one of the most talked about cars in the last year, the Alfa Romeo 4C super car and over five days enjoyed just over one thousand miles of mixed emotions. Emotions that included joy, ecstasy, courage, curiosity, fear, regret and love!
Joy and Ecstasy as let’s face it, this little Italian pocket rocket is just sublime in the looks department and sounds great and on opening the door to reveal the bare carbon fibre chassis the joy turns into pure unadulterated ecstasy for any petrol head.
With such a car, I got very curious as to just what it could achieve on our roads and this led to some courage after a few hundred miles, then when said courage was built up it led to fear as without respect this Alfa 4C will scare the living **** out of even the most experienced of drivers.
The 4C then led me to regret, regretting that I didn’t book a race circuit for an hour as I genuinely believe that I only started to gently feel what the car was all about on our roads, whereas on the race track I could have exploited every last horse power and taken the chassis as close to my limits as possible whilst the Mad Italian stayed comfortably within its capable limits.
And finally love, well love is a very strong word that doesn’t come easily to many Alfa Males but I must say this Alfa most certainly deserves all the love it gets as it is beautiful, functional and turns more heads than Wimbledon on match day.
The Alfa Romeo 4C isn’t a car that is easy to write about as it is not a car for the non petrol head, nor is it a car for the inexperienced driver. It is a completely crazy idea that has come together to produce something that is, well; CRAZY!
With its 1742cc turbocharged, rear mounted engine producing just 240bhp with 260lb/ft of torque, putting the power to the ground via a six speed Alfa TCT gearbox with paddle shift, launch control and electronic Q2 diff it produces plenty of punch, but it’s not CRAZY fast.
Seeing 0-60mph in just 4.5seconds it is far from sluggish and the gear changes were more than prompt and even in “race mode” the gear change was relatively smooth; this was a nice change from the usual ignorant thumps you get from most Italian super cars (of which i have driven many).
Being such a small engine, the 4C will return a genuine 40mpg on mixed driving which is just mind blowing considering the performance, and the tax is a mere £180 per year also which will appeal to a lot of folk.
Inside it isn’t CRAZY either, in fact, although quite cramped for anyone over 6ft tall with the passenger constantly having their knees beat off the under dash. It is quite a well equipped and grown up place to be especially with the mega quality red leather upgrade in this test car.
The cockpit is cosy to say the least and you would need to know your passenger well, in saying that though, if you don’t, by the end of your journey, you will know them well. I did like the way the dash is angled towards the driver in a proper little race car fashion, combined with the single digital screen in the carbon cluster giving it that ultimate race car appeal.
Equipment included a radio with a couple of speakers and connectivity via a few leads in the leather pouch which is attached under the dash as well as BlueTooth which after 30 minutes of cursing, finally got my phone paired to.
On pairing my android device I realised I am not the only journalist who tends to drivel on about cars too much to have driven this car. Some TV presenter called Clarkson’s name came up on the paired devices list and indeed he had it just three weeks prior to me taking delivery.
This is also the same car that featured in the “Car Porn” supercar segment of the “Clarkson, Hammond & May Live” show at the Odyssey arena just two weeks before we got our hands on it last year. But enough drivel and back to the cockpit.
Other features inside included electric windows and even air con which was a surprise to me, but being Italian I guess it’s only right to have plenty of luxury. Gear selection buttons were just in front of the electric window and driving mode selector buttons, simply put, buttons for going forwards, backwards and neutral with a button to allow manual mode via the paddle shift or auto mode.
So if neither the inside nor the engine is CRAZY then what the hell makes this car CRAZY? Is it the fact that it could easily carry a rucksack camera bag, a copy of Used Cars NI magazine and a couple of shopping bags filled with food for pending picnic whilst on route to tour the Fermanagh Lakes for a day?
Well no not really, that doesn’t clarify as CRAZY in my mind, just makes it somewhat practical for the odd run to the shops, to carry a couple of helmets to a track day or even a small case for a weekend away for two. This factor is a bonus more than anything for the type of car.
What does make this car CRAZY is the chassis and just how it drives on the road! The model tested is the right hand drive UK based model which comes with road based suspension rather than the up-gradable, lowered race set up and was fitted with the 17” front and 18” rear wheels rather than the track based 18” front and 19” rear upgrade.
Some outlets have reported this as the “Soft 4C” but I can honestly say that on Irish tar it’s still far too firm and hard to control, especially without power steering as this causes the little 4C to meander and tram line all over the place at speed (I will not incriminate myself at this point)!
At speed it also becomes light at the front end and under braking will often use up more than one lane as it does its own thing weaving away uncontrollably. One owner I chatted with before getting this car made a point of “when it’s doing its thing, don’t fight it, just leave it be and steer with it” this was the best advice possible and allowed me, once used to its mannerisms, to enjoy the Alfa fully.
On the infamous Nordschleife at the historic Nürburgring circuit in Germany, the 4C set a record breaking time in late 2013 of 8’ 04”within the category of “cars with under 250bhp”. Alfa Romeo stated in a press release after “This true, uncompromised driving machine delivers its best on the track, where speed, short braking distances and transverse acceleration are essential to get first‐rate lap times”.
Imagine a go kart, made a lot bigger and pumped full of illegal narcotics with a few bits of plastic and glass around it, well this is what the Alfa 4C is all about, weighing a mere 895kg. A pure and raw driving experience, most certainly one of the most raw experiences I have ever had the pleasure of and there isn’t much out there that I haven’t driven.
An experience that left me feeling like a Heifer and tweeting the following summary about this special car “The Alfa Romeo 4C is like a Bull in a field of Heifer’s, it means business & completely knackers you, but hell was it FUN!!!”
So basically if you want some proper raw driving on the road and a car that will be mega capable on track and have £51,500 to spare for such delights then look no further than the Alfa 4C and get one ordered today from Northern Ireland’s only dealer, Donnelly Group.
I hand on heart can say I have not enjoyed a car as much in all my life, nor has a car terrified me as much either, just a CRAZY experience which will be long remembered!
Words & Photos: Graham Curry