Alfa Romeo 4C revealed ahead of Geneva debut
Lightweight two-seater headed for U.S. roads by end of 2013.
The rear-drive, two-seat coupe, a car Alfa enthusiasts have dreamed of for almost two decades, retains the styling of the concept vehicle that won acclaim at the Geneva show two years ago.
The mid-engine 4C will go on sale in global markets including Europe and the United States by the end of the year, giving a image boost to Alfa, whose sales are struggling due to a lack of fresh product.
There are no details of the 4C's pricing, but Fiat sources say the car will cost nearly 60,000 euros (about $80,270) rather than less than 50,000 euros as initially planned.
Alfa will build a limited run of about 2,500 4C models a year due to the manufacturing constraints of its carbon fiber cockpit. Of those, 1,000 will be sold in Europe, 1,000 in the United States, with the balance going to other global markets.
Tech targets reached
Alfa Romeo on Tuesday announced some technical specifications of the 4C, such as dimensions and its power-to-weight ratio. The car, which was designed by Alfa Romeo's styling center in Turin, is rakish and compact with extremely low ground clearance. It is 46.5 inches tall, 78.7 inches wide and less than 157.5 inches long. The wheelbase is 94.5 inches.
Alfa said it achieved the goal of keeping the power-to-weight ratio to below 9 pounds per horsepower, hinting at a weight less than 2,200 pounds as the 4C's 1.75-liter turbocharged, direct-injection gasoline engine is expected to deliver about 240 hp. Alfa originally had targeted a curb weight of 1,874 pounds.
The 4C's carbon fiber cockpit has front and rear aluminum subframes to house the engine and carry the suspensions, as well as dedicated portions designed to absorb deformation in crash tests.
The 4C will come with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. The gears can also be changed in sequential mode using the shift paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.
Alfa will also use the 4C to debut the fourth of its drive settings, Race, which is designed to enhance the experience on a race track. The new setting joins the Dynamic, Natural and All Weather options available in the brand's MiTo and Giulietta models.
The 4C's limited volume will not help to substantially lift Alfa's global sales, which last year fell to about 100,000 units from 132,000 in 2011, but the car will bridge a product dearth until the brand launches eight new cars between 2014 and 2016.
More new products
Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said in October that he hopes to triple Alfa sales to 300,000 units annually in 2016 with new products and by relaunching Alfa in the United States. Alfa will launch a large, rear-wheel-drive sedan at the end of next year. In 2015, the brand will get a mid-sized sedan and wagon to replace the 159 model, as well as a two-seat roadster co-developed with Mazda, and a compact SUV co-developed with Jeep. A 4C convertible is expected in 2016. Most likely, it will be a targa design, with a manually operated carbon fiber roof.
Alfa enthusiasts have waited for the brand to sell an affordable rear-drive model such as the 4C since the Duetto Spider was discontinued in 1994. Alfa's 8C Competizione, which was built from 2007 to 2008, was too expensive for most Alfa buyers. The spider version of the 8C cost up to $286,000 and the car's production run was limited to 1,000 units.
The 4C takes some design cues from the 8C Competizione but its main inspiration is the limited-edition 33 Stradale, company sources say. Launched in 1967, the 33 Stradale was a rear-engine, rear-drive, two-seat coupe powered by a 230-hp 2.0-liter V8 derived from Alfa's 33 race car.
Alfa built just 18 units of the 33 Stradale, which immediately became a collector's item due to its performance characteristics as well as its cutting-edge look created by Franco Scaglione, one of Italy's top independent designers in the 1960s.
Maserati will build the 4C for Alfa in its plant in Modena. Maserati built the Alfa 8C and 8C Spider limited-edition models.
-- Luca Ciferri, Automotive News Europe
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"Alfa enthusiasts have waited for the brand to sell an affordable rear-drive model such as the 4C"
On what planet is $80,000 considered "affordable"?
That price point requires an annual income of about $200K!
I just can't bring myself to really care about this car one way or another. Its too expensive and its sales volumes will be too small for me to give a darn.
Forget this thing being a spiritual successor to an Elise or Exige, this is the Lancia Stratos come back to see (haunt?) us. Mid-engine? Short-wheelbase? Italian pedigree? Avant-garde styling? Light weight?
Hopefully it's a bit less nervous to drive than the high strung Lancia of yore. I can't wait to hear reviews on this thing, and its siblings when they arrive. Alfa Romeo is back, and I'm very, very glad.
Next, in regards to Alfa Romeo's US relaunch; good luck. I am not being mean spirited here, I am being serious. The US car market as far as I am concerned is saturated right now. Every conceivable product segment and niche is filled right now by at least one and in most cases several models. Even after the departure of Isuzu, Mercury, and Suzuki there is just no more real room for new mainstream car companies. The only new car companies that I see right now making any headway are the small specialty makers making custom vehicles for upper class consumers (like Panoz, Hennessey, Local Motors, etc). Even within FIAT/Chrysler I just don't see how Alfa Romeo would fit alongside any recovery of Chrysler as a brand unless the only Alfa FIAT sold in the US is the 4C.
In short, a success for Alfa Romeo would surely mean the departure of someone else. I name Acura and Volvo as likely candidates, with Infiniti being a remote possibility.
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