The forces of nature are awe-inspiring. Tornadoes that vanquish everything in their path, tsunamis wash landmarks clean from the map, volcanoes erupt spewing lava that will consume all that stands before it. Whilst these things are impressive, Mother Nature could do little today to capture my attention as I got the keys to an Alfa Romeo 4C. Give a German a spanner and he will build you a fine piece of engineering. Give a Frenchman a kitchen and he will cook you a grand meal. However, if you give an Italian a pencil he will create a work of art.
Glistening in the sunshine of what started as a beautiful day, this left hand drive Alfa Romeo 4C is one of the very few in the UK. It is in such demand that dealerships don’t even have a demonstrator model for customers to drive! Short overhangs and voluptuous curves make up the 4C’s bountiful shape. Deep intakes and a steeply raked roofline conceal this cars mid-mounted 1.75litre 240HP turbocharged engine. The automotive sculpture weighs just 895KG when empty making it quite the featherweight. As I broke away from staring at it, the heavens opened and the battle between the elements and this car began.
As rain beat down on the metallic paintwork I took shelter inside the cockpit. Thanks to the cars carbon fibre tub there is no elegant way of entering and exiting the 4C. A high sill results in you falling into its bolstered seats. Whilst Alfa Romeo building an honest to god sports car is a petrol heads dream come true, the interior is no fairy tail. It is spartan with a simple console and naked carbon foreshadowing the minimalist driver focused nature of the car. Considering the cost some might be put off by just how basic it is, but then if you value luxuries over the driving experience this isn’t the car for you. Visibility isn’t bad out of the front and side windows, however a rear view is nonexistent. The flat bottomed steering wheel is aimed at your chest and the low seating position is perfect for integrating yourself as the organic part of this machine. Clearly becoming envious, Mother Nature broke out the thunderstorm equivalent of a power ballad. Turning the key, this Alfa Romeo answered with an equally impressive crackle and bang from its exhaust pipes.
The whole car hums at idle as its pulse courses through every atom that makes up this little Alfa. Whilst some would say that the lack of refinement is a negative point, it is the very thing that detaches you from driving in its purest form in so many other cars. From the outset the Alfa Romeo 4C makes no apologies for being a product for the purist. This is exemplified perfectly by the cars lack of power steering to reduce weight and maximise feel through the wheel.
Whilst thunder roared and the lightning split the skies around the Alfa Romeo, the whole natural drama going on outside was completely upstaged by this car. Initially the steering is heavy but once in motion its feeling of uncorrupted connection to the road is very refreshing in a world of artificial systems. You can interpret exactly what is going on underneath the front wheels at all times as you replace what would be a computer and hardwire yourself into the experience. Turn into a sharp corner and the 4C darts directly to the apex like an excited puppy to its owner. The precision enables you to place it exactly where you want it. 4C’s chassis is great with its rigidity in tandem with a firm suspension setup annihilating body roll. A responsive throttle with minimal turbo lag adds a sense of immediacy to this sports cars movements. Some of the noises this Italian makes are fantastic! It whistles with induction whilst 350Nm of torque rushes you onwards then fizzes, pops and bangs on downshifts. This symphony of car fan delight is enough to put a childish grin on just about anyones face. A big talking point with the 4C is the fact that there is no manual option. The gearbox is a 7 speed dual clutch affair that sends power to the rear wheels. Whilst I completely agree that a manual gearbox is the most involving and enjoyable way to swap cogs, driving this car in anger with paddle shifters enabled more focus to be placed upon late braking and finding traction in these difficult conditions. Each click on a paddle was quickly followed by the next gear giving the Alfa Romeo 4C something of a race car feel. This is further enhanced by selecting the dynamic mode from the cars DNA system. With the engine sitting in the middle and a lack of weight, this car dances from bend to bend. Good pedal feel and responsive Brembo brakes means not only do you get the best out of the 4C, but it also gets the best out of you.
The Alfa Romeo 4C is not a car for people who just want to pose, though its angelic appearance will draw crowds. It is not car a for people who will use it to pop to the shops, its boot will only just about fit a jacket. Neither is it a product for people who simply like cars. This machine is a raw outlet of driving passion, something so emotive that unless you are truly a lover of driving and endorse the connection between man and machine, you will not appreciate the wealth of character this car has to offer. Our test car at £53,470 with all of its toys, including enhanced suspension over the standard car, is costly. But Alfa Romeo are back in the sports car arena and they are throwing some hard punches in the direction of competitors.