Alfa Romeo has lately confirmed that the 4C will arrive Stateside as an early 2014 model in late-2013, several months later than had been planned. The delay stems from concerns among Fiat officials about Alfa’s near-term sales prospects in light of the sovereign-debt crisis now affecting several Euro-zone countries.
The finalized production-ready 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C appeared at the 2013 Geneva show, the same venue where the concept was introduced two years earlier. The first 1,000 cars will be so-called “Launch Edition” 4Cs. These limited-production cars will come in either traditional “Alfa Red” paint, or an exclusive “Carrara White” color. Launch Editions also have carbon-fiber aerodynamic body trim, LED headlamp units with dark surrounds, and specific 18-inch front and 19-inch rear wheels. Other touches include a racing exhaust system, upgraded air cleaner, and specific suspension tuning. A numbered badge will be mounted in the interior.
Alfa says buyers of the Launch Edition 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C will have the opportunity to attend an event in Italy where owners can participate in an “advanced driving session with professional driver-instructors.” No word yet if this event is included in the car’s asking price. Though U.S. pricing has yet to be set, the 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition will sell in Europe for about $78,000 at current exchange rates. That’s a far cry from Alfa’s last all-out sports car, the V8-powered 8C Competizione coupe and Spider convertible, which saw combined production of only 1,000 units in 2007-08. Of those, just 84 coupes and 35 Spiders were sold in the U.S. at up to $300,000 each.
Styling for the 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C concept was created by Fiat’s Turin studio and should carry over to the production model with few changes. The design borrows elements from the 8C Competizione, but the main inspiration is said to be the low-slung 33 Stradale of the late 1960s, a road-going version of the Alfa 33 racing car; only 18 were built. Though we can sorta see a resemblance, the 4C has a different shape and proportions than the Stradale. It also bears unique detailing like prominent upper-body-side lines that flow into large functional air scoops at the door trailing edges–a tip-off to the rear/mid-engine powertrain layout–plus bulging fender lines and a turret-like roof with semi-hidden windshield pillars and kicked-up side-window line. Doors swing out in the usual way, but the positioning of other body “cut lines” indicates that the nose and tail sections lift up in toto for easy access to mechanical components, a feature found on the classic Lamborghini Miura and several other sports cars. The rear section contains a separate trunk with lid.
Though the concept’s cabin design will likely be toned down a bit for production, the 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C should feature a similar driver-focused instrument pod with one or more configurable display screens, plus a racing-style steering wheel and a slim, stalk-like center console housing air vents, switches, and/or auxiliary gauges. Seats are bound to be form-fitting buckets, and there will be plenty of exposed carbon fiber on view.
That’s because the 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C employs a carbon-fiber “tub,” or inner structure, which was engineered in collaboration with famed racing-car constructor Dallara Automobili. Carbon-fiber construction is the new Big Thing among performance cars and even a few mainstream models because it saves weight compared to a like-design metal framework while providing equal or better rigidity. Less weight, in turn, allows downsizing the powertrain and other components to achieve superior fuel economy without sacrificing performance or crashworthiness. Like the McLaren MP4-12C and a few other modern sports cars, the new Alfa bookends its composite tub with aluminum subframes that mount chassis hardware and running gear and are designed to absorb impact forces. Alfa was said to be targeting a curb weight of just 1,785 pounds, though the road-ready production 4C will come in about 200 pounds heavier.
The 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C will be powered by a turbocharged all-aluminum 1.7-liter 4-cylinder engine. Expect the “1750” engine to produce about 240 horsepower, helped by direct fuel injection and dual variable-valve timing. Assuming engineers achieve their target, the 4C should have a weight-to-power ratio of around 8.2 pounds/horsepower, versus 8.3 for the 320-horsepower 2,800-pound Porsche Cayman S, arguably the new Alfa’s closest conceptual rival. Also for reasons for weight-saving and simplicity, the production 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C retains the concept’s TCT dual-clutch transmission, a computer-controlled gearbox that can be shifted manually or set to operate like a conventional automatic.
Likewise, the 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C should carry over the concept’s chassis design, which starts with a 4-wheel independent suspension employing double-wishbone geometry at the front and a strut setup at the rear. Front/rear weight distribution should remain in the region of 40/60 percent, which is typical of rear/mid-engine sports cars. Alfa’s “DNA” system will be standard; it allows drivers to tailor steering, throttle, and transmission responses through Dynamic, Normal, and All-Weather modes. There is also a 4C-exclusive Race mode meant for track driving. Brakes? Appropriately sized 4-wheel discs with ABS, of course. A standard antiskid system with traction control is a given.
Assuming no delay to the reported production start, Alfa’s new midships sports car should be in U.S. showrooms just before the end of calendar 2013 following its European launch earlier in the year. If the above timing proves out, the global press should meet the newest sporting Alfa in the third quarter or early-fourth quarter of 2013. A U.S.-media preview would presumably happen in fall or early winter. As noted up top, the 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition is expected to start sale in Europe at some $78,000, based on early-2013 dollar/Euro exchange rates. We assume “regular” 4Cs will price out lower than the Launch Editions.