Alfa Romeo 4C infographic
Graphic shows Alfa Romeo 4C and step-by-step process of making carbon fibre prepreg automobile parts
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Alfa Romeo 4C

By Duncan Mil

October 14, 2013 - Alfa Romeo’s eagerly awaited 4C sports coupé is the world’s first production car to feature “prepreg” carbon fibre technology. Carbon fibre was chosen for the one-piece monocoque due its high levels of structural rigidity and exceptionally low weight -- just 65kg -- and is built using sophisticated Formula 1-derived technologies.

Car manufacturers are famous for the unashamed hyperbole they employ when touting the qualities of their new cars, but Alfa Romeo's description of its new 4C lightweight sports coupe as a "masterpiece" might take some living up to.

And the little 4C had better be good, because it is also spearheading Alfa Romeo's planned resurgence as a major player for its Italian owner, Fiat, which also controls Maserati and Ferrari as well as U.S. company Chrysler.

The rear-wheel drive 4C looks more purposeful than pretty, but it is designed from the ground up to be fast, very fast. Alfa engineers were told to concentrate on saving weight rather than relying on a big, powerful engine to provide pace. Aluminium has replaced steel for the main load-bearing parts of the body, and much carbon fibre has been used. The mid-mounted engine is small and built on an aluminium block. Its capacity is only 1.75 litres but it produces 237hp using direct injection and a turbo, blasting the 4C from rest to 60mph in less than 4.5 seconds. Computerised "launch control" means even unskilled drivers can extract maximum performance from a standstill. The computer intervenes to stop the 4C barrelling on past 155mph, if you're in Germany where some roads have no speed limits. The first 1,000 versions of the 4C, so-called Opening Editions, will sell for €60,000 before tax. Standard versions will sell for €55,000 when they hit dealerships in Europe later this month and the U.S. in November. By the end of 2014, a 4C Targa with a small removable carbon fibre roof will join the range. Alfa plans to make 26,000 coupes and Targas during its seven-year life cycle. Production is limited because of tight carbon fibre supply.

Fiat-Chrysler has big plans for Alfa Romeo, which is charged with competing against German premium manufacturers like BMW, Mercedes and Audi across the globe. But these plans have been delayed by the current weak market in Europe which has cost Fiat big financial losses. 2015 should see the unveiling of a big Alfa Romeo saloon to compete with the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series, and a new smaller Giulia. That should set Alfa Romeo on the road to recovery because it has been a chronic loss-maker in recent years, losing between $250 million and $500 million a year for the first 10 years of the century. If Alfa starts to look successful, it might prompt an awakening of the rumours that Volkswagen planned to step in and buy it.

Meanwhile production of the 4C will continue at the Maserati plant in Modena, Italy, where much of the production involves labour intensive hand crafting. Alfa Romeo's head of product development Mauro Pierallini, not content with his "masterpiece" comment, also talked about this as an "affordable supercar" adding the 4C would be unique, like an Italian hand-made shoe. The latter looks like the easiest boast to live up to

Alfa Romeo 4C
Power – 237hp
Torque – 350Nm
Drive – Rear wheels
Gearbox – 6-speed automatic
Acceleration – 0-62mph-100km/h 4.5 seconds
Top Speed – 155mph-250km/h
Fuel consumption – 6.8 litres per 100km (34.6mpg)
C02 – 150g/km
Emissions class – Euro 5
Suspension – double wishbones front, MacPherson strut rear
Warranty – 3 years, unlimited mileage
Length – 3,990mm
Width – 2,000mm
Height – 1,180mm
Wheel-base – 2,380mm
Weight – 895kg
Price – €55,000 before tax

Sources
PUBLISHED: 14/10/2013; STORY: Neil Winton
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