Zero to 4C in nine months

  • 14-Mar-2011 11:27 EDT

Alfa Romeo 4C concept is constructed using a carbon fiber body. Alfa is planning limited production from 2012. (Headlineauto)

Nine months is all it took for the design team at Fiat/Alfa Romeo/Lancia/Maserati central design to progress from the first sketches to the finished Alfa Romeo 4C Concept shown at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. It finally left Turin at midnight, a matter of hours before the covers were drawn back to unveil the car on the first day of the show.

Lotus Evora” were the words on many people’s lips as the covers slid away, and there are more than a few similarities; the 4C Concept is a two-seat coupe, a midmounted engine drives the rear wheels, and the body is made from composite material.

In this case the 4C body is constructed from carbon fiber; the rear subframe and crash boxes are made using aluminum. The use of these materials helps to keep the mass of the complete car below 850 kg (1874 lb).

While there may be echoes of the Lotus about the shape from the rear quarters, the front of the car is distinctively Alfa Romeo. The V-shaped trademark grille and V-shaped bonnet crease ensure its identity.

Under the bonnet, the 4C is powered by the 1750-cm³ four-cylinder, turbocharged, direct-injection gasoline engine that powers other models in the Alfa range. For the 4C, the engine will produce around 200 bhp (149 kW). Drive is transmitted via a twin dry-clutch automated transmission. Alfa quotes a top speed exceeding 155 mph (250 km/h) and acceleration from 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) in less than 5 s. A four-link suspension is used at the front with MacPherson struts at the rear.

Despite the short development time for the car, Alfa expects the 4C to become a production reality in 2012.

AEI asked Marco Tencone, Alfa Romeo Style Director, about the design. “The brief was to design a compact car that was light. The main concept was not to have an engine with high horsepower but to take weight out of the car. Because the brief was for a mid-engine, we needed to develop a design that would work with the air intakes we have at the back of the doors. It gave a good opportunity to give a sign on the side and to link the shapes around the car. So mainly, the design is worked on the feeling of this proportion, giving more dimensions to the back part of the car, trying to push the roof and the windscreen a little bit forward, then carrying the “V“ of the grille on the bonnet and trying to link it with the air intakes on the side.”

The carbon fiber construction is not just reserved for the concept, because Alfa is planning low-volume production. “Now we are already working on the project," continued Tencone. “The exterior of the production car is looking closer to the look and the feeling that you have from the concept.

“The interior is designed more for the show, so it’s a little bit extreme in terms of design and a little bit dramatic, because we would like to find new directions for the interiors of Alfa Romeos. We have a dedicated cockpit for the driver. An arch shape links all the instruments together, so it gives the feeling of a sporty motorbike.

"Then for the driver’s seat, the idea is to have something more aggressive, more sporty in terms of colors, with red and aluminum. Then we tried to find a different ambiance for the passenger position. The surface treatment is gloss and black, and there is some soft illumination, to give a feeling that is more fashion oriented. So we have tried to combine those two worlds. For the production car, the customer probably wants something more minimal, more technical.”

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