2014 Alfa Romeo 4C debuts at Geneva auto show as a compact Italian exotic for the almost common man

2014 Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition

2014 Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition

Sports car enthusiasts just got a good look at the production version of the new Alfa Romeo 4C, which will be the first mass market Alfa here since the departure of the Alfa Romeo Spider sin 1994. It is, even considering the heavy artillery at the Geneva auto show, the most exciting of any of the cars introduced.

The all new Alfa 4C will come to America by the end of the year. Which is all the more reason to be excited. We’ve been promised Alfa Romeo’s return to America so many times…

The Alfa Romeo 4C is derived from the concept car revealed at Geneva two years ago, a swoopy two-seater with its engine mounted midship, a configuration accessible at “popular” prices only from Lotus.

2014 Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition

2014 Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition

Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne—Alfa is part of the Fiat Group’s domain, as is Ferrari—says there are a few details to be worked out before the 4C’s coming to America, but the basic elements are there. The engine will be a new 1750cc four-cylinder, an iconic engine size for Alfa, but the new all-aluminum engine will be turbocharged and have direct injection as well as a seven-speed twin-clutch “Alfa TCT” transmission. Power is set at 240 horsepower with 258 pound-feet of torque.

The chassis will make substantial use of carbon fiber and aluminum, with a “high quadrilateral” suspension up front and MacPherson struts at the rear. Alfa will use its variable “DNA” suspension calibration, and to show just how serious Alfa is, the suspension will come with a “Race” mode.

The overall length of the Alfa Romeo is about 157 inches long, more than a foot shorter than a Porsche Boxster, with a 94-inch wheelbase, about four inches longer that a Fiat 500’s.

With the compact dimensions and the use of lightweight materials in its construction, the Alfa Romeo 4C will weigh in at 2,100 pounds. That’s about ten pounds per horsepower, so the 4C will be able run the 0-60 mph dash in 4.5 seconds or less. Top speed will be limited to 155 mph.

The 4C’s lack of pork will also allow the Alfa sports car to generate a cornering force of 1.1 g, and with Brembo brakes, with four-piston calipers up front, about 1.25 g of braking force. Those numbers, along with the compact size, should make Alfa’s new sports car a rocket on a road course.

2014 Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition

2014 Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition

The Alfa Romeo 4C will precede the new Alfa Spider, due out in 2015. The Spider will be built by Mazda in Japan and share its platform with the next generation Mazda MX-5 Miata, which will go on sale in 2014. Details are sketchy on both models, though they will have different bodies and powered by engines from their respective nameplates.

The Alfa Romeo models will be sold by Fiat dealers in the U.S., joining a growing lineup of cars that includes various versions of the Fiat 500 and the forthcoming Fiat 500L.

Alfa Romeo left the U.S. with its proverbial tail between its legs. The Alfa Spider, having been introduced in 1966, was almost thirty years old, and upgrades had barely kept up the automotive world—and that’s being generous. If the Alfa nameplate was legendary, “Alfa Romeo” was becoming a paean to unreliability.

Marchionne knows that Alfa Romeo has to get it right this time, with the Alfa 4C having all the proper sounds and sights of a proper Italian supercar, just in a smaller size.