Prior to the Alfa Romeo 4C’s “dynamic”—driving—debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Alfa has released further technical details about its new pocket supercar. The compact mid-engined sports car is scheduled to arrive at U.S. Fiat dealers in the fourth quarter of this year, and will compete with the Chevrolet Corvette and Lotus Elan, if not directly in size but approximate price, and with at least in different approaches to the two-seat sports car concept.
Like its erstwhile rivals, the new Alfa Romeo 4C will excel in technology. Its basic configuration, as noted earlier, will be a mid-engined coupe, powered by a 1750cc four-cylinder turbocharged direct-injection engine connected to a seven-speed twin-clutch manual/automatic transmission.
While Alfa Romeo has announced no change in the 4C’s engine output—it remains at a relatively modest 240 horsepower—final configuration of the 4C puts the car’s curb weight at 1,973 lbs, remarkable for a modern sports car with all the safety and amenities required today.
One of the primary reasons for the Alfa 4C’s light weight is the extensive use of carbon fiber. Alfa Romeo says the Alfa 4C uses 10% carbon fiber, representing 25% of the car’s overall volume. Forget mere hoods and trunk lids, the Alfa-developed monocoque central load-bearing cell weighs just 143 lbs.
Aluminum is also extensively used, comprising the roof reinforcement cage and the front and rear frameworks. To further keep weight down but increase stiffness of the structure, the traditional rectangular-section aluminum bits have been replaced by parts made with the ‘Cobapress’ process, a new aluminum production method combining permanent mold casting and forging technology for a stronger, lighter structure.
Aluminum in the combination aluminum-hub-with-cast-iron-brake disc reduces unsprung weight at each corner by more than four pounds for better handling and greater heat dispersion for improved braking.
The SMC (Sheet Molding Compound) used for the body allowed 20 percent weight reduction compared to conventional steel panels and is more easily shaped than steel or aluminum as well. Using SMC also reduces production costs via shorter assembly times. Fenders and bumpers are made from injected polyurethane which weighs 20 percent less than steel and is easier to form complex design elements.
Window glass isn’t usually thought of as a source of weight—though race cars have frequently resorted to plexiglass, notable for its tendency to scratch and discolor—but the Alfa Romeo 4C’s glass is on average about ten percent thinner than that used on ordinary cars, reducing weight by about fifteen percent. The windshield is only four millimeters thick, difficult to achieve with the curvature of the front glass.
The Alfa Romeo 4C will be built in Modena, rather than Milan, the Alfa’s traditional home, but as Alfa says, “the Alfa 4C’s production process integrates Alfa Romeo’s design roles and Maserati’s manufacturing functions with engineering and technological contribution from Italian world-wide leaders in the component industry for high-performance sports cars.” There are worse places to build a sports car than in a Maserati factory.
The Alfa Romeo 4C is one of the most intriguing cars to come out of Italy in a long time, following the Alfa tradition of outstanding sports cars at a less than outrageous price. Alfa will have the capability to produce more than 1,000 cars per year at the Modena facility. Hey, all we need is jut one.