Fiat's European product development head, Mauro Pierallini, believes the Alfa Romeo 4C roadster will be another "masterpiece" for the storied Alfa brand. The rear-drive, two-seat 4C will give Alfa an image boost when it goes on sale in Europe in September and in the United States a few months later. Pierallini talked with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Claire Bal about the car.
The 4C weighs 895kg, is 3990mm long and delivers 240hp from its 1.75-liter turbocharged direct-injection gasoline engine. Is the 4C an Italian version of the Lotus Elise?
I cannot deny they have something in common, but the 4C is better than the Elise in many aspects: from a comfort point of view, for the handling characteristics, for performance. But the Elise was not our target. We built this car because it's in the Alfa Romeo DNA to create very small and light performance cars. I'm proud to say we made another masterpiece that will remain in Alfa's history.
What were the main challenges you faced when creating this car?
First, we had to make the 4C very light. One requirement was to not go above the weight/power ratio of 4 kg per horsepower. Our engineering team cut any unnecessary gram. At first we wanted to use steel subframes in the front and in the rear of the carbon fiber chassis, but we learned it was too heavy so we used an aluminum frame.
Was it a challenge to work with nontraditional materials?
Ferrari technicians helped us. We are not used to working with carbon fiber. Our only experience was with the Alfa 8C. We also conceived a low-density plastic body. The 4C was an extremely challenging project, both from a business point of view and because of the skills we had to acquire.
How much did you modify the Giulietta engine to use it in the 4C?
It is completely different and 24kg lighter, mainly thanks to a new aluminum block. This is the first of a new family of performance engines dedicated to the Alfa Romeo brand.
Will the 4C for the U.S. be different?
We had to respect different regulations. The car is about 100kg heavier because we had to add some aluminum inserts in the carbon fiber chassis. The U.S. crash test requires a different structure to absorb different impact forces. We also had to comply with rules covering the gasoline tank, the fuel lines and emissions.
Why is annual production of the 4C limited to 3,500?
The carbon fiber chassis is our production bottleneck. This is the maximum that our supplier, Adler Plastic, can build. Otherwise, we would need to double the investment. We chose to use the traditional handcrafted 'pre-preg' process because it is the best. We are building the 4C in Maserati's plant in Modena. One of the 4C's distinctive traits is that it is a unique product, like a hand-made Italian shoe.
Tell us about the 4C's highlights.
We wanted to do something different and we needed to optimize weight. In these headlamps you just have the lighting parts inserted in a shell. It's a simple and cheap solution. It's quite radical, I know, but if I had to design a racecar I would choose this solution.
How does the 4C drive?
It's so fast! We drove the Porsche Cayman to make some comparisons. The Cayman is a very beautiful car, it has a great sound, but if you drive it slowly you could imagine you're sitting in a VW Golf. The 4C is completely different. You feel you are in a racecar. We also drove the 4C on our Balocco track with some Ferraris. In the straight line, the 4C only reaches a top speed of 260kph, but on the handling track its performances can be assimilated with those of a Ferrari. And thanks to the launch control, any driver could accelerate from 0 to 100kph in just 4.5 seconds.
It was the case but I doubt they will change that now. Will be too costly to produce moulds etc.. for the car at this stage. So we stuck with those ridiculous lights on our cars as well.kaliber said:I must admit I was surprised to read that. I had always been of the belief that there was only one version (but in LHD and RHD) for the world. Hence the reason everyone got the lovely reflectors on the side.
^ This. I already have a 2200lb car. I'll wait for a Stradale w/ a clover anyway.008 said:So the US spec will be heavier or that's what was done to all of the cars to meet the US regs? If the US car is 220 pounds heavier I won't be getting one.
Why should we be worried? This issue is the same problem that most car makers have when they bring cars to the US.008 said:I'm actually a little surprised that the rest of the world folks aren't a little concerned that some portion of the 220 pounds (probably most of it) goes to re-enforcement of the chassis just to pass the US offset crash test.
I hope none of our brethren ever have to experience the results of an offset head on collision that basically every other car sold "passes" in our tests. I'm still holding out some hope that this was a translation issue and all cars have the added aluminum support that equals 895 kg.
They just have to respect the EU regulations when they sell in the EU. Due to the carbon chassis I would suspect this car would be one of the safest cars in a crash test although these won't be published for this car I am convinced.simonb said:Don't see how they can do this. It is a litigious society we live in. If someone in Europe gets killed in an offset crash; then "yeh, we left that bit off as it weighs 220 pounds" would seem to leave someone wide open for manslaughter charges.