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Hi 4C Fans,

Something I'd like to hear everyone's thoughts on is driving an Alfa 4C fast. I am talking about quiet back roads with lots of corners and plenty of bumps which we seek out on a weekend, not perfectly smooth race tracks.
Please don't confuse my criticism of driving the 4C fast to owning it generally.

It's a beautiful unique car, one that gives so much pleasure when driving whether it be slowly, in a spirited way and even when it's sitting in the garage. Let's put that aside for a bit and focus on what it's like to drive fast though, as that is one of the biggest challenges I am facing and it makes me wonder if others share this issue.

A bit of background first. At 40 years of age, I'm about 20 - 24 years removed from when I was a reckless youngster. Unfortunate (or fortunate) enough to grow up with cheap underpowered cars, my friends and I really did learn the drive the door handles off anything we could get our hands on being rural kids. These were the days where speed cameras were very rare and there were plenty of quiet roads.
When I look back at what we did with so little it kinda blows me away, but growing up, gaining responsibilities, having kids etc changes your outlook, as does the acquisition of modern cars.
My current thinking is too many years in modern refined cars (latest daily is a tuned Golf R mk 7.5) really makes the Alfa feel hard to drive. While modern AWD cars (and likely plenty of FWD and RWD cars too) have great grip, are very predictable and remove you from the driving experience, they are undoubtedly extremely easy to drive fast.

The worse a road gets to a point, the better these cars get, unless they've been lowered too much and are super stiff which is where the 4C comes in. Give a 20 year old version of me a 4C and it would be amazing, now, it just feels so different to what I am used to, borderline dangerous often when I really get the speed up.

Basically, I can't think of any road I would drive on where I am faster in my 4C than my Golf R which is a little depressing given what I feel its potential is.
It's a combination of the lack of front end stability, the very firm suspension, the manual steering and everything which makes it unique. I know we don't buy these only to drive fast, but it makes me wonder if something like a Cayman is the natural answer to the question I am seeking. What car provides the modern elements of great control with the benefits of feeling like a true sports car?

FWIW, my 4C has Alfworks intermediate blocks, lowered springs, rear uniballs and runs MPS 4S tyres, 255 rears with 215 fronts (on 9.5 and 8 inch rims).

Keen to get everyone's perspective. Maybe a few track days would help?
At least that would provide a safe way to really know its limits. I am making sure I get out in it at least once a week, driving in race mode as much as possible (without drivers aids).
If this is about getting used to the car, nothing will beat repetition and familiarity that should come with it.

Anyway, who suffers from this bogeyman and how did you deal with it?
 

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Race Mode is a no-no (for me at least) I’ve found that Dynamic will let you take the car deep into the fun zone without the electronic nannies jumping in, and when they did jump in I was thankful.

I live in and grew up in the upstate of SC and have some of the best mountain roads in the US within a couple hours of me. I’ve also grown up flogging various shitboxes and sports cars like yourself. With 42,000 miles in my 4C, probably half of those miles on those roads, I know both well. And even then I won’t put it in race mode.

There’s always gravel or a slick spot or a cyclist or any number of other unpredictable changes. Dynamic is plenty of fun with an element of safety.
Plus steel guardrails + SMC panels = $$$
 

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Seconded above, I would not put the 4C in race mode on public roads, maybe cept when I'm trying to use launch control in a straight line. For me I've always been in the camp of, if you get into a position that the TC is kicking in to help you in public roads, then you are endangering both yourself and others.

Track days (or autocross!) would definitely help, but regardless I think part of it is that the heavy steering makes you feel like you are approaching the limit far before you get there, combined with the nervousness of the steering. I think track days would help you explore those limits and work your way down from there for mountain drives.

I actually think the lowering springs in this case is damaging as it's probably too stiff for bumpy roads. Which springs are you on?
 

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Here we go then
Hi 4C Fans,

Something I'd like to hear everyone's thoughts on is driving an Alfa 4C fast. I am talking about quiet back roads with lots of corners and plenty of bumps which we seek out on a weekend, not perfectly smooth race tracks.
Please don't confuse my criticism of driving the 4C fast to owning it generally.

It's a beautiful unique car, one that gives so much pleasure when driving whether it be slowly, in a spirited way and even when it's sitting in the garage. Let's put that aside for a bit and focus on what it's like to drive fast though, as that is one of the biggest challenges I am facing and it makes me wonder if others share this issue.

A bit of background first. At 40 years of age, I'm about 20 - 24 years removed from when I was a reckless youngster. Unfortunate (or fortunate) enough to grow up with cheap underpowered cars, my friends and I really did learn the drive the door handles off anything we could get our hands on being rural kids. These were the days where speed cameras were very rare and there were plenty of quiet roads.
When I look back at what we did with so little it kinda blows me away, but growing up, gaining responsibilities, having kids etc changes your outlook, as does the acquisition of modern cars.
My current thinking is too many years in modern refined cars (latest daily is a tuned Golf R mk 7.5) really makes the Alfa feel hard to drive. While modern AWD cars (and likely plenty of FWD and RWD cars too) have great grip, are very predictable and remove you from the driving experience, they are undoubtedly extremely easy to drive fast.

The worse a road gets to a point, the better these cars get, unless they've been lowered too much and are super stiff which is where the 4C comes in. Give a 20 year old version of me a 4C and it would be amazing, now, it just feels so different to what I am used to, borderline dangerous often when I really get the speed up.

Basically, I can't think of any road I would drive on where I am faster in my 4C than my Golf R which is a little depressing given what I feel its potential is.
It's a combination of the lack of front end stability, the very firm suspension, the manual steering and everything which makes it unique. I know we don't buy these only to drive fast, but it makes me wonder if something like a Cayman is the natural answer to the question I am seeking. What car provides the modern elements of great control with the benefits of feeling like a true sports car?

FWIW, my 4C has Alfworks intermediate blocks, lowered springs, rear uniballs and runs MPS 4S tyres, 255 rears with 215 fronts (on 9.5 and 8 inch rims).

Keen to get everyone's perspective. Maybe a few track days would help?
At least that would provide a safe way to really know its limits. I am making sure I get out in it at least once a week, driving in race mode as much as possible (without drivers aids).
If this is about getting used to the car, nothing will beat repetition and familiarity that should come with it.

Anyway, who suffers from this bogeyman and how did you deal with it?
Wow, I just started reading one of Ben Collins’ books and thought I must have been channeling telepathically.
I’d stick with Dynamic mode, but that’s me.
Alignment, alignment, alignment. Zero front toe, increase negative camber to hide the understeer for a while on standard, non-race suspension. Intermediate blocks on their own won’t give you enough negative camber
Uniballs to stop the rear wheels moving about on the rubber bushes. The solidity at the rear after doing this inspires confidence. You should have felt this with Rudis’ road settings for toe-in and camber.
Changing tyres from Pirelli to Michelin should have improved thing a lot.(or any number of semi-slicks if all you are looking for is grip). I don’t know why, apart from looks, there is the obsession to go with extra width for the road.
There is a stretch of the Putty Road between the servo at Colo Heights out to Howes Valley. It‘s surface is uneven but not potholed, with lots of undulations and high speed curves. I don’t travel at ridiculous speeds but my 4C has no trouble coping at the pace I enjoy. (I simply won’t quote numbers but when travelling solo it’s quicker than on our group drives) It’s a challenging bit of road and used to get my heart pumping before the simple mods I had done to it. Now it’s simply enjoyable. Do you know the road at all? Hope this helps.
Why did you go with lowered springs? My view is that for rough roads suspension travel is your friend You need lots of it. It’s also why I haven’t gone to a rear anti-roll bar. I don’t want the rear skipping when it gets rough.

You’ve got to remember that cars like Golfs are inherently more stable than our 4Cs. It’s simply physics. What tyres are the Golf running? This can tell you a lot....Are they cheating with ultra sticky stuff?

You’re Victorian so how you can cope with the zero tolerance of the constabulary and hidden speed cameras to any speed over the limit I don’t know. That’d do more to kill the enjoyment for me.

Lastly, can you drive it quickly while relaxed? Being smooth and relaxed helps heaps.
 

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I'm six years older than you, but the reason I bought this car WAS to feel like a reckless youngster ;)

In my opinion it doesn't really matter if the Alfa is quicker than your Golf R on the road--what matters is how it makes you feel. I love that every drive in the 4C is a dance on a razor's edge; I want it to scare me a little. You mentioned a Cayman, I still own one that I don't really drive now. It's a brilliant car, really refined and composed, maybe the easiest car to drive fast that I have ever driven. But... it's all engineering and sensibility, and it lacks the passion of the Alfa.

You should definitely do some autocross/track day/driving school sessions. Once you become comfortable with how mid-engine cars rotate and how to transfer weight with confidence you won't want to drive anything else. I had an MR2 that used to scare the crap out of me--once I got enough seat time, and corrections became natural reflexes, I really learned to love that car. Explore the limits in a safe setting. Often.
 

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Thanks Gents,

I only started using race mode as I figured perhaps the driving aids were holding me back. Doesn't sound like it, but they do the spoil the party when trying to drop a nice powerslide in your driveway....
I'll go back to Dynamic mode and stick to using the paddles, I figure using the gears keeps the engagement going a bit more.

Previous owner did the springs, I thought they were H&R but isn't likely as I can't find a match for them online. Must say I really do like the look of the lowered car, so would hate to raise it up.

Alfanut, where I can I get those alignment numbers? Also, does getting it right mean extra parts, if so let me know where to throw my cash.
Btw, I am in Tasmania not from Vic, as you know we have some great roads here, but they aren't always the smoothest.

Just to be clear, I am not talking about high speed corners where you are well above the speed limit into licence losing territory. Too much to lose to risk that. I'm talking about those roads which are often not even sign posted, most people may go along them at 60'ish kph where going a decent amount faster isn't getting into dangerous territory, but gives you bulk fun.

Edit, good tips Mateo. I think a track day is going to mandatory just to get my bearings on the limits. I think the mid engined challenge is just another complication. Us humans can seem to adjust to one or two variables well, but stack them all up and it gets tough.

I've not a total dunce behind the wheel but I have never been one of those guys who can just pilot anything at the limit with minimal prep. We've all seen people like that, some people have that knack on a motorbike, car, go karts etc, that real sense of precision which seems innate.
 

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Thanks Gents,

I only started using race mode as I figured perhaps the driving aids were holding me back. Doesn't sound like it, but they do the spoil the party when trying to drop a nice powerslide in your driveway....
I'll go back to Dynamic mode and stick to using the paddles, I figure using the gears keeps the engagement going a bit more.

Previous owner did the springs, I thought they were H&R but isn't likely as I can't find a match for them online. Must say I really do like the look of the lowered car, so would hate to raise it up.

Alfanut, where I can I get those alignment numbers? Also, does getting it right mean extra parts, if so let me know where to throw my cash.
Btw, I am in Tasmania not from Vic, as you know we have some great roads here, but they aren't always the smoothest.

Just to be clear, I am not talking about high speed corners where you are well above the speed limit into licence losing territory. Too much to lose to risk that. I'm talking about those roads which are often not even sign posted, most people may go along them at 60'ish kph where going a decent amount faster isn't getting into dangerous territory, but gives you bulk fun.

Edit, good tips Mateo. I think a track day is going to mandatory just to get my bearings on the limits. I think the mid engined challenge is just another complication. Us humans can seem to adjust to one or two variables well, but stack them all up and it gets tough.

I've not a total dunce behind the wheel but I have never been one of those guys who can just pilot anything at the limit with minimal prep. We've all seen people like that, some people have that knack on a motorbike, car, go karts etc, that real sense of precision which seems innate.
I’ll post the numbers...
You can purchase extra shims to push out the camber or have a shop fabricate some for you. You’re limited by the length of the bolt protruding as to how many shims you can attach. Not all cars are the same due to it being hand-built so can’t advise how many you’ll need, probably 8 or twelve in total. Have a look and see how much bolt end is exposed. Just a bit less than that length is your limit. Each shim is 2mm thick, if I remember correctly.
I have a favourite left-hand corner somewhere (Alfa1105 followed me through it a little while ago on one of our drives, so I think he knows the one) that is signposted at 45km/h that I do at 100 without the Pirellis squealing. Plenty in reserve with reasonable vision ahead through the trees. This makes me happy.
 

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I’ll post the numbers...
I have a favourite left-hand corner somewhere (Alfa1105 followed me through it a little while ago on one of our drives, so I think he knows the one) that is signposted at 45km/h that I do at 100 without the Pirellis squealing. Plenty in reserve with reasonable vision ahead through the trees. This makes me happy.
Officer this man right here! get him!
 

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To be fair to Alfanut, there's yellow signs in Australia which are "advisory signs" for corners which don't mandate the limit. You may have them on a road which is otherwise sign posted at 80kph, not sure if you'd get them in a 110kph zone though :)
Yep, simply advisory and I’ll only do it in the one direction and certainly not if traffic is coming the other way.
Edit: Sorry about the Victorian thing. I’ve been looking back at a new Victorian member who hasn’t responded to my attempted answer to a question of his and I made a mistake in localities.
 

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Grasshopper....

Before you can run in a 4C, you must first learn to walk.

The only place to experiment with the limits of your 4C is in a semi-controlled environment on a skid pan, or track, or closed off area, where you can creep up to the limits and sometimes go a little beyond. It helps if that "track" is smooth, as you approach the limits gradually and can back away when you run out of talent without hurting your pride, or the car.

If you find the limits of your 4C on the road, you have ignored the warning signs that the car has already signalled to you.

Yes the 4C can get twitchy under brakes, or with camber changes, but it responds sympathetically to the correct inputs in response to the dynamic situation you have got yourself into.

Race mode is not something to be frightened of on the street, (at least with a dry road in good condition and the standard Alfa tune), but it does take away one layer of active protection with the stability control that you get in Dynamic mode, (that most of the time isn't actually doing much, but when it's needed, then you want it to step in and save the day). I use race mode a lot on the right road, in the right conditions - mainly for the throttle response, fast gear shifts and pops and bangs, you do get the odd little wiggle from wheelspin, but throttle and brake modulation, with smooth steering inputs will keep things moving along just fine. As soon as the weather, road surface, ambient light levels, traffic etc starts ganging up on me, I knock the car back into one of the other modes that is more suited to the driving conditions at the time.

You might be surprised at how far out of line the stability control will allow the car to get in Dynamic mode before it steps in - in the right conditions you can actually get a fair bit of an opposite lock powerslide going with the rear tyres smoking (on a track of course).

There are plenty of modern "family" road cars that are very capable machines - if you dropped them on a racetrack with the so called sports cars from 10-15 years ago, would give them a very good run for their money, and in some cases embarrass the owners of the older vehicles.

You also have the family cars that have a S badge or an R badge on them where the driver is convinced their car is more than a match for the 4C tootling along in traffic minding its own business. They usually get put back in their place quite abruptly when they start pushing their vehicle to its traction limits and the driver gets beyond his or her talent limits - usually well below the speed limit I might add.

For me, it is the challenge of driving the 4C well that makes it such a fun vehicle to drive.

If you have never had your 4C up to a reasonable speed (above legal speed on the road in Australia), then you haven't fully appreciated what this car is capable of.

I recommend getting some track time with an instructor that understands these cars, then you will appreciate that the 4C has very high limits that we will rarely, if ever, tap into on the road.

Cheers,

Alf.
 

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I'll echo some of the comments from other owners.

What makes the 4C a challenge to drive fast is that most of us aren't familiar with the midengine dynamics. So lets say you go into a corner a tad fast, most modern front engine cars will understeer. Your first reaction is to lift the accelerator and turn the steering wheel more into the corner. If you lift in the corner with a midengine car, you often will spin because the mass is behind you and you just removed additional weight (traction) from the rear wheels. As many have noted, a track or skid pad (and practice) will help train that gut reaction out of you with the 4C. Quality instruction is a huge part of the learning.

The 4C also has a very short wheel base. This makes it able to change directions very quickly. This makes it feel like that gocart you had as a kid, which is a blast. However, it will also change directions very quickly when you did something stupid (or over the limit). You have to have very quick (and correct) reflexes to catch the car when you cross that line. Practice.. Practice.. Practice...

Finally, there have been several modification suggestions. Alignment is always recommended, as the car had a very bad habit of leaving the factory with rather poor settings. Uniballs replaces the rear rubber bushings with solid bushings. The purpose of this was to remove a passive rear steer that Alfa built into the car by putting two different stiffness bushings on the A-arms. It made feeling the car far far more difficult (and a little unpredictable). And many users swear by adding Alfworks Shims up front. This significantly alters the stock alignment numbers making the car far less darty over bumpy roads. Another welcomed addition to improve handling and predictability on less than perfect back roads (and on track).
 

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It seems like there have a been a lot of good answers already posted here. So I'll just throw in my summary of all the stuff listed.

1. Don't use Race Mode on the street
There is no benefit!!! Dynamic will allow you to push the car as hard as you want but will save you if you make a mistake. If the car is intervening in Dynamic mode on the street you are pushing too hard. Launch mode works in Dynamic Mode as well.

2. The 4C is a very hard car to drive fast
I'm very fortunate that my job has given me the opportunity to drive just about everything out there on the track. The 4C is one of the hardest modern cars to drive at 10/10's. The mid-engine and short wheel base contribute mostly to that fact. That being said it takes a lot of skill to push the 4C to it's limits (which shouldn't be done on the street). I suggest you take a performance driving course. You will be amazed at how much it improves your street driving as well as lap times on the track.

3. Lowering springs with stock shocks will make the car easier to upset over bumpy roads
If the spring rates don't match the damping of the shocks the car will not do well over bumpy roads. This will upset the car and make it harder to control over rough roads.
 

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Wow, what a talented bunch. It's best I keep my mouth shut here, as this is a time to learn for me. The only thing I can add is that for a simple car its complicated to drive. If the road is smooth, then I think you need to take a set and keep it there. You have to be confident in what you are doing if you are going to take it "there." You don't correct the steering unless you break loose - this is a go kart and goes exactly where you point it. Sounds simple, except no road is smooth. And that's where you have to correct, on a car that doesn't tend to need to be corrected. It is in this area, controlling a 4C on imperfect roads, where the car takes all of your attention. This is the joy of the car. This is why it doesn't matter if the McLaren is faster. You are fully engaged in the experience, and they are most certainly not in comparison.

Ironically, early on in this forum, that's all we heard. Tramlining. The car just dug into a groove and it was unsettling. I don't read about that much anymore because we've learned to drive the car. It's not like anything most of us have ever had before! It's awesome.
 

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The simplest answer is that the 4C is a very engaging car to drive. Some people love that and some don't. Drive whatever makes you happy. And the other take away is never drive a car past your driving ability on the street or track. :)
 

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An irrefutable truth is that the overwhelming majority of people will never be able to fully extract the potential that comes from a mid-engined car. And of the mid-engined cars that make that even harder than other mid-engined cars is the 4C.

It's potential is higher. Your ability to tap that potential is lower.

You can drive other configurations at 98 - 99%. The 4C you can do 8/10...9/10.... and that drops it to the point, along with lack of confidence, below where you could hoon a GTI or R. Wherein 'you' are not race-level skilled with a M/R layout. Few are.

If I had a ghost car to race, and that ghost car was me tearing up my favorite bits in my 4C, and I still had my Audi S3, I might mop the floor with myself. I would outdo my best 4C run by far with an S3. In the 4C, that limit scares me enough to leave room for error. In the S3, I'd invite the errors and correct them.

Dynamics are harder to take advantage of, even if potential is higher. However... I have 10,000 miles / 6,000 Kms in my 4C.

I am over a million miles of driving in my life. My mid- or rear-engined experience is about 25,000 miles between a 911 and a 4C. Woefully low.
 

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Agree Philster....except for the 10,000miles / 6,000kms conversion ;-) (ya....I went there lol)
I can easily drive (almost) the limits of my JCW (lowered KW v2/tuned) given the significant amount of hours in it (and previous gen JCWs) whereas the 360 and 4C start to make me squirm at half that pace.... Guess I need more 4C seat time!!! :cool:
 

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I'm still learning the limits of the 4C. And the limits of the smiles it generates on my face. The fact that my Type R gets around a track quicker than my 4C does says a lot, either about my ability, or the 4C's stability.

They're pretty strict out here on the road, but when there's no one around the roads are awesome. And sufficient space between cameras on the three lane freeways to work the 4C's lungs. The mountains here take care of the twisties. But as soon as there are other cars on the road I back off. Would not be fair to let others pay for my mistakes.

And @Alfanut, Reading Ben Collin's just pointed out to me how much I did not know.
 

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When I got my first Lotus Elise, someone told me what LOTUS meant: Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious :p And the other, which I had to learn to really put in practice: Lift Of Throttle U Spin. Like DrPyro2K said above, try not to lift in the corners. Go in a little slower and keep some throttle applied therefore keeping the weight on the rear wheels. It takes practice but once you get it down, it feels quite natural.
 

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Yeah, the 4Cis a fun, fast car, but not one I would want to push to the limit. I feel quicker in the S2000, but the acceleration is much quicker in the Alfa between corners. Overall, I would say I am faster in the Alfa, but it is a bit stressful compared to the ease with which you can get the S2000 close to the edge of what it is capable of. I also stay in dynamic mode, but I am not racing anyone.
 
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