Alfa Romeo 4C 1.8 Turbo TCT: Pure emotion, pure rawness, pure exhilaration

A while back, we had the opportunity to test Alfa Romeo’s new Giulietta 1.8 Turbo Quadrifoglio Verde, otherwise known as the QV for short. It wasn’t impressively luxurious or comfortable, but we felt that it was a good mix of track and luxury for the lap petrolhead who still needed to ferry his family around.

But what happens if you’re a pure track guy, or someone who already has a family sedan and are looking for something more exciting?

Or what if you’re just addicted to karting around the laps, placing more focus on handling and drivability rather than comfort?

Well, the Alfa Romeo 4C is the perfect answer for you.

Exterior

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It is indeed ironic that the Alfa Romeos nowadays require that little bit of getting used to on first sight. The QV wasn’t exactly an eye-turner or opener, and neither is its big brother – the 4C.

We had to admit that even though the 4C exuded that sportiness that all supercars should have, it looked too much like a Lotus. Up front, the 4C greets you with it’s LED-clustered headlamps, made up of many different bulb sockets so complicated it looks intimidating to those who have trypophobia (read: fear of objects with small holes).

Being a track supercar, the 4C isn’t one that comes with the most fanciful of gadgets. Instead, Alfa Romeo cuts down on the wants, and focuses on the needs instead. Take for example – the 4C comes stripped bare to the core, with no keyless entry and no boot-opening button on the outside.

Taking bits and pieces of design from its older 8C brother, the 4C presents you with a car that impresses upon the die-hard track driver. From its expanded wheel arches to its amazingly low ground clearance that will break your heart every time you cruise scrape over a larger than usual hump, this track car proves every bit of its muscularity and worth, and is bound to attract more attention than you would expect.

Interior

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When we say that you would love the 4C if you’re a track enthusiast, you probably will understand what we mean once you slide into the cabin. Like all supercars, it ain’t the most comfortable nor easily accessible, and it sits literally on the ground – heck, even the i8 has a higher ground clearance than this.

Inside, we were actually slightly disappointed by the amount of storage space available. Yes, it is a track supercar, but all we had was a small compartment at the rear of the center console (unfortunately not big enough to fit in an iPad Mini), a cup/bottle holder, and that’s about it. No glove compartment (only a leather strap) for your coupons, no handphone holders, no key holders, nothing.

But what the 4C could offer you to make up for these shortcomings would be the racing bucket seats and the tasteful usage of Alcantara leather to reinforce the sportiness of this coupe. Up front, you get a thick steering wheel, ensuring that you do not lose balance while cornering this beast.

The digital instrument display was perhaps the most futuristic component of the 895 kg 4C, and we thought it provided a sleek output of your tachometer and speed while you toggle between the gears and driving modes provided for your comfort (read: racing drive).

Unfortunately, the 4C is a car that your significant other might frown upon even though you may be the most hardcore of track drivers. Getting into this car requires a special set of skills, with its difficulty level upped two notches if your passenger is in a dress. Essentially, you sit in a carbon-fibre tub, prominently visible just at your fingertips as you sink into the bucket seats.

Talk about the lack of storage inside and you’d not be surprised to know that the boot only takes a maximum of 105 litres worth of luggage. That essentially weighs out to be a camera bag, a briefcase, and… wait, that’s about it!

Our test car was the Launch Edition, and that meant all of red brake calipers, carbon fibre boot lid, mirrors, and headlight housings, dark painted rims (18 in front and 19 at the rear, in case you’re looking forward to rotating your wheels), a racing exhaust system, and of course, a numbered plaque to re-emphasize its uniqueness.

The Drive

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Granted, you wouldn’t expect much from a 1.8 litre plant sitting behind you. But combine that with a turbocharger and a whole lot of carbon fibre, aluminium and plastic, things start to change as you fire up this mid-mounted engine.

If there’s one phrase we could use to describe the engine note from the moment we turn the ignition, we would say it was pure music to the ears. The 1,742 cc plant makes sure it is heard and seen, even when you’re downshifting on the paddles while sprinting down the freeways at 100 km/h.

The figures of 240 bhp and 350 Nm may not sound impressive to the everyday supercar driver, but it does catapult you to the century mark in just 4.5 seconds, or perhaps even faster as we felt.

On a good point to note, the 4C actually allows for comfortable driving. Yes, less a few bumps on the roads thanks to its over-sensitive suspension, you could actually put it to Auto and cruise down smoother roads. But blip it to manual and floor the pedal and you might actually find yourself at the speed limit faster than you imagine – not really a good thing given the amount of cameras on our roads.

With such a low ground clearance, handling was nothing short of perfect. Our test car’s Pirelli P Zero shoes ensured that we took corners with ease and confidence, pulling us back into the seat while we zipped around South Buona Vista at speeds you couldn’t do with a normal Japanese sedan (Note: no law-breaking here though).

Yes, you get impressive handling, but with that, comes the stiffest suspension we’ve ever tried. The 4C ensures that while you squeeze every bit of power out of its tiny engine, it makes sure that you feel every single bump in the road. Talk about comfort here, and you can forget about getting any if you’re driving hard.

And while some may stick vehemently with the purest of motoring goodness, others may not appreciate the lack of power steering in the 4C. At low speeds, turning the wheel proved to be some sort of arm exercise, though it gradually loosens up as the speedometer climbs exponentially fast.

Conclusion

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Despite its unique looks which really needs some getting used to, the 4C is a true-blue motoring track enthusiast’s dream. We enjoyed our days with the 4C, despite all the backaches and bumps we “suffered”, but hey, nobody said nothing about all aspects of life being sweet.

It is indeed amazing how Alfa Romeo squeezed out this drivability and power out of its 1.8 litre engine, and even more amazing how they packaged it into something that weighed below 1 tonne, yet perform much better than some supercars out there.

The 4C takes to a niche customer base, either the bachelor or a young couple whom both are into motorsports. Considering its performance and classification in the motoring industry, the 4C is actually quite a steal compared to the rest of its supercar cousins.

After all, it exudes pure emotion, pure rawness, and pure exhilaration.

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We like:

The exhaust note we call music to our ears, the perfect handling, the power beneath your feet, and perhaps to some extent, the attention you get.

We don’t like: 

Where’s the practicality and storage space in this car?

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