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Alfa Romeo 4C


This car triggered an alarming bipolar reaction in me. After a week with it I wondered if I needed to find a doctor who would put me on lithium.

One moment I'd hate it. The next I'd love it. Or love it as much as you can love an inanimate mix of aluminium, glass, rubber and - in the case of this Alfa - lashings of carbonfibre. But then like all truly great cars, and especially great Italian ones, it didn't seem entirely inanimate, being so suffused with soul and spirit which, to the cynical, might seem like a cringeworthy cliché. Until you experience it in a machine like this.

I digress.

I would hate the 4C when I tried to use it as a daily driver to run errands and load shopping into it. Luggage space is close to non-existent. There's no power steering. So low-speed maneuvering is far more strenuous than what we've become accustomed to. It's really noisy. The interior is competition-car basic. Pretty much what you'd expect from a machine with a dry weight of just 895kg, leading Alfa Romeo to bill it as one of the lightest cars in the world.

And ingress and egress from this low (1,180mm) two-seater is a  ponderous, knee-popping exercise as you extricate yourself from the racing bucket seats. With many sportscars you can half convince yourself that they can do duty as daily drivers. Even Ferraris are now passably acceptable for popping down to the mall. But not the 4C. Buy one and you had better be sure you have a second car. Which will no doubt be the case with every single 4C owner.

But oh the love part of the relationship! It far, far eclipsed any trifling inconveniences, and with the four-cylinder 1,750cc turbo engine behind your back  lit, the Alfa arching along a serpentine road, and rapid-fire paddle-changes being done courtesy of the TCT six-speed gearbox, the car is intoxicating. Just insanely, utterly intoxicating. Power is to the rear wheels - of course - and with the ability to pull lateral acceleration of 1.1g, it's close to being a four-wheeled superbike.

Output is 176kW at a screaming 6,000rpm, and peak torque is 350Nm between 2,100 and 4,000rpm with 80 percent of that being available from 1,800rpm. So there's elasticity and urge all the way. Top speed? Figure on 258km/h, with zero-to-100km/h coming up in 4.5 seconds. Those are not entirely seismic figures, perhaps, with some far more sybaritic sports sedans equalling or eclipsing this. On paper at least. But that's not the point.

The 4C is about tactility and emotion and accessible performance - plus it's a beautiful little jewel of a thing to behold, and it could only be Italian.

It so happens that the car is fitted with Launch Control for incendiary starts, while it's also equipped with Alfa's DNA selector. So you can choose between Dynamic, Natural and All Weather settings or adjustments to the 4C's temperament - as well as a Race Mode. Ideal for track use. Activate the latter and electronic systems such as ESC stability control are cut out - although it will intervene under really hard braking - as is ASR traction control. All of which leaves the driver pretty much entirely in control.

Race-derived sports suspension is another big element here, while the self-ventilating, perforated disc brakes will haul the 4C from 100km/h to a halt in just 36 metres.

The machine is produced at the Maserati plant in Modena - Maserati, of course, being part of the Fiat Group, as is Alfa -  and it's good to know that all 4Cs built undergo a 40km road test at the hands of a pro test driver.

And do you know what all of this means? Especially with limited production figured into the equation? It means that you're effectively getting a little mid-engined Italian supercar at a fraction of the price, a supercar that's probably going to have investment appeal - without even delving into its astounding handling and near-addictive appeal.

Yours for R1,050 000, including a three-year/100,000km warranty and maintenance plan.

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