For two years, the Alfa Romeo 4C has been one of the great teases of the auto industry. A lusciously Italian ultralight sports coupe rumored to be as affordable as a Porsche Cayman, the 4C has shown all kinds of potential since showing up as a concept at the 2011 Geneva auto show. As promised, it's now officially here. The stylish coupe, which will mark Alfa's return to the U.S. market, is priced and ready for production lines.

Alfa Romeo will first offer the 4C in the "Launch Edition" being paraded at the Geneva Motor Show. One thousand examples of the limited edition will be produced, with 500 going to North America; 400 to Europe, Africa and the Middle East; and the remainder to the rest of the world. Orders are available now, and the Launch Edition prices in at £52,000 pounds/€60,000 euros. That's around US$78,000 when converted, but Alfa Romeo has not released the official U.S. price.

The overall design and build of the 4C Launch Edition appears the same as the most recent concept version, but it gets a few unique touches like carbon fiber trim and a Carrara White body color option. For those that prefer the color of passion, Alfa Red is the other available option. Other elements include a rear aluminum diffuser with dark finishing, bi-LED headlights, and 18-inch (front) and 19-inch (rear) alloy wheels with burnishing treatment. The Launch Edition also comes with admission to an Alfa-hosted event in Italy, which includes professional driving instruction.

In terms of its greater model styling, the 4C blends DNA from past models like the 33 Stradale and 8C Competizione. The broad muscles of the coupe's haunches and flanks are interrupted only by the air intakes that feed the intercooler. Up front, Alfa's shield provides the driving force for the styling, splitting the grill into pieces and launching V-like ribs up over the hood. The car measures 157 inches (399 cm) long, 79 inches (200 cm) wide, 46 inches (118 cm) high, and has a wheelbase of 94 inches (238 cm).

Peep through the rear window and you'll get a look at the all-aluminum, direct-injection 240-hp 1.8-liter four-cylinder turbo, which is teamed with an updated TCT twin dry clutch transmission and launch control system. A four-cylinder sounds entirely too meek for a €60,000 Italian sports car, and it's certainly enough to laugh away Alfa's characterization of the car as a "supercar." However, the basis of the 4C was always construction so light that a small engine could make an impressive mark on the spec sheets. Its dry weight is 1,973 pounds (895 kg), empowering a 4.5-second 0-62 mph (0-100km/h) time and top speed of over 250 km/h (155 mph). The weight is lumped 60 percent in back, 40 percent in front.

The 4C achieves that curb weight with the help of a carbon fiber monocoque, aluminum structural components and a composite body. Even the bucket seats get in on the diet, employing a carbon fiber-fiberglass structure.

We're already having fun mentally driving the ultralight, rear-driven panther, and the running gear only improves things. Alfa uses superimposed wishbones up front and a MacPherson system in the rear to optimize the 4C's agility on the street. Alfa will also sell a suspension kit with specific calibration of the shock absorbers and rear anti-roll bar. The driver will maintain full feel of the road thanks to the lack of power steering and an available "Race" mode, which deactivates stability control and anti-slip. Several tire options will be available to buyers.

The 4C's interior just seeps with driver focus and performance-assisting design. Like the Lamborghini Veneno, Alfa leaves the carbon fiber of the central tunnel untouched and visible, a reminder of the lightweight underpinnings assisting the driver's every twitch across the aluminum pedals. Even in traffic, the 4C conveys a sense of driving pleasure: The dashboard and door panels have an "asphalt treatment," providing a visual nod to its open-road inspiration. The bucket seating and digital displays are kept simple and drive-focused, and the center stack is angled directly at the driver. Shift paddles and an Alfa DNA selector with Dynamic, Natural, All Weather and new Race modes engage the driver, ensuring he's not just sitting around looking at his lovely surroundings.

The 4C will go into production later this year at Maserati's Modena plant.

Source: Alfa Romeo

View gallery - 10 images