Alfa Romeo 4C VS Audi A5
Alfa Romeo 4C
- Startling performance
- Superbly in tune with the road
- Addictive to drive
- Lacking gear
- Rich servicing costs
- Stunning looks
- Masterful interior
- Plenty of great technology
- Firm-ish suspension could grate in city
- Lacks the practicality of a four-door
- Steering not as sharp as S5 model
Alfa Romeo 4C
Nothing could’ve better prepared me for my drive in the 2019 Alfa Romeo 4C than a trip to Sydney’s Luna Park.
There’s a rollercoaster there called Wild Mouse - an old-school, single carriage coaster with no loop-the-loops, no high-tech trickery, and with each ride limited to just with two seats apiece.
The Wild Mouse throws you around with very little regard for your comfort, gently impinging your fear factor by making you consider the physics of what is happening underneath your backside.
It’s an unbridled adrenaline rush, and genuinely scary at times. You get off the ride thinking to yourself, “how the hell did I survive that?”.
The same can be said with this Italian sports car. It’s blisteringly quick, it’s superbly agile, it handles like it has rails attached to its underbody, and it could potentially do brown things to your underpants.
|Engine Type||1.7L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Beauty is one of those things that’s near impossible to get across-the-board agreement on. What I think is cutting-edge and cool, you might think is the definition of trying too hard, and vice versa.
Or, to put it another way, we’ve been assured Ssangyong has sold more than zero cars, so their design has got to be working for someone, somewhere.
Of the 2017 Audi A5 Coupe, however, there can be no debate. It is beautiful. It’s indisputable. A perfectly placed collection of sleek lines, bulging guards and powerful stance.
But with a new platform, new suspension and an overhauled suite of engines, the question is whether this sleek coupe is more than just a pretty face.
The second-generation version of the A5 Sportback is set to appear in May, while the new A5 Cabriolet will follow later this year. For now, the two-door Coupe will lead the charge.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
Alfa Romeo 4C7.1/10
People might wonder if there’s a reason to buy an Alfa Romeo 4C. It has some great dollar-for-dollar competitors - the Alpine A110 does most of the things the Alfa does, but in a more polished way. And then there’s the Porsche 718 Cayman, which is a considerably more, well, considered option.
But there is no doubt the 4C stands alone, a sort-of cut-price alternative to a Maserati or Ferrari, and nearly as rare to spot on the road as those cars, too. And just like the rollercoaster at Luna Park, it’s the sort of car that’ll leave you wanting another go.
Would you take the 4C over a Alpine A110? Let us know in the comments.
Stunning to behold, quiet to sit in and swimming in technology, the A5 Coupe ticks a lot of boxes. We’ll wait ’til we’ve driven it in the city before we make a final verdict, but at glance, there’s a lot to love about this sexy, slinky two-door.
Would the Audi A5 be your pick of the premium mid-size coupes? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Alfa Romeo 4C8/10
Slap a Ferrari badge on it, and people would think it was the real deal - a pint-sized performance hustler, with all the right angles to get plenty of glances.
In fact, I had dozens of punters nod, wave, mount ‘nice car mate’ and even a few rubber-neck moments - you know, when you drive past and someone on the footpath can’t help but forget they’re walking, and they stare so hard they might well collide with the upcoming lamp-post.
It really is a head-turner. So why does it only get an 8/10? Well, there are some elements of the design that make it less user-friendly than some of its rivals.
For instance, the step-in to the cabin is enormous, because the carbon-fibre tub sills are huge. And the cabin itself is pretty tight, especially for taller people. An Alpine A110 or Porsche Boxster are much more amenable for day-to-day driving… but hey, the 4C is markedly better than, say, a Lotus Elise for ingress and egress.
Also, as smart as it still looks, there are elements of Alfa Romeo design that have moved on since the 4C launched back in 2015. The headlights are the bit that I dislike most - I had a real thing for the spider-eyes lights of the launch edition model.
But even if it isn’t unmistakably Alfa Romeo, it’s unmistakably a 4C.
The original A5 was penned by a gentleman by the name of Walter de Silva (he of Lamborghini Egoista and Audi R8 fame), who described his car as “the most beautiful I've ever created."
If it ain’t broke, and all that. Audi’s design team has tinkered around the edges of its A5 Coupe, reworking the grille and headlights, and adding bulges to the bonnet and creases to the bodywork, but the family resemblance is clear.
And it works: all wide and low front end, windswept roofline and muscular guards. Inside, too, is a perfectly executed space, at once premium and polished, and with an obvious attention to detail.
Alfa Romeo 4C6/10
You can’t get into a car this small and expect a lot of space.
The dimensions of the 4C are tiny - it’s just 3989mm long, 1868mm wide and only 1185mm tall, and as you can see from the pictures, it’s a squat little thing. The Spider’s removable roof could be great for you if you’re tall.
I’m six-feet tall (182cm) and I found it to be cocoon-like in the cabin. You feel almost as though you’re tying yourself to the tub of the car when you get into the driver’s seat. And getting in and out? Just make sure you do some stretches beforehand. It’s not as bad as a Lotus for ingress and egress, but it’s still hard to look good clambering in and out of.
The cabin is a cramped space. There’s limited head room and leg room, and while there is reach and rake adjustment for the steering wheel, the seat only has manual slide and backrest movement - no lumbar adjust, no height adjust… almost like a racing bucket. They’re hard like a race seat, too.
The ergonomics aren’t terrific - the controls for the air-con are hard to see at a glance, the buttons for the gear select take some learning, and the two centrally-mounted cup holders (one for your double-shot mocha latte, the other for a hazelnut piccolo) are inconveniently positioned exactly where you might want to put your elbow.
The media system is rubbish. It’d be the first thing to go, if I bought one of these, and in its place would be an aftermarket touchscreen which would: a) actually let you pair to Bluetooth; b) look like it was from sometime after 2004; and c) be more fitting for a car of this price tag. I’d upgrade the speakers, too, because they’re poor. But I can totally understand if those things don’t matter, because it’s the engine you want to hear.
The materials - aside from the red leather seats - aren’t great. The plastics used are similar in look and feel to what you find in second-hand Fiats, but the sheer volume of exposed carbon-fibre does help you forget those details. And the leather pull straps to close the doors are nice, too.
The visibility from the driver’s seat is decent - for this type of car. It’s low, and the rear window is small, so you can’t expect to see everything around you at all times, but the mirrors are good and the forward vision is excellent.
It’s a Coupe in the traditional sense of the word, so expect two doors, four seats and some slightly awkward acrobatics if anyone older than a teenager tries to get into the rear seats.
Front and back passengers get a cupholder each, while the rear-seat passengers also score their own air-con controls and a power outlet. Expect two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.
Boot space is listed at 465 litres (up 10 litres on the previous generation car) and the rear seat is split 40/20/40.
Price and features
Alfa Romeo 4C6/10
Look, no-one considering an Italian sports car is likely to be wearing their common sense hat, but even so, the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is an indulgent purchase.
With a list price of $99,000 plus on-road costs, it isn’t affordable. Not considering what you get for your money.
Standard inclusions consist of air conditioning, remote central locking, heated electric door mirrors, leather sports seats with manual adjustment, a leather-lined steering wheel, and a four-speaker stereo system with USB connectivity and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming. It’s not a touchscreen, so there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and there’s no sat nav… but the thing about this car is going the fun way home, so forget maps and GPS. And there’s a digital instrument cluster with a digital speedometer - believe me, you’ll need it.
The standard wheels are a staggered set - 17-inch at the front and 18-inch at the rear. All 4C models have bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED tail-lights and dual exhaust tips.
Of course, being the Spider model, you also get a removable soft top and you know what’s neat? You get a car cover included as standard, but you’d want to put it in the shed, as it takes up a bit of boot room!
Our car was even further up the pay scale, with an as-tested price of $118,000 before on-roads - it had a few option boxes ticked.
First there’s that beautiful Basalt Grey metallic paint ($2000), and those contrasting red brake calipers ($1000).
Plus there’s the Carbon & Leather package - with carbon-fibre mirror caps, interior bezels, and a stitched leather instrument cover panel. It’s a $4000 option.
And finally, the Racing Package ($12,000), which includes a staggered set of 18-inch and 19-inch wheels with a dark paint finish, and those wheels are fitted with model specific Pirelli P Zero tyres (205/40/18 up front, 235/35/19 at the rear). Plus theres the sports racing exhaust system, which is awesome, and a racing suspension setup.
The A5 Coupe range arrives in a single, well-equipped trim level, with how much that will cost you is dependent on what engine you want, and whether you want the power sent to the front wheels, or all four.
The story begins with the 2.0 TFSI S tronic ($69,900), while opting for the diesel-powered 2.0 TDI quattro S tronic will lift the asking price to $73,900. Top of the A5 tree is the 2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic ($81,500), which also adds some extra kit.
Engine options aside, the S5 arrives with 18-inch alloys, LED headlights and tail-lights, a nav-equipped 8.3-inch centre screen and Audi’s 12.3-inch virtual cockpit, which replaces the old-school dials you used to find in your driver’s binnacle.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also make the standard features list, along with a 10-speaker stereo and a customisable ambient interior lighting set-up. Leather seats, tri-zone climate control and a boot that opens when you wave your foot under it round out the feature highlights.
Spring for the 2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic (catchy name, no?) and your rims grow to 19 inches, your wheel is swapped for the very good flat-bottomed number from the S5, and your wing mirrors earn an auto-dimming function.
Audi has rolled most of its options into easy to understand packages for the A5 Coupe, too. The safety-focussed 'Assistance Package' adds things like AEB, active lane assist and active cruise control, and will add $2470 to the asking price. A 'Technik Package' adds a head-up display, Audi’s Matrix headlights and upgrades the stereo to a Bang and Olufsen unit, and will cost you an extra $5600.
Finally, the S Line Sport or 'Style Pack' will give you a sportier interior and a better-looking exterior, but will cost you $2500 or $3900 for the Style version, and $5900 or $7400 for the Sport version, depending on which model you bought in the first place.
Engine & trans
Alfa Romeo 4C8/10
The Alfa Romeo 4C is powered by a 1.7-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder engine, which produces 177kW of power at 6000rpm and 350Nm of torque from 2200-4250rpm.
The motor is mounted amidships, and it is rear-wheel drive. It uses a six-speed dual-clutch (TCT) automatic with launch control.
Alfa Romeo claims a 0-100km/h time of 4.5 seconds, which makes it one of the quickest cars at this price point.
There are three engines on offer in the A5 Coupe, which begins with the entry level 2.0 TFSI S tronic, delivering 140kW/320Nm to the front wheels via the only gearbox in the A5 Coupe family, a seven-speed 'DSG' dual-clutch automatic. That’s enough to see the A5 flash from 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds on its way to a top speed of 240km/h.
The sole diesel in the line-up arrives with the 2.0 TDI S tronic, which also produces 140kW but sees torque increase to 400Nm and sends its power to all four wheels via the same seven-speed gearbox. The 100km/h sprint is an identical 7.2 seconds, while your top speed drops slightly to 235km.
The baddest of the non S-stamped models is the 2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic, which lifts outputs to a healthy 185kW/370Nm, lopping more than a second off the sprint to 100km/h (now 5.8secs), and increasing the top speed to (an electronically limited 250km/h).
Alfa Romeo 4C8/10
Claimed fuel consumption for the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is rated at 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres, so it’s no miser.
But, impressively, I saw real-world fuel economy of 8.1L/100km, over a loop that included urban, highway and ‘spirited’ driving on twisty roads.
The entry level petrol engine sips a claimed 5.5L/100km for the combined (urban/extra urban) cycle, with C02 emissions pegged at 125g/km. Audi claims the 2.0 TDI engine uses just 4.7L/100km on the same cycle, while emitting 121g/km.
The biggest petrol engine trades its performance for increased fuel use, needing a claimed/combined 6.5L/100km, and emitting 149g/km.
Alfa Romeo 4C9/10
I said that it’s like a rollercoaster, and it really, truly is. The air doesn’t quite rush through your hair as much, sure - but with the roof off, the windows down and the speedometer constantly edging towards licence suspension, it’s a real hoot of an experience.
It just feels so tight - the carbon-fibre monocoque chassis is rigid and super stiff. You hit a cats-eye and its all so sensitive, you could mistake it for having hit an actual cat.
Alfa Romeo’s DNA drive modes - the letters stand for Dynamic, Natural, All Weather - is one of those proper examples of this type of system done well. There’s a marked difference between how these different settings operate, where some other drive modes out there are more sedate in their adjustments. There’s a fourth mode - Alfa Race - which I didn’t dare sample on public roads. Dynamic was enough to test my mettle.
The steering in Natural mode is lovely - there’s great weighting and feedback, super direct and incredibly in touch with the surface below you, and the engine isn’t quite as zesty, but still offers tremendous response on the move.
The ride is firm but composed and compliant in any of the drive modes, and it doesn’t have adaptive suspension. It is a stiffer suspension setup, and though the damping doesn’t change in Dynamic mode, if the surface is anything but perfect you will tram-track and twitch all over the place, because the steering feels even more dialled in.
In Dynamic mode the engine offers amazing response when you’re at pace, building speed incredibly and before you know it, you’re in licence loss zone.
The brake pedal requires some firm footwork - just like in a race car - but it pulls up strongly when you need it to. You’ve just gotta get used to the pedal feel.
The transmission is a good thing at speed in manual mode. It won’t overrule you if you want to find the redline, and it sounds tremendous. The exhaust is exhilarating!
With roof on and windows up there’s very noticeable noise intrusion - lots of tyre roar and engine noise. But remove the roof and drop the windows and you get the full effect of the drive experience - you’ll even get some "sut-tu-tu” wastegate flutter. It doesn’t even matter that much that the stereo system is so rubbish.
At normal speeds in normal driving you do need to be considerate of the powertrain because it is finnicky and slow to react at times. There’s notable lag if you’re gentle on the throttle, both from engine and transmission, and the fact peak torque doesn’t come on song until 2200rpm means there’s lag to contend with.
It’ll be a difficult choice between this and Alpine A110 and a Porsche Cayman – each of these vehicles has a very different character. But for me, this is the most go-kart like and it is, undeniably incredibly involving to drive.
The news is broadly positive right across the range, but we focussed our attention on the top-spec petrol (TFSI S tronic Quattro) which is not just expected to be the biggest seller in the revised A5 Coupe range, but is also by far the closest thing to a happy compromise between the harder S5 and the more sedate and softer entry level models.
With no adaptive suspension anywhere in the A5 family, the standard tune can sail perilously close to uncomfortable on dodgy road surfaces, and it does allow the occasional imperfection to enter the cabin. But it pays off in spades when you find yourself on a twisty road, with the all-wheel drive A5 TFSI S tronic sitting reassuringly flat as you tackle all but the tightest of corners (where it can rock a little as you enter a particularly tight turn). Whether the firm-ish ride becomes a pain on the pockmarked surfaces of the CBD, however, remains to be seen.
The steering in the Quattro isn’t as sharp or direct as it is in the S5 (but it is better than in the front-wheel drive model) and there’s more play on-centre and less precision turning into corners, but away from the back roads and back in the city (where this car will surely spend almost all of its time) that should be a positive, and result in a smooth and composed commuter.
Audi deserves credit for the cabin noise (or lack of it), which is very good, and the razor-thin A-pillar makes forward vision terrific, though the view is predictably less good out the back. It might not be as sharp as the S5, which gets its own unique steering tune and an adaptive damper setup, but the combination of supermodel looks and on-board technology will make it a tempting proposition in the luxe-Coupe market.
Alfa Romeo 4C6/10
You’re in the wrong spot if you want the latest in safety technology. Sure, it’s at the cutting edge because it has an ultra strong carbon-fibre design, but there’s not much else happening here.
The 4C has dual front airbags, rear parking sensors and an alarm with tow-away protection, plus - of course - electronic stability control.
But there are no side airbags or curtain airbags, there’s no reversing camera, there’s no auto emergency braking (AEB) or lane keep assist, no lane departure warning or blind spot detection. Admittedly - there are a few other sports cars in the segment which lack safety smarts, too, but
The 4C has never been crash tested, so there’s no ANCAP or Euro NCAP safety score available.
Expect six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), a reversing camera and parking sensors as standard fare, but Audi then ups the ante with a suite of high-tech standard safety gear, including forward collision warning with AEB cross-path assist and a driver fatigue detection system.
The entire A5 range was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Alfa Romeo 4C6/10
If you’re hoping that a ‘simple’ car like the 4C will mean low ownership costs, you might be disappointed in this section.
The Alfa Romeo website service calculator suggests that over 60 months or 75,000km (with service intervals set every 12 months/15,000km), you will have to fork out $6625 total. For a breakdown, the services cost $895, $1445, $895, $2495, $895.
I mean, that’s what you get when you buy an Italian sports car, I suppose. But consider you can get a Jaguar F-Type with five years of free servicing, and the Alfa looks like a rip-off.