Alfa Romeo 4C VS BMW M2
Alfa Romeo 4C
- Startling performance
- Superbly in tune with the road
- Addictive to drive
- Lacking gear
- Rich servicing costs
- M2 is awesome
- Turbo-petrol fours' lag
- Tight rear room
- Fiddly (8sp auto) gear shift
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|
If one is good, two must be better, right? Or twice as good. The question is whether that simple equation adds up for BMW's upgraded 1 and 2 Series siblings – the former, a range of five-door hatches, the latter, a line-up of cabriolets and coupes, with a major addition in the shape of the full-house, performance-focused M2.
Prices are up, and changes are mostly under the skin, so you're not getting big visual bang for your extra bucks. But the new and improved 2 has plenty to offer when it comes to added spec and tech.
BMW invited us to the new car's Australian launch program along Tasmania's wet and wild west coast.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
The BMW 2 Series coupes and convertibles combine understated good looks with great dynamics and top-shelf quality. Extra equipment, especially the iDrive6 multimedia system, has brought it up to speed in terms of tech and value, while the M240i sets the compact performance benchmark. And if you really want to push the envelope, the M2 is right there at the top of the under $100k performance pyramid.
Is BMW's upgraded 2 Series on the compact sports-luxury car pace? 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 biggest visual clue to the revised 2 Series is the circular design bi-LED headlights, now standard on the 2 Series entry 220i, and mid-range 230i models, while hexagonal adaptive LEDs are standard on the top-shelf M240i.
But BMW couldn't leave those little light-emitting diodes alone, with LED front fog lights joining one-piece L-shaped LED tail-lights across the range.
Luxury Line-equipped cars feature a subtly revised nose treatment with larger intakes and a reshaped 'kidney' grille. There are also four new alloy wheel designs – a 17-inch alloy fitted standard to the 220i Luxury Line, and three optional M alloys for M Sport models (all no-cost options on the M240i).
The 230i M Sport features black, high-gloss bars in its kidney grille, as well as a black chrome finish for the exhaust finishers.
On the inside, there's the addition of a 'Black Panel' digital instrument cluster, which remains matt with the ignition off, and lights up with sharp graphics, configurable across conventional speed and rev readouts, as well as gear position, engine-efficiency data, vehicle settings and nav guidance.
There are also high-gloss finishes across the centre stack and front console, and even greater attention to detail around panel joins, trim stitching and switchgear.
But the hero is the latest iDrive6 multimedia system, run through an 8.8-inch colour touchscreen (6.5-inch on 220i), providing access to live content, radio and audio, navigation and maps, phone functionality, and vehicle settings through a simple and customisable app-style interface. The iPhone really as inspired car companies.
The M2 boasts M-specific instrument display content and a go-fast red needle on the tachometer.
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.
Surprisingly, at a little over 4.4 metres long, the 2 Series (Coupe) is around 10cm longer than its 1 Series hatch stablemate (M240i +15cm), but aligns with its just under 1.8m width, and 1.4m height.
It seats four, with plenty of room up front and multiple storage options, including two cupholders in the console with an oddments tray behind, a 12-volt outlet, a lidded storage box between the seats with USB connection, a reasonably sized glove box, and segmented bins in the doors big enough for large water bottles.
While it was coupes only on the launch drive, we know the convertible has a pair of cupholders in the back, but not so in the coupe, and while headroom in the soft-top is okay (especially with the roof down) it's a squeeze in the hardtop.
More a 2+2 than a full four-seater, getting into the rear is an athletic exercise, and once installed, leg and headroom for this 183cm tester is tight. That said, kids up to teenager-size would be fine.
Boot volume is 390 litres (a 3 Series Coupe is 480 litres), with run-flat tyres on the 220i and 230i meaning there's no spare (or repair kit) under the floor, but the performance-focused M240i and M2, pack a 'BMW Mobility Kit' (compressor and tyre sealant to cover minor damage) in line with their high-performance (non-run-flat rubber).
A 60/40 split-folding rear backrest liberates extra load space, and a 'Through Loading System' with luggage compartment dividing net, and 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat is optionally available (220i & M2 Pure - $350 / 230i - $385 / M240i & M2 - $500).
And if you're keen on towing the 220i can pull 680kg of unbraked trailer, and 1500kg braked, with the minimum number stepping up to 715kg for the 230i. The M240i and M2 are no-tow zones.
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 2 Series coupe and convertible line-up ranges across four-cylinder, turbo-petrol models, in 220i Luxury Line, and 230i M Sport grades, with the six-cylinder M240i sitting at the top of the main line-up. Then for the more single-minded enthusiast, there's the hardcore M2; after a year on-sale it's now BMW Australia's best-selling M car (and it's easy to see why; it's fantastic).
Depending on the model, prices have risen by between $1100 and $1900 across the main range, largely because of the extra equipment, especially the tricky iDrive6 multimedia system.
At $52,990 for the coupe and $59,900 for the convertible version, the 220i Luxury Line is the entry-point to the 2 Series range. Equipment highlights include 17-inch light-alloy wheels, the previously mentioned LED headlights and fog lights, 'Driving Assistant' functionality (combines camera-based 'Lane Departure Warning and Approach' and 'Pedestrian Warning with the City Brake Activation'), digital radio, 'Navigation System Business' with 'iDrive6' accessed via a 6.5-inch display, dual-zone climate control air, reversing camera, a leather sports steering wheel, sports front seats, 'Dakota' leather upholstery, plus front and rear parking sensors.
Next rung on the 2 Series ladder is the 230i M Sport in Coupe ($63,000) and Convertible ($73,000) form, which adds M Sport suspension, aero, and brakes, 'Variable Sport Steering', 18-inch alloy rims, high-gloss 'Shadow line' exterior trim, a BMW Individual anthracite roofliner, a leather-wrapped M Sport steering wheel, cloth/Alcantara upholstery in the coupe, 'Dakota' leather and front seat heating in the convertible, electric (front) seat adjustment, plus 'Navigation System Professional' with iDrive6 and a customisable 8.8-inch touchscreen.
Opt for the M240i as a Coupe ($76,800) or Convertible ($85,800), and you're getting more than extra performance from the 3.0-litre turbo six. On top of the lengthy equipment list detailed above, you'll also pick up 18-inch alloys in 'Bicolour Jet Black', 12-speaker, 360W harman/kardon surround sound audio, 'Adaptive M Suspension', 'Adaptive LED Headlights', the Dakota leather trim, and front-seat heating.
As its name implies, the M2 Pure ($93,300) makes spec sacrifices in the name of light weight, including manual seat adjustment and a base (yet, still seven-speaker) audio package, but one of the biggest pay-offs is a standard six-speed manual gearbox. Save the manuals!
It also features 19-inch BMW M light alloy wheels, an M rear spoiler, quad exhaust pipes in high-gloss chrome, bi-LED headlights (with variable light distribution, including cornering lights), 'Dakota' leather upholstery, carbon fibre trim finishers, an M leather multi-function steering wheel, cruise control (with braking function), 'Driving Assistant', 'Rear Park Distance Control', and a reversing camera.
The full-fat M2 Coupe ($99,900) reinstates electric seat adjustment, plugs in the 12-speaker, 360W harman/kardon sound system, and adds 'Comfort access' (keyless entry and start), 'Adaptive LED Headlights' (with variable light distribution), and 'Selective Beam with anti-glare High-Beam Assistant'.
A vast array of individual options and packages covers everything from steering-wheel heating to a smoker's kit (naughty), and (amazingly, given it's standard on the Hyundai Accent) Apple CarPlay (220i & M2 Pure - $436 / 230i - $479 / M240i & M2 - $623).
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.
The 220i is powered by a 2.0-litre 'TwinScroll' turbo-petrol four, featuring 'Valvetronic' variable valve control and 'Double-VANOS' variable camshaft control, and developing 135kW at 5000rpm, and 270Nm between 1350-4600rpm.
Using a retuned version of the same engine (lower compression ratio, more turbo boost), the 230i pumps out a solid 185kW at 5200rpm, and a grunty 350Nm from just 1450-4800rpm.
Then, the M240i is powered by a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, turbo-petrol, pushing out no less than 250kW at 5500rpm, and a thumping 500Nm between 1520-4500rpm.
The full-house M2's 3.0-litre turbo six produces 272kW at 6500rpm, and 465Nm from just 1400-5650rpm (500Nm from 1450-4750rpm on overboost), driving the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch auto, although a six speed-manual is a no-cost option (and standard on the M2 Pure).
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.
Claimed fuel consumption for the 220i Coupe, on the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle, is 5.9L/100km, emitting 135g/km of C02 in the process. The 220i Convertible rates 6.1L/100km (140g/km).
The 230i Coupe is line-ball with that at 5.9L/100km (134g/km), and the the 230i Convertible at 6.2L/100km (142g/km).
The price of performance starts to bite with the M240i consuming 7.1L/100km (163g/km) in coupe form, and 7.4L/100km (169g/km) as a convertible.
Then, as you might expect, the M2 is thirstiest of all, the dual-clutch auto consuming 7.9L/100km (185g/km), while the six-speed manual version slurps 8.5L/100km (199g/km).
Auto start-stop is standard, fuel tank capacity is 52 litres across the board, and although technically these engines can run on anything from 91-98RON unleaded, BMW recommends 95RON premium as a minimum.
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.
Four 2 Series variants were offered for the launch drive program, a 230i Coupe (which BMW nominates as the most popular model in the range), M240i Coupe, M2, and M2 Pure.
Claimed 0-100km/h acceleration of 5.6sec for the 230i M Sport Coupe is quick, with the convertible stopping the clocks three tenths later.
Peak torque of 350Nm is plenty, and with that number available from 1450-4800rpm the mid-spec 2 Series is an entertaining drive.
It's M Sport (strut front, five-link rear) suspension keeps the body well buttoned down in quick going, while the beefier M brakes provide strong and progressive stopping power.
Even a firm squeeze of the throttle can't side-step some hesitation as the turbo spools up before right foot pressure translates into forward momentum, but despite the sporty tune, ride quality is good (even riding on notoriously harsh 18-inch run-flat rubber), while response and road feel from the variable-ratio steering are excellent.
The eight-speed auto is beautifully slick, with manual changes, via wheel-mounted paddles, sharp and positive.
Add the grippy leather sports wheel, snug sports front seats, and racy cloth/Alcantara trim (leather in the convertible), and you have a comfortable, nicely balanced and fun-to-drive package.
Accelerating from 0-100km/h in 4.6sec (convertible 4.7sec), the M240i effortlessly achieves 'genuinely rapid' status. Yes, it's fast, but never furious, in the sense that even under the pressure of enthusiastic peddling it remains civilised and composed.
Maximum torque of 500Nm is not to be sneezed at, and when you realise that mountainous maximum is actually a flat-top plateau stretching from only 1520rpm up to 4500rpm, satisfying urge is never far away. And the flexible 3.0-litre turbo-six is an aural treat as it howls its way towards a 7000rpm rev ceiling.
The standard 'Adaptive M Suspension' offers settings from 'Comfort' through to 'Sport+', but even in the most forgiving mode the car remains taut and communicative.
The 18-inch rims, shod with Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber (225/40 front / 245/35 rear) don't upset the ride as much as you'd expect, although coarse-chip surfaces send rumble through to the cabin.
In terms of ergonomics and general function, the new iDrive6 system is simple and intuitive to use, the current BMW dash and console layout is a model of efficiency, but the two-stage (depress small button on stubby lever, then shift) process to select drive or reverse can be a frustratingly hit-and-miss affair if you need to get going quickly.
Then, the M2 is all business, with a properly focused feel, and the ability to accelerate from 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.5sec for the six-speed manual, and just 4.3sec for the seven-speed dual-clutch. Try not to smile as that g-force shoves you back in your seat. You won't succeed.
Although peak power arrives at a relatively high 6500rpm, maximum torque of 465Nm (500Nm for limited periods on overboost) is ready for action across a broad spread from 1400-5650rpm, so the M2 has adrenalin flowing through its veins at all times.
An electronically controlled 'Active M Differential' manages torque distribution across the rear axle to optimise power down, with the ability to send anywhere from zero to 100 percent of drive to either back wheel.
The 'M Servotronic' steering, switchable through comfort and sport modes, is feelsome and linear in its response, the mega 'M Compound Brake' package (borrowed from big-brother M4) is professional grade, and while the seven-speed dual-clutch may shift faster, snicking up and down the manual's six ratios is a rare pleasure.
Rolling on 19-inch, ultra-high-performance Michelin semi-slick rubber (255/35 front / 275/35 rear) the M2 is never going to waft like a limousine, but if you're signing on for this kind of performance and dynamic ability, some ride harshness over less than perfect surfaces goes with the territory.
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.
There are also 'Approach Control Warning', 'Attentiveness Assistant', and 'Pedestrian warning' systems, plus 'Dynamic braking lights, DSC, ABS, 'Braking Assistant', 'Cornering Brake Control' (CBC), 'Dynamic Traction Control' (DTC), cruise control with braking function, a reversing camera, 'Park Distance Control' (PDC) rear (front and rear on 120i and up), and run-flat safety tyres (including a run-flat indicator) for the 220i and 230i. Tyre pressure monitoring is standard on the M240i and M2.
There are two child restraint top tethers across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchor points in each position.
On the passive safety side, all 2 Series models feature airbags for the front, side and head, as well as 'Intelligent Emergency Call' assistance.
The current BMW 2 Series Coupe/Convertible hasn't been tested by ANCAP or EuroNCAP.
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.
BMW uses 'condition-based' servicing, with the car effectively telling you when it's time to visit the workshop, but the 'BMW Service Inclusive' program offers distance and time options to fix maintenance costs (on a 'Basic' or 'Plus' plan) for up to 10 years/200,00km.
For example, a five year/80,000km service package for the 2 Series costs $1340 for the Basic option (oil service/top-up, annual vehicle check, microfilter, air filter, fuel filter, brake fluid, spark plugs), and $3550 for the Plus pack (adds brake pads and discs, wipers rubbers, and clutch disc and plate).
The standard BMW warranty covers three years/unlimited km.