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
- Blistering performance
- Dynamic prowess
- Attention-grabbing looks
- Spartan equipment list
- Very pricey
- Rubber pedals
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|
When BMW’s M2 first landed on Australian shores in 2016, one of the biggest criticisms levelled at it was a lack of grunt, which must have hurt its feelings.
With 272kW and 465Nm from the 3.0-litre single-turbo ‘N55’ six-cylinder engine, it was hardly tame, but the question it raised was whether it was special enough to be christened a full-fat M car? And the answer from enthusiasts was "perhaps not".
Fast forward to 2018 and BMW had rectified that criticism with the M2 Competition, powered by a 3.0-litre twin-turbo ‘S55’ engine from the M3 and M4 to punch out a more exciting and appropriate 302kW/550Nm.
For anyone crazed enough to think that was still not enough, the M2 CS is now available in showrooms, and turns the wick up to 331kW and 550Nm, thanks to some tweaks to the engine. It's now available with a six-speed manual gearbox, too. That sound you hear is purists rejoicing.
So, does this now make the 2021 M2 CS the ultimate BMW for the enthusiast driver?
|Engine Type||3.0L 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.
As the ultimate form of the current M2, the CS distils the best aspects of what everyone loves about BMW into one tidy little package.
The driving experience is nothing short of divine, even if the manual gearbox shifts could be better, while the firecracker engine kicks things up to a whole new level.
If only BMW offered more equipment and safety to round out the $140,000 pricetag, or maybe they should have leaned harder into the lightweight aspect and ditched the rear seats to make the M2 CS even more special.
At the end of the day though, the M2 CS is still an unbelievably appealing driver’s car, and I can’t wait to see what BMW has in store for the next one.
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.
We’re already big fans of the way the M2 looks, it’s just the right size and has the perfect proportions for a sporty coupe, and the CS just takes things to another level.
From the outside, the M2 CS scores a noticeably bigger bonnet bulge, as well as a vented hood to improve airflow.
The front splitter, side mirrors, skirts, bootlid spoiler and rear diffuser are also finished in carbon, and add to the car’s aggressive demeanour.
Filling the wheelarches are 19-inch wheels finished in black, but tucked behind those are massive drilled brake rotors and large calipers painted in red.
To call the M2 CS exterior design sporty would be an understatement, but we do have to point out that the Alpine White of our test car did look a little boring, despite the extra bling.
If we were buying one? We’d option the stunning Misano Blue hero colour with gold-coloured wheels to really turn heads around town and at the racetrack, although they will add another $1700 and $1000 respectively to the already dizzying price.
Inside, the M2 CS is let down a little by a spartan interior, which looks like it’s been lifted from the cheapest 2 Series coupe, due to the lack of climate-control screen.
However, BMW does try its best to spice things up with very tight-fitting bucket seats, an Alcantara steering wheel, CS-branded dashboard and that carbon-fibre transmission tunnel.
It’s definitely a case of function over form , but the lack of interior flare means you focus more on the road ahead than anything else, which is no bad thing when you have 331kW and 550Nm being sent to the rear wheels.
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.
Measuring 4461mm long, 1871mm wide, 1414mm tall and with a 2698mm wheelbase, and just two doors, the M2 CS isn’t exactly the last word in practicality.
Of course, front passengers are afforded plenty of space, and the electronically adjustable bucket seats allow you to get into the right position to row through the gears and eat up the road.
Storage is limited, however, with average-sized door bins, two cupholders, a small wallet/phone tray, and that’s it.
BMW is generous enough to include a single USB port to charge your device, but its location, where the armrest should be, means you’ll have to get creative with cable management to make it really work if you want to keep your phone in the tray under the climate controls.
Predictably, the two rear seats are less than ideal for anyone tall, but there is plenty of leg and shoulder-room.
A small centre-storage tray is fitted back there, as well as Isofix points for the seats, but there isn’t a whole lot to keep rear occupants entertained. They'll probably be too frightened to care.
Opening the boot reveals a small aperture that will swallow 390 litres, and is shaped in such a way that a set of golf clubs or some overnight bags will fit in nicely.
There are some luggage tie-down points and netting to keep your belongings from rolling around, and the rear seats fold down to accommodate longer items.
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.
Pricing for the 2021 BMW M2 CS starts at $139,900 before on-road costs for the six-speed manual, with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic bumping up to $147,400.
Let’s not mince words here, the BMW M2 CS is not cheap.
Compared to the M2 Competition , the CS adds about $37,000 to the bottom line – the equivalent of a well-specced small SUV – and sits perilously close to the new-generation M3 and M4 ($144,900 and $149,900 respectively).
For the price , buyers are getting exclusivity, with just 86 examples available in Australia out of a total global production run of 2220 units.
The engine is also tuned for a higher power output, but more on that below.
Standard equipment in the M2 CS also eschews luxury for sportiness, with carbon-fibre exterior highlights, a new exhaust, lightweight 19-inch wheels and Alcantara steering wheel.
The front seats are borrowed from the M4 CS, and trimmed in Alcantara and leather, but that’s about all you get for equipment.
The multimedia system shares the same dimensions as the rest of the M2 line-up, measuring 8.8 inches and including satellite navigation, digital radio and Apple CarPlay (no love for Android owners, sorry).
The climate controls do differ slightly, with the slender screen replaced with basic buttons and knobs.
Seat heating? Nope. Rear air vents? Sorry. How about keyless entry? Not here.
Also noticeably absent is a wireless smartphone charger, and centre armrest, as the usual transmission tunnel has been swapped out for a carbon-fibre piece.
To be fair, you do get a premium Harman Kardon sound system, push-button start and single USB port, so at least BMW does offer a way to charge your phone on the go.
Perhaps most egregious of all though – at least to me – were the rubber pedals fitted to our manual test car.
For $140,00 you’d expect a bit more in terms of convenience features, and before you make the argument that ‘it’s all about saving weight’, don’t bother, because the M2 CS and M2 Competition both tip the scales at an identical 1550kg.
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.
Powering the BMW M2 CS is a 3.0-litre twin-turbo ‘S55’ six-cylinder engine, developing 331kW/550Nm.
With drive sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the M2 CS can accelerate from zero to 100km/h in 4.2 or 4.0 seconds respectively.
Peak power is available at a heady 6250rpm, while maximum torque comes on stream from 2350-5500rpm.
The M2 CS actually put out as much grunt as the outgoing M3/M4 Competition, because it uses the same engine, and to say the amount of performance on tap is explosive would be to talk up explosions. This is a serious amount of bang for your buck.
The M2 CS easily outclasses the likes of the 280kW/460Nm Jaguar F-Type V6, 306kW/410Nm Lotus Evora GT410 and 294kW/420Nm Porsche Cayman GTS 4.0.
I do have to draw attention to the manual gearbox of our test car, though, which was great, but not excellent.
With such engaging shifters fitted to the Honda Civic Type R, Toyota 86 and Mazda MX-5, I expected rowing through the gears would be nirvana, but it was merely OK.
The throws are a little too long for my liking, and it takes just a bit too much effort to slot it into the right ratio. Still, we should all be glad to see a manual offered here, and I'm betting it is still a better option for purists than the auto.
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.
Official fuel-consumption figures for the M2 CS are pegged at 10.3 litres per 100km, while our week with the car yielded a more realistic figure of 11.8L/100km.
Engine start/stop technology is included to keep fuel consumption down, but our week with the car was spent mainly in Melbourne’s inner-city streets, with three trips out of town looking for some winding country roads.
No doubt if we were more restrained with our throttle application, we could have kept that fuel consumption figure down, but a sub-12L/100km result is still great for a performance car.
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.
Let me be clear; driving the M2 CS is a simply sublime experience.
The M2 was always close to the top of the best modern M cars, and the CS simply cements its position as the king.
Step inside and the bucket seats and Alcantara steering wheel make sure you know you are in something special.
Push the red starter button and the engine comes to life, with a racy growl from the new exhaust system that immediately brings a smile to your face.
Out on the open road, the adaptive dampers fitted to the M2 CS do a good job at soaking up bumps and road imperfections, but don’t expect it to suddenly become a comfortable and cosseting cruiser.
The ride is firm in all settings, but dial it up to ‘Sport Plus’ and comfort really takes a hit, especially on the uneven inner-city roads of Melbourne, with its criss-crossing tram tracks.
Escape the unkempt roads of the city for the smooth blacktop of the country, though, and the M2 CS really flexes its handling prowess.
The Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres fitted as standard also help in this regard, and while the rear end will step out with 331kW pushed through them, if you want to stick to the racing line and clip that apex, the M2 CS is a more than willing participant.
The suspension isn’t the only thing that can be changed, however, with steering and engine adjustments also available.
We found the best setting to be maximum-attack mode for the engine and suspension, while keeping the steering in its lightest setting, and even with the steering weight turned way down, the feedback and feel from the road is enough to communicate exactly what the M2 CS wants to do.
BMW has definitely nailed the feel of the M2 CS, which almost eggs you on to go faster and faster.
When things get a bit too furious, it is also comforting to know that the massive 400mm front discs and 380mm rear discs with six- and four-piston callipers respectively are more than up to the task of scrubbing speed.
I only wish I could have explored the capabilities of the M2 CS in the more controlled environment of a racetrack, because out on the open road, the M2 CS definitely still feels like it has so much more to give. And everything about this car just screams Race Track Time. Loudly.
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.
The BMW M2 CS has not been tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP and as such does not have a crash rating.
The car it is based on, the 2 Series, is also unrated, although the M2 CS differs wildly from the rest of the small coupe range.
Safety systems include front and rear parking sensors, automatic headlights, a reversing camera and cruise control.
Sure, the M2 CS is a track-focused special, but its also lacking some crucial safety features you’d expect out of any new car, and particularly one at this price point.
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.
Like all new BMWs, the M2 CS comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which falls short of Mercedes’ benchmark five-year/unlimited-kilometre offering.
Scheduled service intervals are every 12 months or 16,000 kilometres, whichever comes first.
Buyers can opt for a ‘Basic’ or ‘Plus’ service plan that covers the car’s first five years, priced at $2995 and $8805 respectively.
The ‘Basic’ plan covers oil changes, air filters, brake fluids and spark plugs, while the ‘Plus’ service adds replacement brake pads and discs, wiper blades and clutch.
With an annual cost of $599 or $1761 for maintenance, the M2 CS is actually pretty affordable to service.