Audi TT and TTS 2014 Review
Craig Duff road tests and reviews the new Audi TT and TTS at their international launch.
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Alfa Romeo's 4C "distilled supercar" ushers in a new era for the iconic Italian company, finally giving it a hero car to crow about.
The brand has built some cracking good cars in the past and some real barkers that have dragged down its name. Thankfully for the legions of devoted Alfisti (Alfa lovers), the 4C falls in the former category. It's a low-slung, strikingly styled carbon-fibre missile with a distinct Lotus flavour to the way it corners, goes and even looks.
As with everything from Lotus, the 4C is not an everyday driver yet has a degree of civility about it that makes it easy to pilot.
At a starting price of $89,000 for the "standard" model and $109,000 for the launch Limited Edition with bigger wheels and extra kit, the 4C has a potent engine and an automated six-speed dual-clutch transmission with sport and race modes as well as launch control.
As with everything from Lotus, the 4C is not an everyday driver yet has a degree of civility about it that makes it easy to pilot. Access is relatively easy, the creature comforts enhance driving time but there is still the raw, "real" sports coupe edge sought by enthusiasts.
We're talking about the sound and feel of the engine, the steering wheel in your hands, the firm ride, strong brakes and aggressive driving position. It has driver engagement
coming out its ears.
Alfa makes the usual claims you get for such cars — race bred, transfer of technology to road cars, rich racing history — but the fact remains that the 4C gets a lot of its underpinnings from mainstream Alfa passenger cars. The mid-mounted engine is a direct lift from the new Giulietta for example, driving the rear rather than front wheels.
To minimise mass — the 4C tips the scales at a svelte 1025kg — the carbon-fibre monocoque chassis has aluminium subframes carrying the suspension, engine and other parts. This light weight, when combined with the healthy 177kW/350Nm engine output, means the 4C is a decidedly quick car. Use launch control and you are talking a 4.5-second 0-100kmh pass.
Weight distribution is 40-60 front to rear, enhancing handling and responses. The compact package still has adequate room inside for two, albeit positioned fairly close together.
The four-cylinder turbo of 1750cc capacity is fitted with a when accelerating and snap-crackle-pop off the throttle. An electronic differential helps handling and traction out of corners and the drive modes, activated by a switch on the centre console, are Dynamic, Natural and All Weather as well as race and auto modes.
The 4C has to be one of the most striking cars around — it resembles a smaller version of the Ferrari 458 perhaps but is just as attractive. The 4C has a really low frontal area with a new and appealing rendition of the Alfa face and shield grille, deeply sculpted side lines in the composite body panels and pumped-out muscular haunches underlining its rear-wheel drive and mid-mounted engine. The rear is abrupt and punctuated by a pair of round tail-lights and wide-spaced dual exhaust tips. Sex on wheels? You bet.
Here's where it gets interesting and the comparison with Lotus cars comes more into focus because the 4C is possibly a better drive up to about 7/10ths but after that, the front starts pushing and it runs out of puff at about 6000rpm. There is plenty of kick in the mid range, make no mistake, but a car like this needs to sing sweetly to about 8000rpm in our opinion.
We found the steering a tad fidgety, meaning you had to be "on it" all the time to keep the 4C tracking straight. But you'd become accustomed to the lightning fast steering responses and they would be an asset. Brakes are sublime and the grip likewise. Hook around corners at speed and the car stays flat and poised. It sounds good too, although it drones at some revs.
The Limited Edition launch cars had extra goodies including firmer race suspension, which means a jiggly ride on rough roads but better "track" handling. It also gets bigger wheels, a sports exhaust, more carbon inlays and sports seats.
|Targa||1.7L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO||$62,480 – 71,830||2015 Alfa Romeo 4C 2015 Targa Pricing and Specs|
|(base)||1.7L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO||$56,210 – 64,570||2015 Alfa Romeo 4C 2015 (base) Pricing and Specs|
|Launch Edition||1.7L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO||$68,860 – 79,090||2015 Alfa Romeo 4C 2015 Launch Edition Pricing and Specs|
“Alfa fans have waited a long time for this one but it lives up to expectations. It's not for everyone and would be a grind everyday. On the track or as a weekend toy, there isn't anything that looks so good and drives like this for the money.”