Exactly two years after revealing its 4C Coupe, Alfa Romeo had another surprise for the Geneva Motor Show, rolling out a canvas-topped version of the little sports car, while also giving more hope to frustrated American buyers still waiting for the 4C to make its jump across the Atlantic.
Like the hardtop version, the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider uses a stiff and lightweight carbon fiber tub, a rarity for even today’s much-more expensive supercars. And the new rollover bars, spoilers and windshield frame of the show car also are made of the exotic material – along with various cockpit bits. That helps keep the weight of the convertible to just 132 pounds more than the Coupe, Alfa revealed.
The distinctive, centrally mounted twin exhaust pipes, meanwhile, are produced from a carbon/titanium blend and supplied by exhaust specialist Akrapovic, better known for its work with the motorcycle industry. The goal was to give the 4C a loud bark, though the Geneva concept vehicle also allows a motorist to lower the volume with the touch of a button.
The Spider is powered by a 1.75-liter turbocharged inline-four paired with a 6-speed double-clutch gearbox, the same powertrain found in the hardtop, here said to be able to launch from 0 to 100kmh, or 62.5 mph, in just 4.5 seconds. The top speed, according to Alfa CEO Haral Wester, is “in excess of 155 mph.”
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For the moment, the maker is calling the 4C Spider a “design preview,” but it’s expected to go into production with only modest changes next year. Which should once again whet the appetite of North American Alfisti who have been hungering for the sports car since the 4C Coupe’s original debut.
The maker’s parent, the newly merged Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, or FCA, has been postponing import plans repeatedly, CEO Sergio Marchionne cautioning that he did not want to revive the Alfa brand in the States if its new product – or products – weren’t absolutely right.
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Among other things, he wanted to make sure that the 4C, the likely first candidate for a U.S. Alfa showroom, had precisely the right powertrain package. That appears to be in place, but there are a variety of other details still being worked out.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Alfa fans have had to practice Zen-like patience. Despite a few false starts, the brand has been promising an eventual revival for two decades. But is it finally ready to return? Apparently, yes.
“We’ll be back, fully-fledged, as a brand in the U.S. in 2015,” Marchionne said during a meeting with reporters in Geneva. The brand needed to first “rethink” its strategy and ensure that when it does arrive in the States it will “become relevant again.” The good news, he added, is “When you look at the 4C you realize what Alfa is capable of doing.”
Critical for the Alfa brand, Marchionne has oft said, is emphasizing its Italian heritage. In fact, when asked if the maker might consider building an Alfa model in, for example, Poland, the Italian-born, Canadian-raised CEO immediately ruled it out.
“I will no longer be CEO of this house when Alfa looks at production sites outside Italy,” Marchionne said. But he did have to backtrack a little when he was reminded of the joint venture Alfa has underway with Japan’s Mazda to build a new line of sports cars. Affirming that the project is still a go, Marchionne said that might be the one exception to the Italian-only rule.