Alfa Romeo's return to the United States (again), this time with a mid-engined, rear-drive, two-seat sports car. Less than 13 feet long and shorter than a Lotus Evora, this half-pint successor to the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione has a carbon-fiber tub with front and rear aluminum substructures to facilitate collision repair. Alfa's claimed curb weight of less than 2200 pounds should give it a thrilling thrust-to-weight ratio.
WHY IT MATTERS: It's a low-volume, high-style declaration that Alfas are more than just rebadged Fiats. The 4C will become the second modern Alfa (after the hyper-exotic 8C) that doesn't share a platform with other Fiats. There were 500 copies each of the gorgeous $250,000 8C Competizione and $300,000 Spider, but Alfa will make as many as 2500 4Cs a year. Five-hundred Launch Editions will lead the charge in the U.S.
PLATFORM: Developed by Dallara Automobili in Italy, the 4C platform may be unique, but it will draw some hardware from the Alfa Giulietta/Dodge Dart platform, including brake and steering components. Dallara also engineered the chassis for the KTM X-Bow, and rumor has it that there are commonalities. Both, for example, have wheelbases in the 94-to-96-inch range.
POWERTRAIN: A new 1.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with an aluminum block and head generates 240 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque; a future higher-performance 4C could get as much as 270 horsepower. Regardless, the only transmission option is the six-speed dual-clutch automatic from the Giulietta.
COMPETITION: Audi TTS, Chevrolet Corvette, Lotus Evora, Porsche Cayman.
WHAT MIGHT GO WRONG: The cost of carbon fiber hasn't dropped as rapidly as Alfa hoped, so it can't price the 4C below $60,000. Costwise, it will go up against a loaded Porsche Cayman or even a low-end 911 Carrera, rather than the entry-level Boxster that was its original target. So you see the problem.
ESTIMATED ARRIVAL AND PRICE: Production starts this May at Maserati's Modena, Italy, plant. The first Alfa 4Cs will be sent to the U.S. market with an estimated $86,000 sticker.