Alfa Romeo 4C takes on the rivals
Hammond fell in love with it, but can Alfa's new coupe see off a Lotus Exige S and Porsche Cayman S?
Posted: 17 Mar 2014
And so to that Porsche, which is the exact opposite: a neat, industrial rhythm to the Alfa’s turbulent opera. It’s Kraftwerk versus Puccini. The 3.4-litre flat-six is paired to a seven-speed double- clutch PDK and, where the Alfa goes for a flourish of revs with each downshift, the Porsche just snaps them home. You won’t catch it out. It plays a rich, mechanical sound, and the exhaust can be opened or hushed with a button. This car has active suspension, and, in Sport Plus mode, it takes on a more aggressive mood, tensing its dampers and sharpening its response to every input. It does what you ask. It goes where you ask. And it does so willingly. Despite a 20bhp and a 174kg disadvantage, it still has the guts to keep up with the Lotus.
It’s irritatingly hard to criticise the Cayman. It’s just so resolved, so complete. Its weaknesses in this company can be summed up thusly: the electric steering is less feelsome, but you won’t complain when it’s time for a three-point turn. There’s a fraction more understeer, but that’s a deliberate ploy to make it more friendly and less spinnable. And I can’t help feeling it looks a touch frumpy, although that could be a trick of the eye when it’s parked beside the other two. You could probably fix it with a lighter colour and a more delicate wheel design. But none of these matter when it’s home time and you slacken off the dampers for the motorway cruise, while the Alfa driver – already nursing crippled nerves – prepares for the long haul. It’s two cars in one, the Cayman. And that’s its greatest achievement.