SUVs are the ones that help manufacturers pay huge bills these days. But there is one group of people who are not particularly interested in oversized, useless offroad cars. Perhaps you’ve guessed it right – I am talking about motoring enthusiasts.
Car manufacturers have always been well aware that enthusiasts’ humility can help sell hundreds of thousands of certain manufacturers’ creations. It sounds a bit weird but just think about it.
People, who don’t give a damn about cars, often seek car buying advice. Who do they go to? Enthusiasts, of course! Enthusiasts adore driving. They love ultimate pieces of machinery and like to chat about cars for endless hours while others get bored by that after a few sentences. However, most manufacturers know it’s not easy to please a vast motoring enthusiast base.
You can’t really build cars that are desired by a massive audience, but just only that. The problem is that people who love cars don’t necessarily buy them. And it’s a huge pain in the butt for manufacturers.
An excellent classic case is the Toyota GT86. Enthusiast community begged manufacturers to create a simple coupe with front-engine and rear-wheel-drive layout for years. Guys at Toyota were brave enough to do that, but what did they get? It is just a river of cries, complaints regarding the straight-line performance of the GT86, and perhaps a bottomless money pit. Well, at least, the latter is well-covered by boring hybrids.
History shows us that if manufacturers start listening to the most vocal crowd, they’re going to get kicked in the head. And for this very reason, I admire Alfa Romeo’s creation – the gorgeous 4C. Beautifully styled and crafted, compact proportions mid-engine sports car, which was different in every way. It was like that back then and still is now.
I am not going to prove that it is an engineering marvel, though. It wasn’t, but let’s not get carried away by that. This lovely sports car had a very expensive carbon tub. Why and what for, you wonder? It seems that Alfa Romeo wanted to achieve the most negligible weight possible.
Also, they decided that this car needs an unassisted steering rack, just a few comfort-oriented commodities, and an engine transmission setup from an uninspiring hatchback. Oh, and they ditched the manual gearbox option, as well. It all sounded like a recipe of a tiny supercar.
If you were a Porsche CEO, every parameter I mentioned before would likely raise a red flag, but it seems that didn’t upset Alfa Romeo engineers. In my mind, they wanted to create a raw and unfiltered experience for drivers.
The target group was spiritual drivers – not some sort of show-offers or wannabees, usually found behind the latest Porsche 911 Turbos or Ferraris steering wheels. All you need to do is push the right buttons, and these fancy supercars do everything for you. How boring is that?
Alfa Romeo desired to create something more than just another boring sports car that you’ll probably take on your dull daily commute. Italians wanted to make a halo car, which would make you feel special every time you fall into that exotic carbon tub.
But that didn’t make an impression for motoring journalists. They hated the low-rent interior; they hated how noisy the 4C was at motorway speeds. They hated the overboosted engine, and the suspension was too stiff, according to their likes.
Do you spot the problem here? Every one of them wanted a Porsche Cayman, but with the looks of Alfa Romeo. It was a completely opposite experience with a fancy Italian tuxedo. From my perspective, this beautiful mini-supercar is a classic case of a misunderstood product presented in the wrong way by everyone, even by the manufacturer.
I agree that some ideas proposed with the Alfa Romeo 4C were a bit odd. Still, from the moment it appeared, the 4C was criticized for things it can’t do. People tried to put it on par with Porsche Cayman, but nobody was brave enough to say that it’s not even a rival for it. They simply couldn’t forget technical similarities.
It was just a very different animal. A raw and uncompromised proposition that required driving skills in the age of motoring, where quick cars make useless drivers feel like driving gods.
Perfect example of machinery. Or a blast from the past. These were the best cars: raw, uncompromised and lightweight. Looks the part, too!
- Good bits: Carbon fiber chassis, gorgeous looks, mid-engine layout. Every bit unique - perhaps, a unicorn of its time.
- Room for improvement: It's a shame they didn't offer it with a manual 'box. Engine noise is also muted by the turbocharger.