The Alfa Romeo 4C is just around the corner and Alfa’s great red hope has a lot riding on it. Described as a ‘pure driving machine’, it will serve not simply as a car in its own right, but also as a halo product — a piece of engineering that represents Alfa Romeo at its very best.
If it’s good it will attract countless buyers to the Italian marque. But if it’s bad, it could have the reverse effect and push people away in droves. One important measure of success is how the 4C compares to the competition, a very good example of which is the Porsche Boxster S. We won’t know how the 4C compares definitively until we take one for a drive closer to its release date in early 2014, but we know enough about it to make an educated assessment, so here goes. Alfa Romeo 4C vs Porsche Boxster S: FIGHT!
4C vs Boxster S: Design
Choosing a favourite between the Alfa 4C and Porsche Boxster S is like choosing which of your children is the most beautiful. If we were ever fortunate enough to have them both in the same garage at once, we imagine it’d take a fair few coin tosses before we decided which one we’d take for a spin. Best of three, then five, then seven probably.
The Alfa 4C probably makes the biggest aesthetic impact by virtue of the fact it’s the new kid on the block, and few people will have seen one in the flesh. It’s incredibly beautiful in just about every department, particularly when viewed from the rear and in profile. The front is gorgeous, too, but we can’t say we’re huge fans of those insect-eyed, carbon fibre-clad headlights.
There’s no denying the Boxster S is beautiful. Sure, it’s been around a while, and yes it’s the Porsche you buy if you can’t afford a 911, but it’s a stunner when viewed on its own merits. Plus it’s a convertible, and not much beats the feeling of dropping the top and going for a cruise on a warm summer’s evening. Hell, it’s fun in winter, too, if you’re willing to crank up the heating.
Design Winner: It’s a close one but the 4C just about sneaks it, mostly because the Boxster S is such a common sight. Just try to avoid direct eye contact with the 4C’s headlights and you’re laughing.
4C vs Boxster: Performance
The most crucial battle of all – these are performance cars after all. The Porsche Boxster has the performance edge, on paper at least. It uses a comparatively huge mid-mounted 3.4-litre six cylinder engine that produces a whopping 315hp at 6,700rpm. The Alfa Romeo 4C, in contrast, uses a tiny 1,750cc four cylinder turbocharged engine that manages just 240hp at 6,000rpm.
Both cars are evenly matched for Torque, with 360Nm for the German and 350Nm for the Italian, though the turbocharged 4C has access to all its grunt between 2,100rpm and 4,000rpm. You’ll have to work the Boxster S harder – it’s peak torque isn’t accessible until you’ve blasted past 4,500rpm, petering out at 5,800rpm.
The Porsche Boxster’s power advantage is almost meaningless however, because it’s far heavier than the 4C. The Porsche tips the scales at 1,320kg, while the 4C weighs a positively anorexic 985kg – a 425kg difference. Unsurprisingly then, the 4C leaves it for dead in a straight line. It’ll complete 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds to the Boxster S’ 5.1. The Boxster S will almost certainly claw back some of that deficit over longer sprints, and its top speed of 173mph is more impressive than the 4C’s 160mph terminal velocity, but if traffic light bragging right are your thing, there is only one winner.
The real question is which of these two has the edge on twisty circuits. Until we drive them back your guess is as good as ours. But we’re inclined to side with the 4C, its lower weight, more accessible torque and faster acceleration possibly gives it the edge.
Performance winner: The Alfa Romeo 4C looks like it might have the edge, although the proof will be in the pudding.
4C vs Boxster S: Economy & Environment
The Porsche Boxster S offers decent economy. Its engine sucks petrol at a rate of 32.1mpg while spewing 206g of CO2 per kilometre, which isn’t bad, but those numbers are horrendous compared to the 4C’s; Alfa’s baby will do 41.5mpg with 157g/km.
Economy & Environment winner: Alfa Romeo 4C – by a landslide.
4C vs Boxster S: Price
The Alfa Romeo 4C and Porsche Boxster S are very evenly matched where headline price are concerned. The Alfa will set you back £45,000, while the Boxster S retails or £46,112. It’s incredibly difficult for us to say which of the pair will offer the best value, as Alfa Romeo has yet to release a list of what standard equipment it will provide. With that in mind, we’ll have to reserve judgement, although we should bear in mind the fact Alfa, by its own admission, says the 4C will have a ‘minimalistic, drive-focussed cabin’ and its obsession with weight saving means it’s unlikely to be kitted out with too much in the way of optional extras.
Porsche, however, will flog you a Boxster S that’s bogged down with enough optional kit to sink the titanic. Sat-nav with traffic flow sensors, a Bose surround sound system, a six-CD auto changer, an automatic headlight cleaning system – you name it, they’ll sell it to you. Oh, and did we mention the Boxster S is a drop top? Normally top down motoring is worth a fair bit of extra cash.
Price winner: We’ll call this one a draw until final 4C specs are released, but we suspect the Boxster S, with its convertible roof will offer the best value for money.
The Alfa Romeo 4C isn’t out yet but on paper it’s looking like an absolutely phenomenal little sports car – even against such esteemed competition as the Boxster S. Porsche’s offering will probably be better equipped, more comfortable, more customisable and more enjoyable to drive on a day to day basis. However the 4C looks as if it’ll have the edge everywhere else. It’s lighter, looks as if it’ll more more agile, and it’ll make the Boxster S seem like it’s standing still at traffic light grands prix. We will, of course, reserve final judgement until the 4C is released and we get to drive both cars back to back, but so far the omens are positive for the newcomer.
Winner: Alfa Romeo 4C