Maserati has something cooking in the kitchen and we’re now getting “spy shots” of its new test mule, though the images were released by the manufacturer’s PR department. While we don’t mind automakers showing a little leg, framing corporate marketing materials as covert information is a trend we wouldn’t mind seeing scaled back. It’s not that we don’t want to see vehicles ahead of their official release — it’s just not a terribly effective ruse.
It did, however, whet our appetite. The camouflaged mule represents a major departure from the brand, looking like a cross between Alfa Romeo’s 4C and the Noble M400. In fact, we’re already presuming the model shares plenty of its DNA with Alfa, as that’s been Fiat Chrysler’s modus operandi for a while. Maserati claims the engine (at least) will be totally new and entirely unique to the brand.
Chicago has proven a sleepy show for news for quite some time now.
This year, however, there was a hint of something stirring. While there still wasn’t a wealth of product news, there was more than normal — and most of it didn’t involve minor trim changes (okay, some of it did).
I wandered the halls at massive McCormick Place last week to take in what was a busier show than normal. Starting with Subaru, here’s my “hot takes” about what I saw on the show floor. Just for the hell of it, let’s embrace a grading gimmick.
No, it’s not a Fiat of any size or description — it’s the Alfa Romeo 4C. Specifically, a limited edition of an already scarce product, one that will only see 15 examples sent to the U.S. from the brand’s Modena, Italy factory.
Through this product intro, Fiat Chrysler revealed the 4C will linger on for the 2020 model year. While the 4C Spider Italia, priced five grand above a regular 4C Spider, doesn’t add a whole lot to the plate, it does give us an opportunity to look at Alfa’s sales health.
2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider
1.75-liter DOHC I-4, direct injection, turbocharged, CVVT (237 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 258 lbs-ft @ 2,200-4,250 rpm)
6-speed “Alfa TCT” dual-clutch automatic
24 city/34 highway/28 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
28.1 (Observed, MPG)
Tested Options: Rosso Alfa Red paint, Fascia Stone Protector, HID Headlamps, Carbon Fibre Trim Kit, Convenience Package, Racing Exhaust, Red Calipers, 18/19 Inch Staggered Wheels, Leather Package,
* Prices include $1,595 destination charge.
Up ’til now, if you wanted an Italian, mid-engined, street-legal track roadster made out of exotic materials, you needed to be a one-percenter to afford one. But all that is changing with the relaunch of the “other Italian brand,” Alfa Romeo. For the price of a single black-market organ “donation” you can get your hands on the new 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. Unlike Alfa’s last car sold in America — the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione — the 4C Spider is pronounceable, will be available in quantity, and is ostensibly attainable at $53,900 for the coupé and $63,900 for the rag top that we got our hands on.
Like the hardtop 4C, this exotic isn’t an enormous bruiser that’s as wide as Kansas, and it doesn’t have a V12. Instead Alfa opted for a small four-cylinder turbocharged engine and a serious dedication to lightweight construction. In some ways you might call this the Italian Lotus. Until we see the 2017 Alfa Romeo Guilia, FCA’s 3-Series fighter, the 4C and 4C Spider are spearheading the brand’s American reboot.
Is that good or bad?
Another day, another turnaround strategy from Sergio Marchionne. The plan, which won’t be revealed until April, reportedly includes a rear-wheel drive architecture as a key element, with enough flexibility to be used in everything from Alfa to Dodge vehicles.
When it was first introduced, what we know today as the Ferrari Dino was a bit of a conundrum. Simultaneously a tribute to Alfredo “Dino” Ferrari, Enzo Ferrari’s beloved deceased son, the first roadgoing midengine car from Ferrari, and an attempt to amortize costs between Ferrari and Fiat, which had bought the sports car maker in 1969, the Dino was also the first non-V12 powered car made by Ferrari and in fact it was not originally sold as a Ferrari. Dino was supposed to be a new marque for six and eight cylinder cars from the company, at a lower price point than Ferrari branded cars. That idea went away after the Dino 308 models, but the notion that the Dino was not quite a Ferrari sort of stuck to the car when it first came out. That the Dino had a DOHC V6 engine, designed by Ferrari to compete in Formula 2 but originally built in a Fiat factory to homologate it and shared with the Fiat Dino, a completely different car with, confusingly, the same name, didn’t help matters. Dinos from Ferrari weren’t cheap, about $13,000-$14,000 when new four decades ago, thousands more than a Porsche 911, and if my memory serves me well, they languished on the dealer lots and then stagnated in price once out of production. In the late 1970s, I’m pretty sure you could get them for used car money. At least at first.
Today Dinos are welcome at any Ferrari meet and it could cost you the price of a new Ferrari California to buy a 1973 Dino 246. Hagerty Insurance’s price guide says that the average price of a 40 year old Dino 246 is $172,000.
I’m not here to talk about the Ferrari Dino, though.
When a short news blog item based on a couple of tweets from a Road & Track writer attending the press launch of the Alfa Romeo 4C gets over 150 comments before the end of the working day, it’s quite clear that there’s some interest in the car among our readers. Chris Harris was also at the launch of the 4C and you can watch him get giddy with it in the video above.
We all knew that the Alfa Romeo 4C was going to be light, but the recently announced [s]curb[/s] (looks like it’s the dry weight) weight of 1969 lbs is unprecedentedly svelte in this era. That’s the same weight as a Lotus Elise or a Volkswagen Up! That 237 horsepower turbo 4-cylinder doesn’t seem so puny anymore, does it?
A shocking report from Automotive News has broached a previously unfathomable development; Alfa Romeo’s U.S. launch is apparently delayed, catching countless observers off-guard, after expecting an efficient, trouble-free re-introduction for the historic marque.