The Alfa Romeo model lineup has been looking rather Spartan of late with only two vehicles still officially in production but that is all about to change with the official arrival of the 4C, a vehicle that the Italian firm clearly thinks will give the best of the rest a real run for their money.
A compact supercar for the serious yet environmentally conscious driver, the 4C has spent most of 2013 making jaw-dropping appearances at motor shows from Detroit to Frankfurt via New York and Geneva. And while Alfa has been quick to talk about the car's styling, construction and beauty, certain figures and statistics have been a little more difficult to come by, such as acceleration, top speed, availability and, of course, price.
Despite only having a 1.7-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine, thanks to its prodigious use of carbon fiber and weight-saving Formula One-derived composite materials in its construction process, the car is capable of going from 0-62mph (100km/h) in 4.5 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 160mph (258km/h).
However, it's in areas of horsepower and torque where the car really impresses, setting new benchmarks in each for such a small engine -- 240bhp at 6,000 rpm (that works out to 137hp per liter and a power-to-weight ratio of 268bhp per tonne) and 350Nm or 258 lb ft of torque, which Alfa claims is available across the rev band so that power is always on tap. Most impressively, it manages all of this while returning 41.5mpg (6.8 liters per 100km) and CO2 emissions of just 157g/km.
Then thanks to a combination of new brakes, McPherson suspension arrangement, a paddle-shift gearbox, good weight distribution and the fact that the 4C is only 2 meters wide and less than 4 meters long, it is going to be nimble enough to pilot around city streets and car parks as well as racetracks.
Alfa Romeo purists will be happy that the car's design has clearly been influenced by that of the company's former milestone models, and that the 4C has a mid-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive. But they may also shed a tear that the fizzing V6 and V8 engines that gave the company and its cars their spark and personality are absent from the new flagship.
However, times change and Alfa is not alone in looking to smaller turbocharged engines to offer performance without impacting on the environment or on fuel reserves. Alfa fans can also take heart in the fact that this car is going to be a strictly limited edition.
Only 3,500 examples (1000 a year) are destined to be built, with the first examples earmarked for delivery at the start of 2014. And the price? When the order book officially opens in October, European customers can expect to pay £45,000 (€55,000) for one of the 1000 that are destined for the continent, a price tag that puts it head to head with the Porsche Boxster, Mercedes SLK, BMW Z4 and a top-spec Audi TT.
US customers will have to wait until November and the car's appearance at the LA Motor Show to find out if the US version will have any special extras and how much they will cost.
Alfa has also recently announced that the 4C will be joined by a convertible counterpart and that the spider edition will developed in partnership with Mazda.