Monday, August 11, 2014

Alfa Romeo 4C Concept: More Mid-Engine Ugliness

The Alfa Romeo 4C concept car and the production version are very similar in appearance.  I located a better set of photos for the concept car, so that's the one I'll treat in this post.

There is something about the mid-engine layout that makes styling difficult.  Back in the early 1970s I owned a Porsche 914, as I mentioned here.  Although I enjoyed driving it (aside from an unwilling gearshift lever), its styling was awkward.

The mid-engine location, behind the seating and usually in front of the rear axle-line, makes for poor space utilization.  The 914 had no rear seat, not even a small behind-the-seat shelf for carrying grocery bags or other incidentals.  The spare tire took up much of the front, though there was a small trunk space above it.  At the rear, there was another small trunk space, but it also was where the top had to be stored when it was removed.  A rear-engine car (think Porsche 911) usually has some behind-the-seat space, but no rear trunk, so its layout is little, if any, better.  Front-mounted engines make for the best space utilization.

But if the capability of carrying things beside a driver and passenger is considered much less important than a car's handling characteristics, then a mid-engine layout makes some sense, though another price it pays is in the styling.  The problem here is that a sort of dead-zone is created between the back edge of the doors and the rear axle line.  Giugiaro dealt with this elegantly on his 914-based Tapiro that I wrote about here.  Alfa's styling staff wasn't as successful with the 4C.


The front of the 4C is typically Alfa in that it is clean looking and has the traditional three-element grille.

The side air scoop, large rear fender and lack of side windows to the rear of the door create a heavy shape where it isn't really needed.  The character line that merges into that air intake is heavy-handed, adding to the appearance of bulk.

This side view also indicates the rear visual bulkiness.

And a reason for that appears to have to do with a small trunk at the rear.  That practical consideration could have been finessed by a different treatment of the rear-end massing.

All my quibbles aside, many potential 4C buyers will be attracted more by its high-technology engineering and resulting performance than how the car looks.

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