2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray vs. 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C: Performance Test
September 8, 2014
Our long term 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray enjoyed an extended moment in the sun as the New Hotness. For years, it was all anyone talked about. C7 this. Stingray that. It was madness. And then it got released, blew everyone's expectations out of the water and stopped grabbing the headlines.
Taking its place in the spotlight is the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. It's Italian. Small and light with half the cylinders, 1/10th the expected production volume (Alfa's building 3,500 4Cs total, Chevy sold 37,000 Corvettes this year) of the Corvette at about the same price.
The first version you'll be able to buy is the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition, which starts at $71,495. This particular 4C isn't a Launch Edition, but is equipped similarly and will be what you can buy when the Launch Edition sells out. As equipped, our long-term 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray costs $65,180. The Corvette has 460 horsepower. The Alfa's got 237. The Corvette has a manual; the Alfa's got a dual-clutch automatic. And the Alfa is nearly 1,000 pounds lighter.
The Corvette's got the edge in price, ride comfort, equipment, usability, burnouts, features, ingress and looks. But does it have an advantage on the track where these cars belong?
|2014 Chevy Corvette||2015 Alfa Romeo 4C|
|0-60 w/rollout (sec)||4.0||4.1|
|1/4-mile (sec @ mph)||12.2 @ 116.3||12.7 @ 106.4|
|60-0 Braking (feet)||97||104|
Vehicle: 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray
Odometer: 1,200 miles
Driver: Mike Monticello/Chris Walton
Drive Type: Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Seven-speed manual
Engine Type: Naturally aspirated, direct-injected V8, gasoline with cylinder deactivation
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 6,162/376
Redline (rpm): 6,500
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 460 @ 6,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 465 @ 4,600
Brake Type (front): 13.6-inch one-piece ventilated slotted cast-iron discs with four-piston fixed calipers
Brake Type (rear): 13.3-inch one-piece ventilated slotted cast-iron discs with four-piston fixed calipers
Suspension Type(front): Independent double wishbones, transverse leaf spring, self-adjusting magnetorheological dampers, stabilizer bar
Suspension Type (rear): Independent double wishbones, transverse leaf spring, self-adjusting magnetorheological dampers, stabilizer bar
Tire Size (front): P245/35ZR19 89Y
Tire Size (rear): P285/30ZR20 95Y
Tire Brand: Michelin
Tire Model: Pilot Super Sport ZP
Tire Type: Run flat summer
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,428
0-30 (sec): 1.9 (2.1 w/ TC on)
0-45 (sec): 2.9 (3.1 w/ TC on)
0-60 (sec): 4.2 (4.7 w/ TC on)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 4.0 (4.5 w/ TC on)
0-75 (sec): 5.8 (6.5 w/ TC on)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 12.2 @ 116.3 (12.7 @ 113.1 w/ TC on)
30-0 (ft): 97
60-0 (ft): 25
Slalom (mph): 73.1 (70.3 w/ESC on)
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 1.03 (0.99 w/ESC on)
RPM @ 70: 1,450
Acceleration: We did the first "base" run in the Touring configuration with stability control and traction control fully on, and without utilizing the no-lift shift feature. With all aids turned off and the car in Track mode, our best run came using a 2,500-rpm launch, allowing us to go to full-throttle pretty much immediately. It hooks up well. The no-lift shift feature allows you to just jam the shifts home, and this excellent gearbox is fully accepting of it. We tried a couple of launch control runs, but because it launches at about 4,300 rpm it gets too much initial wheelspin, making it slightly slower.
Braking: It's amazing that even with a fair amount of nosedive this new Corvette can stop so short. And even with a pedal that feels a bit soft. But perfectly controlled stops, zero side-to-side movement. The first stop was the longest at 105 feet, the sixth stop was shortest at 97 feet and the seventh and final stop was 98 feet.
Slalom: After I had dialed in the mode(s) that best suited my preferred feedback and the demands of slalom test (Track, Sport2), it became a matter of chipping away at the times with subtle techniques that exploited the car's electronic aids as well as the limits. It's easy to discover the limits and either avoid them or step right over them and file it in the manifest of things the Stingray does or doesn't want to do. I especially appreciated the crystal clear and highly precise steering, the zippy turn-in, the progressive break-away of the tires, and the sophisticated traction control on exit that doesn't merely chop the throttle, but stutters it to maintain momentum and direction. Although I couldn't hear it, I could sense the diff hard at work sorting out which side of the car needed/wanted power at every moment. Immensely capable and highly accessible performance without the C6's vaguely threatening demeanor. Wow.
Skidpad: Absolutely nutty amount of grip for a road (not race) car. Steering remains informative and precise despite the tremendous loads. The Stingray will either under- or oversteer at will, which speaks to its impressive balance. With ESC fully on in both Sport and Touring modes, the throttle fades out right before the car would need more driver involvement (e.g. steering and/or throttle modulation) to go any quicker. It's likely a 'civilian' wouldn't even notice this happening at 0.98-0.99g. Impressive.
Vehicle: 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C
Driver: Chris Walton
Drive Type: Mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Six-speed automated manual
Engine Type: Turbocharged, direct-injected inline-4, gasoline
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1,743 / 106
Redline (rpm): 6,700
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 237 @ 6,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 258 @ 2,200
Brake Type (front): Two-piece ventilated cross-drilled cast-iron discs with four-piston fixed calipers
Brake Type (rear): One-piece ventilated cross-drilled cast-iron discs with single-piston sliding calipers.
Suspension Type(front): Independent double wishbones
Suspension Type (rear): Modified MacPherson strut
Tire Size (front): 205/40ZR18 86Y
Tire Size (rear): 235/35ZR19 91Y
Tire Brand: Pirelli
Tire Model: P Zero
Tire Type: Summer
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 2,456
0-30 (sec): 1.6 (2.5 w/ TC on)
0-45 (sec): 2.7 (3.7 w/ TC on)
0-60 (sec): 4.2 (5.4 w/ TC on)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 4.1 (5.0 w/ TC on)
0-75 (sec): 6.2 (7.3 w/ TC on)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 12.7 @ 106.4 (13.5 @ 105.5 w/ TC on)
30-0 (ft): 26
60-0 (ft): 104
Slalom (mph): 71.4 (69.8 w/ESC on)
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.98 (0.97 w/ESC on)
RPM @ 70: 2,400
Acceleration: Even in default 'Natural' mode, the automated manual transmission (AMT) engages the clutch pretty rapidly and positively with very little hesitation or bog. Manual shifting via wheel-mounted paddles (left = down; right = Up) allows the engine to rev slightly beyond redline, but I used automatic mode for all the acceleration runs. Upshifts are remarkably smooth with a slight 'burp' between as the throttle self-closes/opens. Selecting 'Dynamic' mode sharpens both the initial acceleration as well as the shift speed/harshness during upshifts. There's also a modest Launch mode here that brings the revs up to about 3,000 rpm before engaging the clutch for an even sportier get away — resulting in only a slightly quicker time to 60 mph. Finally, engaging 'Race' mode and utilizing its launch mode was the quickest of all. It allows the revs to climb to 6,000 rpm before releasing the brake and effectively 'side-stepping' the clutch. There's a useful amount of wheelspin available (and learned that too much is too much). I also discovered in this mode that releasing the brake at any point as the revs climb will initiate the clutch engagement. There's quite a cacophony of sound during acceleration: intake manifold, turbo wastegate, engine and exhaust. This is all very reminiscent of the Lotus Exige that has a similarly bare-bones construction with little attention paid to isolating the occupants from the whole-body experience of driving this car.
Braking: Expected shorter distances from this feather-weight car with grippy tires, but at least it's consistent and predictable. Extremely firm (bottom hinged) pedal from first to fifth (and final) stop from 60 mph. These are the kind of brakes that are modulated by the pressure one puts to the pedal and not how far one presses it. All stops were arrow straight, not a wiggle or bit of wander here with minimal dive.
Slalom: In Dynamic mode, the electronic stability control system (ESC) is so distant as to be almost non-existent — and I believe it may be watching/monitoring steering angle and yaw rate to see if they match up. It will allow lurid slides and only engages if a spin is immanent. Being so, I discovered that while drifting/sliding past cones is exquisitely entertaining, it is not the quickest path through the course. Tight and tidy wins. This is the kind of car that, at the limit, is so delicate and precise, with so much information streaming through the quick-ratio steering that it feels as if it could be easily balanced on a pin. The balance between front and rear grip is so even and, better yet perceptible, that a skilled driver will innately steer with the throttle as much as the steering wheel. The car quite literally rotates about an axis between the two seats. The tires offer progressive and predictable break-away characteristics. Put some track-only tires on this car and it is already ready for the track. In Natural mode, the ESC is less lenient, but when it does engage, it does so quickly, effectively, and then recedes just as quickly.
Skidpad: Here, in Race mode, ESC can be disabled completely and that ability to steer and balance the car with the throttle is even more obvious. Also, the steering weight decreases and increases with the grip at the front tires waning and returning. It's unassisted, manual rack-and-pinion steering from a previous era. Lovely. Also as unassisted steering, parking is like arm-wrestling. Not so lovely.
Mike Magrath, Features Editor