Porsche Cayman vs Alfa Romeo 4C

5 Feb, 2014 12:13pm

After years in the wilderness, Alfa Romeo has a thoroughbred mid-engined sports car again. Can it beat the Porsche Cayman?

Alfa Romeo is an enigma. Famed for making some of the world’s most beautiful cars, this company has a sporting heritage that stretches back nearly a century.

Alfa Romeo 4C review

Porsche Cayman review

Yet with the exception of the limited-edition 8C supercar, it’s been decades since the evocative brand has made a sports car that truly lives up to its illustrious past. The new 4C changes that. Its specification is pure supercar – carbon-fibre chassis, dual-clutch gearbox, mid-engine layout – but it costs less than £50,000. And with a 237bhp, 1.7-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine matched to a featherlight kerbweight, unassisted steering and rear-wheel drive, it promises to be scintillating to drive.

Yet for a similar amount of cash, you could get your hands on one of the best sports cars on the planet: the Porsche Cayman. In fact, the 271bhp 2.7-litre entry-level Cayman is cheaper and more powerful than the Alfa, so you’ll be able to dip into Porsche’s long options list with the money you save.

The Cayman also promises to be a lot more practical, refined and comfortable than the 4C. However, will this focus on everyday usability blunt the Porsche’s appeal when compared to the razor-sharp Alfa? We pitch the pair head-to-head on road and track to deliver the definitive verdict on one of the most eagerly awaited performance car bouts of the year.

Head-to-head

On track With its hard set-up, the Alfa is more at home on a track than the road. You quickly discover strong lateral body control and lots of grip, and can enjoy high-speed changes of direction. Yet in medium-speed corners, the stiff front end understeers too much, and the transition to oversteer is snappy. There’s lots of stopping power, but the brakes lack feel. The Cayman is more adjustable and agile. Which was quicker around Lincolnshire’s Blyton race track? Our video at www.autoexpress.co.uk reveals all.

Gearbox

The Alfa is only offered with a dual-clutch box, while Porsche sells its similar PDK set-up as a £1,922 option. That still makes the Cayman cheaper to buy than the 4C – although the standard manual box has a great shift action.

Heritage

Few brands can rival Porsche and Alfa Romeo for sports car kudos and motorsport heritage. Alfa has lost its magic in recent times, but in the thirties, fifties, sixties and seventies, its sports cars were lusted after the world over. Racing Alfas were originally famed for their part in classic road races like the Targa Florio and Mille Miglia, and they battled Porsches for class and overall wins in world championship sportscar racing right up to the mid-seventies.

Worth considering

Lotus Exige S The Exige S is closer in character to the 4C than the 4C is to the Cayman. The Lotus delivers more power from its V6 engine, although it’s much more expensive, with a price tag of £52,900.

1st place - Porsche

The Cayman is a fantastic all-rounder. It’s incredibly composed on the limit, and equally engaging and sharp at low speeds. It’s also more comfortable and refined than the Alfa, as well as cheaper to buy. And while it’s a bit slower than the 4C, cabin quality is superb and its everyday versatility is unrivalled. 

2nd place - Alfa Romeo

The 4C is a stunningly attractive sports car and a welcome addition to struggling Alfa’s line-up. But thanks to its unflinching focus on lightness and performance, it’s so raw you’ll need to be a purist to put up with the lack of refinement – and it still can’t match the sweet handling of the Porsche Cayman. 

Porsche  Alfa 
Cayman Romeo 4C
On the road price/total as tested £40,224/£46,464 £45,000/£55,170
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) N/A N/A
Depreciation N/A N/A
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £2,382/£4,763 £2,059/£4,119
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £2,767/£4,612 £2,480/£4,133
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost 37/£516/J/£260 N/A/N/A/G/£175
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service £480/£610/£480 N/A
Length/wheelbase 4,380/2,475mm 3,989/2,380mm
Height/width 1,294/1,801mm 1,183/1,864mm
Engine Flat-six/2,706cc 4cyl in-line/1,742cc
Peak power/revs  271/7,400 bhp/rpm 237/6,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs  290/4,500 Nm/rpm 350/2,200 Nm/rpm
Transmission  6-spd man/rwd 6-spd auto/rwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 64 litres/sealant 40 litres/sealant
Boot capacity (front/back)  150/275 litres N/A/110 litres
Kerbweight/payload 1,310/345kg 895kg/N/A
Turning circle/drag coefficient 11.0 metres/0.30Cd N/A/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (unlimited)/2yrs  3yrs (unlimited)/3yrs 
Service intervals/UK dealers 20k miles (2yrs)/36 12,000 miles/46
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 13th/6th 17th/16th
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars N/A N/A
0-60/30-70mph 5.6/4.6 secs 4.9/3.9 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 3.7/5.1 secs 2.0/3.4 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 6.4/8.1 secs 4.4/5.6 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph  165mph/2,500rpm 160mph/2,400rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph  43.7/31.6/8.2m 44.9/32.5/8.5m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph 65/31/61/70dB 71/61/72/78dB
Auto Express economy/range 27.6/6.1/389 miles 30.8/6.8/271 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined  24.8/44.8/34.4mpg 28.8/56.5/41.5mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined  5.4/9.8/7.5mpl 6.3/12.4/9.1mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 236/192g/km/30% 212/157g/km/23%
Adaptive dampers/cruise control £971/£267 No/£260
Airbags/Isofix/rear parking sensors Six/£121/£348 Two/no/£420
Air-conditioning/leather/heated seats Yes/£2,092/£283 Yes/£1,200/no
Met paint/elec windows/sport exhaust £558/yes/£1,473 £600/yes/£450
Sat-nav/DAB radio/Bluetooth £2,141/£324/£445 No/no/yes

Disqus - noscript

POS both! Give me a 2 ton JAAAAAAAAG FAT-Type for just £70k!

F-Type Coupe for me, more powerful, better looking and not much more expensive.

What a load of rubbish this test is. The Alfa and Porsche are made to attract different customers.

No mention of the fact that on the track Alfa 4C is faster than the more expensive Porsche Cayman S, and much faster than a normal Porsche Cayman at the same price!?

[edit] faster in independent tests, also officially faster around the Nüerburgring.

Wrong again.
You are not very good at this are you?

Yes, all correct and it's also better suited to normal road use which is what most of us do most of the time.

Can you please provide a link to these 'independent' tests which prove the 4C is officially faster round the Nüerburgring? Ta.

Having seen the Alfa 4C at the Top Gear hanger on Wednesday, I can say it looks absolutely stunning and that's about it, it's very minimalist, the seats are quite nice, but that seems to be all there is going for it.

As for the £40k price tag, I thought they were having a laugh.

Well, there´s as always lot of journalist blah blah blah about which car ist more "refine" and about "responsive" or "unresponsive" steering, their feelings of how it drives and, and, and.
What´s interesting here for me is, how does the 4C really perform on track (since to judge it by its daily driving capabilities is ridiculous for me, it can obviousle only be considered as the 2nd or 3rd car) - just hard facts, no blah blah blah

And from this perspective the Alfa is a SERIOUSLY FAST CAR. The best comparison offers the german "Sportauto"-Magazine, since the Nurburgring-times have all been recorded by Horst von Saurma = same driver - different cars, making the laptimes somehow comparable. And here they are:
Boxster S (2009) – 8:18
Boxster S (2012) – 8:04
Cayman R (2011) – 8:10
Cayman S (2006) – 8:25
Cayman S (2009) – 8:17
Cayman S (2013) – 8:05
Jaguar XKR-S (2013) – 8:03 (550 HP !)

Saurma has achieved a 8:04 time with the 4C last year.

Other times are also quite impressive.
Vairano (quattroruote - there´s a video on their page): Alfa Romeo 4C: 1:18.84

Balocco (another italian car magazine): Alfa Romeo 4C 2:54.43

So for me, objectively, the 4C is a serious car for me, not to mention the fact, that despite its not having a V6 enginge (which would be nice, I admit) and the 1.8 TBI not being a real cracker, it can be easily (and inexpensively) tuned up to about 280 BHP...well...still having to pull only about 1.000 kgs of mass.

I´m really seriously considering buying one, I like it.

cheers

The 4C holds the Nurburgring record for cars under 250PS, and posted the same time as the Cayman S (8:04).
You can read about it on this website.

Not much more? Think again.

AEX 1330
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