By IOL Motoring Staff

This is by far the most comprehensive set of pictures of the eagerly-awaited 4C “mini-supercar” yet released by Alfa Romeo, including shots of production units on the assembly line at the Maserati plant in Modena - which may be one of the reasons why this little two-seater with less than two litres up its gaspipe is going to cost an eye-watering R799 990 when it arrives in South Africa just in time for Christmas 2013.

(Are you listening, Santa?)

But if you look past the engine capacity to what it can do - and the level of technology involved in doing it - that may not be as expensive as it sounds.

FORMULA ONE TECHNOLOGY

The 4C is largely hand-built on a Formula One-derived carbon-fibre monocoque shell that weighs just 65kg bare, using carbon-fibre and composite panels, aluminium and high-strength alloy steels. The completed car tips the scales at a featherweight 895kg.

That 1750cc turbopetrol four kicks out 177kW and 350Nm, launching the 4C from 0-100km/h in and quoted 4.5 seconds and on to 258km/h flat out, putting it roughly in the same ballpark as the Porsche Cayman.

It's mid-mounted and rear-wheel drive for an agile 40:60 front/rear weight distribution, and grip levels and brake technology are such that it'll pull -1.2g in a straight line and +1.1g in lateral acceleration.

It's also going to be exclusive.

Production will limited to 3500 a year, each with a TCT dry dual-clutch automatic transmission.

But even then there will be at least three variants, including the standard model and the Launch Edition with carbon-fibre front air intake, rear spoiler, LED headlights, mirror housings, instrument cluster cover, gear button bezel and steering wheel, as well as darker alloy rims, red brake callipers, sports suspension and an authoritative sports exhaust - which is what we will be getting initially in South Africa.

There will also be an Essential version 'for driving purists' with a DNA selector, virtual instrument panel, extra gauges for boost pressure, oil temperature and G-force, fabric upholstery, leather steering wheel with shift paddles, 17” front and 18” rear alloys, grey brake callipers and a free-flowing dual exhaust system.