Alfa Romeo has officially previewed the new 4C sports car concept fitted with the powerful 1750 turbocharged engine as well as the TCT transmission and the brand's "DNA" button, just as it makes its debut at the 81st Geneva Motor Show this morning, while at the same time VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech has again registered his keen interest in Alfa Romeo at the Swiss motor show.

In its press release issued this morning Alfa Romeo closes with a final line that claims the 4C is destined for production: "This car is not simply an exercise in style created for the motor show; it will be on sale in 2012 and is set to reinforce Alfa Romeo's global growth."

While the 4C Concept was getting all the attention this morning, VW Chairman Piech last night at a special event suggested that in VW's hands the Alfa Romeo brand could reach 400,000 units sales by 2016. Last year it sold just 112,000 cars. By contrast Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is much more optimistic for Alfa Romeo, he plans to reach 500,000 sales by 2014. Marchionne had also previously targeted 300,000 units by 2010.

The overall shape of the 4C, while developing some thinking from the 8C Competizione, shows a strong similarity to the Lotus Evora, particularly in the glass house form, the glass engine cover and the overall design language shapes. Other external influences melded into the new project include the venting in the frame around the engine cover which is reminiscent of Ferrari's 360/430. Piecing together some information from the press release, Alfa Romeo says the 4C has a "length of approximately 4 metres and a wheelbase of less than 2.4 metres." The length is around 27 mm longer than the KTM X-Bow (3.73 m) which would be accounted for by the new enveloping bodywork, although more curiously the X-Bow's wheel base is 2.43 m, implying a shortening of the wheelbase due to the new rear subframe.

For the 4C Concept Alfa Romeo has used learning gained with the 8C Competizione in the areas of carbon fibre, aluminium and rear-wheel drive, adding to the mix technology derived from models currently on sale: the 1750 turbo petrol engine fitted with direct injection, the "Alfa TCT" twin dry clutch transmission (which recently went on sale in the Alfa MiTo) and the Alfa DNA dynamic control selector.

Using the X-Bow's carbon fibre monocoque along with aluminium for the rear engine housing structure and the crash boxes and confirming that the new bodywork developed by Dallara is "crafted completely from carbon", has allowed Alfa Romeo's engineers to impressively keep the weight of the concept car to a claimed 850 kg (X-Bow "Street" by comparison is 790 kg) and while the power output isn't revealled, Alfa Romeo says that the "extensive use of carbon, which also plays a structural role and guarantees exceptional agility with a weight/power ratio which is lower than 4 kg/HP." However this is still just a concept showcar and kerb weight is bound to rise if the car does make it to production in the future, particularly as Alfa Romeo has a strong reputation for being unable to keep weight from spiralling on its production cars.

The name "4C Concept" is meant to be suggestive of the sports driving pleasure from the "4 cylinder" 1750 turbo petrol engine "which offers over 200 HP" - says Alfa Romeo. Already featured on a number of models in production, for example the Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde, the engine boasts cutting-edge technical solutions such as direct injection, dual continuous variable valve timing, turbocharger and the revolutionary scavenging control system which eliminates turbo lag.

Located centrally in the rear of the vehicle, the engine in the 4C Concept ensures a performance which matches or exceeds that of a 3 litre engine whilst still delivering the moderate fuel consumption which is typical of a compact, 4 cylinder engine. Coupled with the new automatic "Alfa TCT" twin dry clutch transmission, launched only a few months ago on the MiTo and which will soon be available on the Giulietta, the 1750 Turbo petrol engine in this application allows the 4C Concept to reach a claimed top speed of over 250 km/h and to accelerate from 0 to 100 km in under 5 seconds. The vehicle also integrates its Alfa DNA technology.

The Alfa Romeo 4C Concept has a sophisticated suspension layout, retaining the high quadrilateral at the front but adding a MacPherson strut arrangement at the rear, to ensure agility and road handling. This solution, along with the rear-wheel drive and the weight/power ratio, should add up to driving pleasure, enhanced even further by the weight distribution of 40 percent on the front axle and 60 percent on the rear axle (compared to a 37:63 split for the production X-Bow).

2011 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed