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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Alfa Romeo Giulia Finally Exists, Targets C63 AMG and BMW M3

2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde
We have to love Alfa Romeo. It's the law. Their heyday was decades ago but you hang on in there because the inherent charm and character keeps making you believe that something amazing will happen soon. To prove the point, this decade has already given us the stunning carbon-tubbed 4C sports car, which while it looks every inch a baby supercar apparently feels a little unfinished from behind the (awkwardly-designed) wheel, be it in terms of build quality or ride and handling. But hey, that was their first rear-drive production car since 1993 - excluding the limited-run, equally all-show-not-quite-enough-go 8C Competizione of 2007. Maybe their second series production rear-wheel-drive car will get it right. Say hello to Giulia. It's understandable if you're nervous; she's a hottie.



First of all, watch the video (via Carscoops). That almighty roar you just heard was emanating from a Ferrari-developed 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 engine made entirely of aluminium. It's unclear at this early stage whether it's a variant of Maserati's V6 twin-turbo found in the Ghibli, but one thing Alfa Romeo has confirmed is that it produces 510PS (503bhp). Five hundred and ten horsepower. In a car the size of a Ford Mondeo or BMW 3-Series. In fact, while it matches the hardest-hitting AMG C63-S, it blitzes the BMW M3's piffling 425bhp. Don't think it's compensating for Lexus RC levels of bulk either, becuase a weight/power ratio of "lower than 3kg/hp" means it weighs no more than 1530kg (3370lbs), roughly the same as an M3. As such, it's quick, with a quoted 0-62mph time of only 3.9 seconds. That's a tenth off a Lexus LFA!!


The top-spec Quadrifoglio Verde [Cloverleaf] version we're talking about here is available only with rear-wheel-drive, and while there will almost definitely be a double-clutch paddleshift gearbox, it is also available with a 6-speed manual transmission, because Alfa Romeo loves you too and wants you to be happy. I'd guess the sensational 3.9s figure is only reached with paddles and maybe even launch control, although that hasn't been mentioned yet. Either way though, the Giulia QV is clearly going to be pretty damn fast. Adding to supercar pace is supercar material science, as the QV's bonnet, roof panel and driveshaft are all made of carbon fibre. Meanwhile the other body parts (and suspension) are aluminium, in that Italian coachbuilding tradition. You can even have carbon ceramic brakes with clever electro-mechanical assistance capable of "record breaking stopping distances," while the large rear diffuser is matched by an active front splitter to generate real downforce at high speed. Topping it all off is a perfect 50:50 weight distribution and "class-topping torsional rigidity," plus double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension combines with a torque-vectoring differential to hopefully keep you safe but very excited in the corners. They are not, it seems, messing about here...

Active front spoiler is active

There aren't official interior images just yet, but these leaked renders line up with a few sneaky photos from the launch event. It's a clean, swooping dashboard with a minimalist centre console, perhaps faintly BMW from some angles if you must look for other cars in a design instead of just taking it in and of itself like you should.





Check out the wheel-mounted engine start/stop button, just like on a Ferrari!! And the carbon fibre manual gear stick! And the red stitching! It doesn't get a lot more Italian than that for a sports saloon interior. While there is the requisite infotainment screen, phone connectivity and so on, there's apparently less bullshit than in German rivals. The only driving mode switch is Alfa's "DNA" system to adjust dampers and the like, labelled Dynamic, Normal and All-Weather but - for the QV at least - also adding Race mode. Ooooooh. When you aren't filling the interior with glorious V6 roar, the engine can deactivate half its cylinders to make it "surprisingly fuel efficient." I'm quoting Alfa directly there. It even surprises them! Still, if you aren't going to be up for unleashing 510 furious prancing horses, there will be a de-tuned V6 petrol engine, along with a V6 diesel and two different-sized petrol and diesel four-cylinder engines to pad out the range. The petrol ones will be 1.4 and 1.8 MultiAir turbo units. The V6 diesel is almost definitely from the Maserati Ghibli diesel, strengthening my suspicion that it's based on the same basic platform, even if the chassis itself might be new. They haven't cleared that up for us yet.

Leaked image comparing the normal Giulia (silver) vs the Quadrifoglio Verde (red)
The Alfa Romeo Giulia ('Gi' in Italian is like a 'J') will land in the UK in September 2016, although expect it to do the rounds at motor shows earlier. This will also be the first mainstream Alfa to reach the US market since the 75/Milano was axed in 1992, although likely without the diesels. The 4C sports car and the FIAT 500 have helped put some Italian flavour back on the tongues of the Americans, so hopefully the Giulia can be a success in that huge market. It ought to be hard for them not to notice a sports saloon that considerably outguns the equivalent Cadillac (the 464bhp ATS-V), but while the 510-horse QV has proven an effective attention grabber it's the normal versions that are truly important. The pressure Jaguar felt when putting together the XE - the replacement for the largely unpopular X-Type and a rival to this - will have been felt by Alfa too when doing the Giulia. The storied Italian brand hasn't been in the rudest of health; their range was recently shrunken to just two slow-selling front-drive hatchbacks, and they've been dangerously close to becoming an irrelevance not worth the FIAT-Chrysler Alliance keeping around. The comeback plan has been delayed and reformed so many times it almost seemed pointless to hope they'd pull it off, but now we have the rough diamond of the 4C to (hopefully) build their brand image back up, and this car to (hopefully) pull in the sales numbers.

It doesn't just need to look very good on paper and in pictures, it needs to BE very good. Managing that last part has proven elusive for Alfa for too long. If it's not a special, soul-stirring driving experience combined with the quality to at least make you look away from the Germans momentarily, then they could find themselves in some real trouble. Taking on Jaguar, Lexus and Cadillac in the "interesting alternatives" sub-category is step one in this immensely competitive market segment, unofficially known as "The 3-Series Rival." If their compact sports executive saloon is a flop, then they'll be relying on their upcoming SUV to bring in the money instead, and that is not a message we want to send Alfa Romeo. Whether you can afford such a car or not, we must all hope that this attempt at a comeback goes well... for the good of passion and soul.



(video in Italian)

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