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This is the new Alfa Romeo Giulia. The car will spearhead Alfa’s rebirth as a maker of lightweight, high-tech and sporty rear-wheel-drive enthusiast’s cars.
A rival to the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Jaguar XE, the Giulia is the first of eight new Alfas planned over the next three years as a part of €5 billion investment in the 105-year-old Alfa brand. By the end of 2018, Alfa wants to be selling 400,000 cars a year, a six-fold increase on last year’s sales. A full relaunch in North America forms part of this Alfa reboot under owner Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). The boss of FCA, Sergio Marchionne, said this was possible only because of FCA’s investment potential and global distribution network. He called this dramatic relaunch “the only opportunity” for Alfa Romeo to prosper.
The first Giulias could be with customers by the end of the year. It was revealed at a special event at Alfa’s refurbished Arese headquarters on the outskirts of Milan in range-topping Quadrifoglio Verde guise.
The flagship model is powered by a new Ferrari-developed aluminium twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 engine with 503bhp, which instantly gives Alfa a full-blooded BMQ M3 rival.
The rest of the Giulia’s engine range, including an all-new turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, will be confirmed ahead of the car’s public debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September.
Alfa plans to sell the new models on their driving purity, character, emotional appeal, and style under the new tagline ‘la meccanica delle emozioni’ which translates as ‘the mechanics of emotion’.
Each will be built to meet the five specific criteria: innovative engines, 50/50 weight distribution, advanced technical solutions, best-in-class power-to-weight ratios and instinctive Italian design.
Alfa boss Harald Wester said none of its rivals was able to make cars as striking, driver-focused and emotional as Alfa intends to, because of the history and strength of the brand. Indeed, at the Arese unveiling, he said premium cars today were “boring” and lacked soul. He has also been quoted recently as saying German premium models, in particular, are “cold and clinical”.
There was also an admission that Alfa’s recent models have not “respected” the brand’s past and its values, so it “all needed to be rebuilt from the ground up”. He said: “This is a complete renaissance for Alfa”. The new Alfas have been developed in secret over the past two years at a new dedicated facility away from the main FCA group and any internal pressures about conceptual barriers. Wester said the hand-picked 600 or so staff at the facility, which is understood to be based near Ferrari and Maserati in Modena, Italy, were simply told to “respect the brand, innovate and be revolutionary” in making the next generation of Alfas. “These are car enthusiasts making cars for car enthusiasts,” he said. “In the long run, loving cars makes a difference.”
The Giulia, like all the forthcoming Alfas, is built around a rear-wheel drive architecture (all-wheel drive will be optional in most markets). It’s understood to be loosely derived from that of the Maserati Ghibli and has claimed best-in-class torsional rigidity. Making the new models rear-wheel drive was the first decision the skunkworks team took, according to the head of the division, Philippe Krief. The Giulia project can be traced as far back as 2009 in various guises, though.
Few hard numbers have been confirmed by Alfa so far. Marchionne said reeling off too many stats would make the car seem “cold”. However, the firm has revealed some of the car’s mechanical make-up.
The suspension is all new and constructed from aluminium, with electronically controlled adaptive dampers. The front suspension is a double wishbone set-up that includes a new ‘semi-virtual steering axis’ designed to improve steering accuracy, keeping the car stable at high speeds and allowing precise steering feel even under hard cornering. Unlike the 4C sports car, the Giulia will get a power steering system, which, Krief claimed, would have “the most direct ratio on the market”.
The rear suspension was the first component of the Giulia to be designed. It is a new multi-link system that Alfa calls ‘Alfalink’ and it allows for independent control of the wheels from the body. Krief described it as “beautiful, simple and functional”.
The best-in-class power-to-weight ratio is said by Alfa to be around 3kg per horsepower, so the Giulia should weigh in at about 1500kg in Quadrifoglio Verde form. For comparison, the M3 weight 1580kg.
The Giulia makes extensive use of lightweight materials such as aluminium, carbonfibre and aluminium/plastic composite. Aluminium is used to construct the suspension, doors, wings, subframes and brake calipers. Composites are used for the rear cross-member. Further weight reduction comes from the use of carbon-ceramic brakes on the Quadrifoglio Verde model.
The location of the lighter materials has helped Alfa hit its 50/50 weight distribution target, with major components located between the axles and the lightest materials used at either end of the car.
The Quadrifoglio Verde’s twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 engine is also a lightweight unit. It features cylinder deactivation and can, said Alfa, be “surprisingly fuel efficient” while still offering “fun and identity”. Krief added that the Ferrari-developed unit offered “fantastic torque all through the rev range and no turbo lag in any gear”. A 0-62mph time of 3.9sec has been quoted for this model, which is hooked up to a six-speed manual gearbox as standard.
The Ferrair link to the engine could prove to be significant in the future as the rumoured base powerplant in the new Ferrari Dino model, which is understood to the in development for a 2018 launch.
Alfa has yet to officially confirm any other launch engines for the Giulia. However, the new V6 will be one of two engines built at a new €500 million Termoli facility in Italy that has an annual capacity of 200,000 units. The other is set to be an “advanced, high-output four-cylinder engine developed for Alfa Romeo”. It is expected to be the next-generation replacement for the highly regarded 1750 TBi engine used in 4C. It could produce up to 300bhp in its highest state of tune.
Previous indications from Alfa have pointed towards an engine range that will also include four-cylinder and six-cylinder diesel engines.
Krief said that Giulia would do without “invasive” electronic systems that inhibited the dynamic character of the car. Nor will there be any autonomous driving features, Wester has previously revealed, because this would not be in tune with the brand’s character.
However, the Giulia will feature a torque vectoring system in the rear differential to split torque independently between the rear wheels. IT will also have a new Integrated Brake System that combines stability control with the servo brake for, Alfa claims, improved feel, responses and reduced braking distances.
An ‘active aero splitter’ at the front forms part of the Giulia’s aerodynamic package, and the system, like the other electronics, is controlled by Chassis Domain Control electronic ‘brain’, with the aim of ensuring driving pleasure and performance for the driver.
On the Giulia’s looks, Alfa design boss Lorenzo Ramacotti said the car was “not over-styled, which is very easy to do today. It can be defined with just three strokes. Form and function doesn’t mean it’s cold. It’s an Alfa, an object of desire that you experience, not an ornament to look at.”
The new Alfa has a wheelbase that’s claimed to be the longest in its class, but within an overall body that’s one of the shortest. Rear cabin space is said to be impressive, although there’s no word on boot capacity.
The Giulia’s cabin is built around the driver and features materials such as leather, wood, fabric and carbonfibre. There are only two main control interfaces inside, both rotary knobs rather than buttons or touchscreens. One is for a new infotainment suite, and the other is a DNA driving mode select system, which has been revised for the Giulia to include a new race mode.
- by Mark Tisshaw from AutoCar UK