Alfa Romeo Gi­u­lia

First fruit of Alfa skunkworks is a peach

Top Gear (UK) - - CONTENTS - BY PAUL HOR­RELL

Alfa has big plans, start­ing with the Clover­leaf Gi­u­lia. A thing of beauty

Of all the things we know about this beau­ti­ful and heart-stop­pingly fast car, the most con­vinc­ing fact is ap­par­ently the most in­glo­ri­ous. The Gi­u­lia’s de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing haven’t been done in some his­toric yet high-tech cor­po­rate HQ, but in an aban­doned Iveco trucks build­ing on the edge of Mo­dena. Bear with us.

There, in semi-se­cret, 600 spe­cially re­cruited engi­neers are free to do what’s right for Alfa alone, and on a big bud­get. No Fiat or Chrysler engi­neers lurk down the cor­ri­dor to prod them into cheap­skate parts-shar­ing. CEO Har­ald Wester calls it a skunkworks – they op­er­ate freely and far faster, he tells TopGear, than if they were part of the main cor­po­rate R&D ma­chine.

First fruit is the Gi­u­lia Quadri­foglio. A RWD twin-turbo V6-en­gined su­per­sa­loon. It packs 503bhp, a so­phis­ti­cated adap­tive sus­pen­sion, car­bon-ce­ramic brakes and pos­i­tive down­force. At the back is a full torque-vec­tor­ing ECU­con­trolled difer­en­tial. The roof, bon­net, prop­shaft and even seat frames are car­bon fbre. The doors and wings are alu­minium. Weight is evenly dis­trib­uted front to rear and to­tals just 1,500kg, and so the 0–62mph is 3.9secs. Those skunks aren’t muck­ing about.

Wester says the en­gine is “Fer­rari inspired”, re­lated to the one Fer­rari did for Maserati, but more pow­er­ful and us­ing se­lec­tive cylin­der shut­down un­der light throt­tle to save fuel. He plays, at big vol­ume, a sound fle of the thing run­ning through the revs, and the noise does all the right things.

Of course, Gi­u­lias will come with many more en­gines than just the Quadri­foglio. Alfa is de­vel­op­ing a 4cyl turbo in two sizes, the larger mak­ing 180–330bhp and the smaller one 120–180bhp (though the low­est-pow­ered of them, we un­der­stand, might be for the Gi­uli­etta re­place­ment, not the Gi­u­lia). There will also be a 400bhp ver­sion of the V6. The diesel 4cyl range will pro­duce 120–220bhp, and a diesel V6 will do 250–350bhp, but, again, some of those diesels might not be for the Gi­u­lia.

Wester tells me this is the plat­form for seven all-new Al­fas, and that they’ll share the same all-alu­minium multi-link rear sus­pen­sion. Their front sus­pen­sion has a vir­tual steer­ing axis like the most so­phis­ti­cated hot hatches (to quell torques­teer), but it’s part of a dou­ble-wish­bone sys­tem for bet­ter han­dling. Many have op­tional all-wheel drive. Trans­mis­sion is man­ual or dual-clutch pad­dle-shift, he says.

I put to Wester the ru­mours that the plat­form is de­rived from the Maserati saloon. He re­torts that the Alfa plat­form is “100 per cent new, body and sus­pen­sion”. Any­way, this RWD V6 Gi­u­lia is a vast 300kg lighter than a com­pa­ra­ble Ghi­bli.

Sure, not all the new Al­fas will get the car­bon-fi­bre parts of the Quadri­foglio (ex­cept the prop­shaft, which goes across the range, he says, be­cause it gives a feel­ing of pre­ci­sion and cuts in­er­tia for bet­ter econ­omy). But all Al­fas do get the alu­minium body parts and an “alu­minium com­pos­ite and plas­tic” rear cross­mem­ber.

You might be em­bar­rassed if your boggo-spec Gi­u­lia were rock­ing the Quadri­foglio’s rear dif­fuser and ac­tive front split­ter, and it won’t. But if you squint at these photos, you can see the ba­sic body un­der­neath is a most hand­some thing. There’s an ag­gres­sive and very an­i­mate face, its tre­foil air in­takes a mod­ernised ver­sion of what made the Fifties Gi­uli­etta Sprint so lovely. The side forms are sim­ple and or­ganic. It’s very Ital­ian.

Al­fas will feel alive, says Wester – bench­marked against the best ri­vals, but not feel­ing like them. “In cur­rent pre­mium cars, you’re co­cooned – the steer­ing is light, there’s lit­tle feed­back from the road. It’s like you’re driv­ing by wire.” Al­fas will make you “part of the ma­chine”, he says. “But not un­com­fort­able.”

So the cabin is sim­ple too, rather than a gizmo-fest. The con­troller for the menus and sat­nav, he claims, is “so sim­ple, even an adult can use it”.

We won’t see more of the Gi­u­lia un­til the Frank­furt show in Septem­ber, and UK sales don’t start un­til a year af­ter that. But all credit to Alfa for mak­ing a splash. Usu­ally when a new car comes along, we see the bor­ing diesel ver­sion frst and the hot one later. But to get back on ev­ery­one’s radar, Alfa had to make a splash. This one did it.

“The tre­foil air in­takes are a mod­ernised ver­sion of the Fifties Gi­uli­etta Sprint’s”

We all want 503bhp, many tailpipes, 19s and

down­force. But peer around the per­for­mance

gew­gaws, and a very hand­some main­stream

saloon lurks be­low

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.