Alfa Romeo Giulia
First fruit of Alfa skunkworks is a peach
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