By: Dave Abrahams
Arese, Italy - Revealed at a special preview on Wednesday evening at the newly renovated Alfa Romeo museum, this is the car Alfisti have been waiting for.
It’s also the first of a new breed of Alfas that Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne is betting the house on, new models that will (he hopes) launch the brand back into the United States (where it has not been sold since 1995) and more than quadruple Alfa Romeo sales worldwide by 2018. It’ll be released in South Africa during the third quarter of 2016.
The new Giulia is a four-door, 3 Series/C-Class contender with either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, and a range of high-revving turbopetrol engines (and diesels too), topped by an all-new 375kW turbopetrol six developed with help from Ferrari, that’ll launch the new Alfa from 0-100 in 3.9 seconds.
It’s an all-aluminium V6, to reduce weight and retain the signature Alfa Romeo 50:50 front/rear weight balance, while electronically controlled cylinder deactivation under partial load reduces fuel-consumption.
All the mechanical parts are kept between the axles, which is why the new Giulia has very short overhangs and a longer wheelbase than its German rivals.
Front suspension is by classic double wishbones, with an added tweak in the form of a semi-virtual steering axis that keeps the caster angle and trail constant in the hardest cornering, allowing the chassis engineers at the Turin skunk works to use very direct steering without making the car skittish on poor surfaces.
The rear suspension has a multilink independent set-up with a special ‘double-clutch’ differential that allows the car’s traction-control ECU to modulate the drive to each rear wheel individually. This keeps wheelspin under control without an intrusive stability-control system chopping back the engine’s power.
Likewise with the integrated braking system, which combines ABS with traditional servo brakes for dramatic initial bite and impressive stopping distances.
Even the aerodynamics of the active front splitter are controlled by a multi-channel ECU that Alfa calls the chassis domain control, to optimise the car’s balance in cornering – a traditional Alfa strong point.
A revised drive mode selector offers four choices: Natural, Dynamic, Advanced Efficient (a first for Alfa) and Racing, for the brave of heart.
THE LIGHT STUFF
To keep the car’s kerb weight under 1500kg, the doors, wings, brake carriers and suspension – including the towers and sub-frames at both ends – are aluminium, while the roof, bonnet, propeller shafts, and even the seat frames are made of carbon fibre. The rear cross-member is an aluminium/plastic composite and the brakes discs are carbon ceramic.
All of which gives the new Giulia a power-to-weight ratio of better than 250kW/ton, making Alfa’s impressive acceleration claims all the more believable.
The iconic Alfa badge has been given a fresh touch with a restyled border, and is set in a crisp, traditional trefoil grille framed by the meanest-looking front end seen on an Alfa Romeo in many years.
The teardrop-shaped glazed area is set low and well back to create a long bonnet and a bit of extra heft over the rear wheel-arches, where the power is laid down, while a strong crease line, starting from an extractor vent the front wheel, runs aft through the door handles to define the profile.
All the main controls are grouped on the steering wheel, as on a Formula One car, with just two simple rotary controls for drive mode selection and the infotainment system.
The centre console is cut on the bias, like a fine Italian suit, to focus the cockpit on the driver, and the interior is finished in carbon fibre, wood veneer and fine fabrics as befits a compact premium sedan.
There are a lot of niche marques in this class, however, not least Volvo and Jaguar; to stand out, the Giulia will have to be a true Alfa – above all, a real driver’s machine.
And that we'll have to see when we drive it.