MILAN – Although the name Alfa Romeo often is viewed as synonymous with the model designation GT – Gran Turismo – since 1963 there has been a special Alfa Romeo officially called GT, much like the most famous Ferraris and Maseratis of that era.
|New Alfa GT hits showrooms this month.|
When Alfa Romeo SpA’s first GT was announced in 1963, it replaced Alfa’s mythical Sprint and was one of the very first sports cars the 25-year-old Giorgetto Giugiaro designed at Bertone’s Centro Stile.
Alfa’s new-age GT also was designed by Bertone – although by a young designer named Giuliano Biasio. But rather than simply design the new Alfa GT, Stile Bertone and Carrozzeria Bertone SpA conceived a project aimed at selling Alfa Romeo the idea of a completely new car to be made mostly of existing components.
Stile Bertone carefully assessed what was on the shelf and chose the best available parts. The chief component is the chassis of the 156 sport sedan, with some modifications imported from the 156 Sportwagon and its GTA derivatives. The number of new body panels and specific parts was frowned upon to ensure the project would require reasonable investment and could be implemented in record time.
Carrozzeria Bertone, whose business is to produce vehicle bodies and build complete vehicles, saw the project as the best opportunity to win the production it needed to remain in business.
There was nothing like this GT in the navigation charts at Alfa Romeo and the project was green-lighted in record time.
The new Alfa Romeo Alfa GT will hit dealer showrooms this month, at prices ranging in Italy from €26,200 ($32,700) for the 2.0 JTS to €42,000 ($52,000) for the Luxury version of the 3.2 V-6.
In the rest of Europe the Alfa GT will arrive in February and right-hand-drive markets such as Japan and the U.K. will see deliveries in March.
At launch, the range is ready to meet virtually every expectation; the fundamental difference between variants comes from the powertrains. There are different options for power and torque, for engine type (gasoline or diesel) and for transmissions.
Additional models will be introduced later, such as the 1.8 Twin Spark gasoline engine (according to official sources) and a king-of-the-hill 3.5 V-6. The powertrain mix is unique and says a lot about the new Alfa GT.
The combination reflects both the manufacturing strategy that banks on existing, proven components and demands of the market. The 6-speed manual transmission of the 1.9L turbodiesel satisfies both technical criteria and market expectations.
Amazingly, in the Alfa GT class and in all premium segments, diesel power now is the rule. Diesels account for some 80% of all new-vehicle sales in Italy, and although the 3.2 V-6 is the “supreme” Alfa GT in terms of performance and the 2.0 JTS with Selespeed transmission will be the choice of connoisseurs – the 1.9L M-Jet will be the best-seller.
On the road, the 3.2L V-6 sings with pleasure, revving quickly but managing to channel its torque reasonably well through the front wheels. The car has traction control and Alfa Romeo’s VDC stability control.
Inevitably, there is understeer when the GT is taken too quickly into corners, but the car forgives a lot, and the driver easily can correct the line by lifting the throttle.
There is some noise inside the cabin, but it is very reasonable and is the kind enthusiastic drivers love. Braking is even more powerful than the engine.
Much the same can be said for the 2L JTS with the new direct-injection gasoline 4-cyl. Even though the power is decidedly inferior to the 3.2L V-6, the modern gasoline engine is up to Alfa Romeo standards and is flexible and rewarding.
The feisty performance is achieved mainly via the short gear ratios. The Selespeed automated manual now is faster and smoother, but on motorways the driver feels the need for an extra gear. It will probably come as soon as Alfa Romeo engineers have adapted the Selespeed system for the 6-speed manual.
Diesels are not very popular in the largest world markets – namely the U.S. and Japan – but this is going to change, for two reasons. First, turbodiesels are beginning to surpass gasoline engines in performance and are markedly more fuel efficient.
The second reason: Japanese car makers had to invest in diesel production to compete in the European markets. Now that they have seen the diesel’s benefits, they likely will soon export them to the U.S as well.
The modern Alfa turbodiesel with Multi-Jet (hence M-jet) common-rail fuel injection has a lot in its favor and perhaps it’s time to admit it can be as good, if not better, than Alfa’s classic 4-cyl. Gasoline engine.
Lively driving often is the result of solid, usable torque. The small 1.9L M-jet engine delivers more – 225 lb.-ft. (305 Nm) – than the excellent 3.2L V-6.
Yes, the M-jet’s power output is a relatively tame 150 hp, but this is simply to save on fuel and emissions. It could do a lot more, and eventually it will, in a racing development soon to be unveiled). To seal the deal, the smaller M-Jet also is lighter than the V-6.
Alfa Romeo is planning production and sales of the new Alfa GT at the rate of 20,000 units annually, but the company wouldn’t mind selling more if demand is strong.
|Alfa GT Driveline Choices|
|0 to |
|2.0 JTS||1,970||4/16||152/ |
|5-speed manual, |
|3.2 V6||3,179||6/24||221/ |
|1.9 M-Jet turbodiesel||1,910||4/16||223/ |
|1.8 Twin |