So this is the Giulia Tipo 952, the first of the new Alfa Romeo saloons. With rear-wheel drive no less, and in this flagship Cloverleaf form, a 375kW twin-turbo V6 that dusts BMW’s M3 to the tune of 58kW. It’s fair to say we were not expecting such a high performance thrust, when the Italians invited us to Arese to witness Alfa’s rebirth. It was the most Italian of world premieres: soaring rhetoric (‘It’s more than a car, it’s an Alfa Romeo!’
‘Other premium brands are cold, technocratic, even boring: it’s time to go back to feeling the car and the road again!’), delirious passion, even blind opera singer Andrea Bocelli thundering Nessun Dorma as the car was revealed. There’s a lot at stake. A range of eight all-new Alfas is charged with selling 400 000 cars by 2018, more than six times last year’s 68 000 units. Fiat Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne has pledged $7.8 billion in funding: they really are throwing everything at relaunching Alfa Romeo. To get the world’s attention, they launched 2016’s 4 640mm 3 Series rival with the halo model. And there’s a lot of Ferrari in this Alfa.
Philippe Krief, the Giulia’s project leader, is ex-Ferrari and worked on the 458 and Speciale. He told me that the Cloverleaf’s electrically power-assisted steering would eclipse Maranello’s superfast responses just off the deadahead. ‘This kind of precision, this directness, it’s exactly the same feeling we wanted to put on this car. Our steering ratio is even lower than Ferrari’s, it’s below 12:1.’
Also ‘inspired by Ferrari technology and skills’ is the 2.9-litre six-cylinder. It copies the new turbocharged Ferraris’ torque delivery, restricting it at lower revs so you’re encouraged to wind the engine out to its 7000rpm limit. The V6 is made entirely from aluminium to minimise weight over the front axle; engineers claim the Cloverleaf has a 50:50 weight distribution. Alfa is targeting classleading performance and economy, so the V6 has cylinder shutdown and precise direct injection to save fuel, with the flipside being a claimed 0-100kph sprint in a BMW-beating 3.9sec.
Light weight is critical to meet both targets, and Alfa promises the Cloverleaf will have a kerb weight around 1500kg. While steel largely forms the body in white, the suspension is mostly aluminium, as are the doors and wings, and the Cloverleaf’s roof and seat frames are carbonfibre. Carbon ceramic brakes are optional. The propshaft is also made of composite in every Giulia, even the four-cylinder and V6 diesel versions set for their world debuts at Frankfurt this September.
The boxfresh chassis, which Alfa claims shares no critical parts with any other group architecture, has a couple of other technical highlights. Motors manipulate aerodynamic aids in corners to boost downforce, before resetting on the straights to reduce drag. And the rear axle is equipped with torque vectoring, firing up to 100% of grunt to either driven wheel to enhance traction and turn-in. Krief describes the system as similar to a giant hand on top of the car, giving extra dynamic control. The unveiling’s final words were uttered by CEO Marchionne, who personally undertook monthly reviews during the car’s unusually rapid 26-month development. ‘It is no mystery that Alfa is one of the projects I’ve been most involved with, both operationally and emotionally,’ he said. ‘Over the past 30 years, Alfa has been suffering with a sense of unfulfillment. But we can finally say that today is the first day of a new era for Alfa.’