Monday Motoring: Alfa Romeo Giulia

Having built a succession of beautiful cars over the last 20 years which were ultimately flawed and unsuccessful, Alfa is poised to put that history behind it and to recover its glorious history. It has bet everything  on the car it is about to unleash, and which has already been revealed in range topping, M3 munching, supercar baiting Quadrifoglio Verde form.

This is the car that promises to return Alfa Romeo to form, producing cars that are desirable as well as competitive, able to appeal both to heart and to head.  the former categories Alfa has always had in spades. The latter qualities it must absolutely nail if it is going to compete with cars like the Audi A4, BMW 3Series, Jaguar XE and Mercedes C Class.

It has to compete for the attention not only of personal buyers, who might be swayed by throaty engine notes, 0-60 times, and bulging bodywork; much more seriously, it has to vie for the attention of fleet managers who are swayed by slow depreciation curves, CO2 emissions ratings, insurance groupings and fuel efficiency stats.All credit to Alfa.  They have taken the challenge before them seriously, owned the failures of the last 20 years, and set out to make a car that needs no excuses and can stand toe to toe with the best in the world.

Alfa created a special skunkworks division in a secret part of Fiat’s vast empire, put in a huge amount of investment , no doubt in part raised by the launch of Ferrari on the stock exchange (FIAT is Ferrari’s parent company), appointed a bunch of high quality engineers from across the vast FIAT Chrysler Group empire as well as from outside it, and set them the task of creating a range of new Alfas that were at last worthy of its proud heritage. There would be no excuses, no compromises, and no holds barred.  Finally, there would be the first Alfa of the last 30 years of which the Alfisti could be rightly proud, and ideally buy in large numbers.

Currently, Alfa only has 3 models in its portfolio, MiTo, Giulietta and 4C.  In 2015, a year in which new car registrations in the UK hit a near historic high, according to SMMT figures Alfa sold only 5,069 cars last year.  Audi sold 166,709, whilst BMW managed 167,391.  Even worse, their figures represent 5% and 12% increases on last year respectively. Alfa’s figure represents an 8% decrease on 2014 sales.  Alfa is in huge trouble in Britain right now. It needs something new to turn things around.Alfa-Romeo-brand-plan-02-626x382

The new Alfa Rome Giulia is that car.  It was revealed in 2015 but will be released later this year. It is the first of 8 planned new Alfas over the next 3 years as the 5 year plan above shows.

The early omens are good. Alfa has returned to rear wheel drive, it has concentrated on making the car great to drive, but claims that it has also made sure that the car is easy to live with, for both user choosers and fleet managers alike.The only model thus far revealed is the top of the range Quadifoglio Verde (QV) version. This is an out and out sports car disguised in a saloon. It has a twin turbo 2.9V6 reputedly with design input from Alfa’s cousins over at Ferrari.  It produces 510 horsepower and a top speed of 190mph!   It should be a monster and provide stiff competition for BMW’s M3 and Mercedes’ AMG C63.

Mere mortals will have to wait for the regular engines to be revealed.  Leaked reports suggest that 2.2 diesel and 2.0 turbo petrol 4-cylinder engines in various states of tune will fill out the rest of the Giulia’s engine range. These engines are claimed to be unique to Alfa and not shared with other marques in the Fiat-Chrysler Group, like Jeep, Dodge or Chrysler.  We’ll see about that.

Whilst the V6 QV will garner the headlines, and rightly so, it’s the 4-cyl diesels that will generate most of the sales.  They are the models that actually matter most for the success of this car, or otherwise.Alfas of the last 20 years have been decent cars in isolation. Unfortunately, they have simply not given buyers sufficient reason to choose an Alfa over its competitors.  Hopefully, that’s about to change.  Actually, scratch that.  If that does not change, Alfa could well be finished. Forever.

However, looking at these images and hearing Alfa talk up the Giulia it’s hard for petrolheads not to look forward to Alfa’s next chapter. With anticipation.

The big question is whether Alfa has already lost the Alfisti.  I would have bought one of the Giulia’s predecessors, if it had measured up. In the mean time I’ve moved on and the reality is that I’m not really in the market for a car in the Giulia segment any longer.  If and when a 166 successor is released I might be interested.

So the reality is, I want the Giulia to be awesome, and I want lots of people to buy one, ideally, instead of an Audi or BMW, but I already know I won’t be one of them, no matter how wonderful the car is.

So this is the key question for Alfa: Even if it builds a world beater, will there be enough people willing to trade in their BMWs and Audis to move to an Alfa? For Alfa’s sake, and that of the Alfisti faithful, I hope the answer is a resounding yes…..

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