Future Car: 2015 Alfa Romeo Giulia
Alfa Romeo really is coming back to America, and a new compact sedan is the make-or-break offering. The Giulia promises zesty Italian style and driving fun, but it’s a distant cousin of the Dodge Dart, so it will likely be “imported” from Belvidere, Illinois.
What It Is
The 2015 Alfa Romeo Giulia (rhymes with “Julia”) is a new premium-compact sedan that looms as the most commercially important product in the Italian brand’s long-promised, often-delayed return to the U.S. market. According to Britain’s CAR and Autocar magazines, the Giulia will start sale in the first quarter of calendar 2014 and is likely be built at the Chrysler Group plant in Belvidere, Illinois alongside the Dodge Dart, its structural cousin. But because Alfa is a premium brand, the Giulia will be far upscale of the Dart, targeting the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Cadillac’s new ATS, the Lexus IS, and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Autocar expects a thinly disguised Giulia concept to be shown around the middle of 2013.
Alfa Romeo is part of Fiat Auto, the alliance partner which helped Chrysler out of its 2009 bankruptcy. The Giulia is part of a joint global product plan that aims to grow the alliance into a stronger, more-profitable rival for top-selling automakers such as Toyota, General Motors, Volkswagen Group, and Ford Motor Company.
Alfa has been ailing for a good many years. The new sedan is a key element in a brand revival plan hatched by Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne. Indeed, he personally dictated several styling do-overs that reportedly delayed the Giulia’s introduction by some two years. Despite that, Marchionne still hopes to raise the brand’s global sales from 130,000 in 2011 (itself a 30 percent gain on 2010) to around 400,000 units by late decade. Many analysts think the plan’s success will hinge not only on new products like the Giulia but on Alfa’s overall competitiveness in the lucrative U.S. market. That’s because America looms as crucial for the brand’s near-term future, now that Europe, Alfa’s traditional stronghold, has entered a deep and likely prolonged sales slump.
What To Expect
The 2015 Alfa Romeo Giulia is built on a modified version of the Compact U.S. Wide (CUSW) platform that underpins the Dodge Dart and originated with Alfa’s smaller Giulietta hatchback. British reports say the architecture is stretched a bit in wheelbase and perhaps width to put the Giulia on a dimensional par with the A4, 3-Series, et al. Our spec chart takes account of this modest upsizing.
Though CUSW is designed to accept front-wheel and all-wheel-drive running gear, the 2015 Alfa Romeo Giulia will launch as a front-drive sedan with a choice of powerteams. A Sportwagon is due to arrive several months later, but U.S. sale is unclear at this point, as is availability and timing of AWD.
Besides its dimensional changes, the CUSW platform is heavily upgraded for the Giulia to ensure premium-class levels of rigidity and noise isolation, as well as the extra-sporty handling associated with the Alfa badge. Our British friends say this involves switching 90 percent of the Dart’s steel unibody to costlier high-strength steel and incorporating more structural aluminum, changes that will also help curb fuel-wasting weight as a counter to the larger dimensions. Other upgrades include additional bracing around the strut-type front suspension and a completely new multi-link rear suspension. Rounding out major underskin features are electric power-steering assist and the requisite 4-wheel ABS disc brakes allied to an integrated antiskid system with traction control. Likely to be available, if not standard, is the DNA chassis-tailoring system used in the Giulietta and Alfa’s small, Euro-market MiTo hatchback. It enables the driver to alter shock-absorber firmness, throttle response, and steering effort through Dynamic, Normal and All-Weather modes.
Engine choices are a bit murky at the moment, but Marchionne promises that Giulia powerplants will be new designs reserved for Alfa alone. As the CEO told CAR earlier in 2012, “I am now working on state-of-the-art powertrains to reflect a premium brand. I cannot put a Fiat engine inside an Alfa Romeo and say, ‘This is an Alfa.’ Look, the lights went on, we understand this!”
Though several 4-cylinder and V6 diesels will get the major sales emphasis in Europe, North American Giulias will reportedly be limited to a pair of gasoline engines. One is a new version of Alfa’s 4-cylinder twincam “1750” unit, upgraded with all-aluminum construction, unique cylinder heads and, says CAR, one or two turbochargers. It’s also likely to employ Fiat’s fuel-saving MultiAir valve-control system, familiar in the U.S. from the 500 minicar. MultiAir is also said to feature on an available V6 designed and supplied by Chrysler. Though some reports have this as a modified version of the American company’s 3.6-liter Pentastar engine, we think the Giulia is more likely to use the 3.2-liter variant developed for smaller Chrysler-Fiat vehicles. Our spec chart lists best-guess horsepower and torque figures for both of these gasoline engines, but take the numbers with the proverbial grain of sodium chloride.
Sources are more definite about transmission choices. A 6-speed manual will be standard with the 4-cylinder and perhaps the V6 as well. Automatic options will involve a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual and/or a conventional automatic with 8 or 9 forward ratios. Intriguingly, CAR says the latter, supplied by transmission specialist ZF, is compatible with a hybrid-drive system, though we’ve no info on when that might arrive, assuming it’s even on the agenda. We suspect the ZF transmission will be available only with the V6 and the auto-manual limited to 4-cylinder Giulias, but that’s only a hunch.
The 2015 Alfa Romeo Giulia promises to be a styling standout in its class. According to CAR, CEO Marchionne pushed Fiat’s Stile Centro studio “to create a stunning car worthy of Alfa’s beautiful back catalog. A car that will tower above the premium [sedan] herd, not look like the ‘anonymous Lexus’ description leveled at one early proposal.” As noted, the boss proved hard to please, but it’s said designers had trouble retailoring the Dart architecture to achieve the look he desired, another factor in the Giulia’s belated intro.
All that seems to have been resolved, judging by informed-source renderings published by CAR and Autocar. Though these differ in details, they suggest the Giulia will be marked by a purposeful wheels-at-corner stance; a sloped, inward-tapering nose; Alfa’s familiar “shield” grille; “cat’s-eye” headlamps; simple body-side surfacing; a gently curved roofline; and an abbreviated rump with high-set taillamps and contours recalling classic racing Alfas.
Alas, we’ve not yet seen or heard anything about the Giulia’s interior, but it should be appropriately sporty and fashionable. That implies a driver-oriented dashboard design and control layout, well-bolstered front seats, and aluminum, carbon-fiber, and/or body-color accents. In addition, CAR says the Giulia “will start to close the gap” with German brands in driver-assistance tech by offering features such as blind-spot alert and low-speed “stop-and-go” cruise control. The latter automatically adjusts vehicle speed in congested urban traffic and can automatically stop the car to avoid a collision. Comfort, convenience, and connectivity features should also be in line with those of major class competitors.
For more inside information on hundreds of new cars of today and tomorrow, check out:
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.