When Alfa Romeo needed something to celebrate its 110th birthday, the Italian brand had lofty ambitions. Where we’d have simply plunged one hundred and ten candles into the back of a chocolate caterpillar cake and set off a car-shaped confetti cannon, it wanted to build… an icon.
And not just any birthday icon, but according to Fabio Migliavacca, Alfa’s product marketing chief, a Ferrari-40th-birthday kind of icon. Remember what that was? The Ferrari F40. Talk about punchy inspiration. What they eventually came up with was the Giulia GTA, and here’s why we’re fans…
STORY Rowan Horncastle
It’s got a badge that makes Alfathusiasts lick their lips and dribble
To even have a chance at coming close to something as legendary as Ferrari’s wedge-shaped twin-turbo nutter, there was only one thing for it: to pull Alfa’s epochal GTA badge out from the deep freezer, slap it on the arse of its most exciting car in years, and produce an angrier, louder, lighter and faster Giulia.
The Alfa Giulia GTA was born. But that wasn’t the end of it. See, to keep the Alfisti who like track days happy, the company took this new Alfa GTA one step beyond; stripping the 540hp beast out even further, adding a supersized wing and calling it the GTAm. In case you hadn’t noticed, that’s the one in the pics.
Its heritage runs deep
Those three letters (G, T and A) come with some serious cachet. The first use of the Gran Turismo Alleggerita appellation – Italian for ‘grand tourer lightened’ – came in 1965, when kleptomaniac engineers managed to pilfer a full 210kg out of the Giulia GT, which, at 950kg, wasn’t exactly a porker to begin with.
Think about that for a second. That’s binning two kilos out of every 10 – a weight loss regime normally only achieved with plates of water for dinner and an uncomfortably tight gastric band.
How’s the new car done? Well, it’s shed some timber thanks to copious amounts of carbonfibre (the driveshaft, bonnet, roof, front bumper, front wheelarches and rear wheelarch inserts, and sports seats are made of the stuff), while the GTAm also ditches the back seats, replaces its front windscreen with a thinner one, bins the rear screen for a Lexan polycarbonate one, adds a roll cage, Sabelt race harnesses, and swaps out doorhandles for fabric door pulls to hit the scales at 1,520kg.
Which is only 4kg lighter than a UK-spec launch edition Giulia Quadrifoglio by our calculations. Alfa has employed some Italian maths though, and claims the standard car was actually homologated at 1,620kg, making the GTAm a full 100kg lighter.
Anyone got a very large pair of scales? At least the new one stays truer to its forefather than the last GTA to be haphazardly wheeled out: the woeful Mito GTA.
It’s a little monster
No, it’s not in the Lady Gaga fan club (well, that – just like its full performance figures – are yet to be confirmed), but internally the new GTA has always been dubbed ‘Il Mostro’. Or ‘The Monster’ if your GCSE Italian is a bit rusty.
Naturally, the idea for a batshit Giulia didn’t take long to percolate through to Alfa’s skunkworks – the group of 40 or so FCA boffins that were locked away in an old bus factory a few years ago and told not to come out until they had a new-from-the-ground-up platform and product to turn Alfa’s financial frown upside down. The fruits of their labour were the Giulia and Stelvio.
But one day during the process, some of the ‘enthusiastic’ engineers and designers decided to leave their Adderall at home and turn a Giulia up to 11. At the time it was seen as too extreme to be signed off, so was kept in their back pocket until 2019, when a birthday present was needed sharpish.
Probably to cover up a raft of Alfa-based bad news, lacklustre sales and the axing of the 8C supercar and hybrid GTV Coupe. Not that Alfa will tell you that.
As foundations go, a standard Giulia Quadrifoglio is a butch and pugnacious thing with oodles of presence and muscular surfacing to play with. But the GTA amplifies all of these things.
Think of the GTA and GTAm as what happens when a Giulia gets swole, ends up on parole and has to have an electronic tag strapped around its new 20-inch blacked-out centrelock telephone dial rims.
It may not look it in pictures, but its track has bloated out by 50mm front and rear – with those bolt-on rear wheelarch extensions making it look properly meaty. Visually, you get a larger and manually adjustable front splitter using smarts from Alfa and Sauber Engineering’s F1 partnership, while new full carbon front fascia features cascade down and twiddle into outboard flaps to help direct air towards the brakes and intercooler.
At the back, a subtle and quite literally horny carbon-fibre rear spoiler has been plonked on the deck. But if you want to ratchet up the drama, the GTAm adds a massive and not-so-subtle manually tweakable spoiler with unique rounded endplates that screams ‘downforce’ and whispers ‘looks aftermarket’.
Pretty, it’s not. Functional, it is. Then there’s the bespoke side-by-side centre-exit titanium Akrapovič exhaust sprouting out of the diffuser to make the colourful, thwappy turbo tones super fruity. Oh, and an interior – on the GTAm – fit for a Soho sex dungeon.
It should be fast
As it’s still in development (and because the engineers are being annoyingly tight-lipped) the GTA’s performance is currently one of life’s unanswerable questions – just like ‘where does all the dishwasher salt go?’
What we do know is that the 30hp increase to bring the 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo up to 540hp (courtesy of a larger turbo compressor wheel, new pistons, reinforced connecting roads, bespoke valve springs and new oil cooling) plus that Weight Watchers diet shaves off three tenths from the 0–100km/h, dropping it to 3.6 secs.
But with that newfound downforce, increased agility, plus lighter and stiffer springs (which we’re told will help the car feel alive on turn-in), we’re desperate to know how much it can chomp out of the standard QV’s scorching 7m 32s Nürburgring Nordschleife lap time. Shame the Italians won’t tell us. Boo.
We’re told it should be the quickest road-legal Alfa Romeo ever. And has been benchmarked against the likes of Porsche GT3s and supercars. Which, for a family saloon car, is good company to be knocking about in.
It’s rare. And expensive
What we do know is that the GTA ain’t going to be cheap. The GTA comes with a pricetag that’ll cause most to suffer from ambient, low-hanging anxiety. But if you want more lightness and less stuff, you’ll want the GTAm, and you’re going to have to cough up more on top. Why? Because that’s how the wonky economics of lightweights work.
Saying that, Alfa is kind enough to throw in a look-at-my-purple-sectors racing uniform, helmet and car cover to soften the blow. And you can even have your car painted in a retro livery to really ham up the heritage.
Crucially, only 500 cars (split between GTA and GTAm) will be made. But is that too many? The Jaguar Project Eight had more power and four-wheel drive for similar money and Jag tried every Rishi Sunak incentive and scheme in the book to try to flog those, and still struggled.
But the Alfa has a few things on its side, namely Italian passion, charm and that badge. And that’s what’s kept people buying Alfas since day dot. So why would that stop them now? We just hope it’s as quick as it looks. Well, quicker than a chocolate caterpillar cake with 110 candles in its back.