Alfa Romeo, ah there’s a name to conjure with. Henry Ford is reputed to have said that he lifted his hat every time he saw one (which wasn’t often). In the 1930s and 1950s, Alfa Romeo was revered in much the same way as Ferrari is now. And in the 60s there were some super Alfa Romeos, but after that Fiat decreed Alfas should change to front-wheel drive, which went against all Alfa stood for. So things went downhill.
Now, it looks as if Alfa is on the up and up. First, this Alfa GT is lovely looking car, secondly, it has the right power trains, and thirdly, the suspension and steering are right. Next comes the shorter Brera, and as Alfa is now in the same sub-group as Maserati, it must have a more sporty future.
Styled by Bertone
So what about this GT? Styled by Bertone, it’s an elegant coupe that makes others look dull. The Alfa three-piece grille sits in the low nose, which sweeps up to the quite high scuttle and steeply raked windscreen. There are the typical Alfa sculptured sides, and despite the sloping fastback, there is good headroom in the back. The short and neat tail also provides quite a bit of luggage space. It is a compact car, just 176 inches long superslot.
There are 2.0 liter and 3.2 liter engines available in the Alfa GT, and mine had the 3.2 liter V-6, which is also used in the larger Alfas. It is a modern aluminum unit with twin ohc per bank and four valves per cylinder. Maximum power is 240 bhp at 6,200 rpm, and the engine revs freely to the cut-off at 7,000 rpm. Maximum torque is 213 lb ft (289 Nm) at 4,800 rpm, making this quite a sporty engine.
As the GT is built on the 156 underbody, it has a rather longer wheelbase than you want on a GT, but that does give you more space. Jump into the low driving seat, and first impressions are not bad. The wheel feels just right, and the black trim relieved by dark grey looks fine. At first, the rear window looks tiny, but actually rear vision is good.
It took me a bit of time to get the seat in the right position for the pedals, so that my foot was attacking the clutch pedal at the right angle, but then I was ready. The engine springs to life with a sporty thrum, promising an exciting drive. I drove off, noting that the gearshift was smooth, and before long I was cruising along the motorway. It cruises quietly, with 3,000 rpm putting you at 75 mph in sixth, and giving you a relaxed drive.
Tracks well on twisty roads
On a twisty bit of road, I noticed that the car was moving along well, going where I asked. The steering felt pretty direct, which is what you’d expect with only 2.2 turns lock-to-lock, but equally important, the car tracked well too. The Alfa GT has an unusual – and good – suspension set-up for a compact mass-produced platform: double wishbones at the front and MacPherson struts at the rear. Double wishbones tend to give better handling than the MacPherson struts common at the front of most competitors.
To cope with the extra power of the 3.2 liter engine, this model gets stiffer springs and anti-roll bars, and it own damper settings. The brakes are also larger, and to give good cornering power, 225/45 Michelin tires are used with smart 17 inch alloy wheels.
Car lopes along well on fast roads
The Alfa GT proved an excellent long distance cruiser, although the ride is hard, but it has reasonable rather than good seats – maybe designed for shorter people than me – as the car lopes along in a relaxed manner. If you need to overtake, you slot down to third, and the engine starts to roar at about 3,500 rpm, pushing you forward very quickly. Try to do a standing start, and you’ll get a bit of wheelspin before the traction control – and stability control – kicks in, but the car tears ahead, getting to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, and has a top speed of 150 mph. Quick. In the lower ratios, the acceleration is spectacular, with the car charging forward, and holding the line well.
The six-speed gearbox has a slick shift, although the actual selection is not as positive as some. Not that it causes any bother. Shifts are made quickly, whichever gear you want. The clutch is quite heavy, though.
Great drive on twisty roads
Once I started pushing the GT along some twistier roads, the car came into its own. Drop into third, and the revs build into the power range, and off the car roars; shift down into second, you’re likely to get the traction control working quite a lot on wet roads, this being about as much power as you want to push through the front-wheels. But the Alfa GT still accelerates strongly.
With that large engine up front, the car understeers, but turns in much better than many other front-drivers, thanks to the good suspension design. On main roads, you find there is plenty of cornering power to motor fast, and the car still behaves well on twistier roads, and rides well over switchbacks, the dampers controlling it well. In fact, this is where the car is most at home, accelerating fast from the bends, braking well, turning in pretty well, and cornering on rails most of the time.