Alfa Romeo is close to signing off the final shape of the Giulia, its all-new 3-series challenger, which is little more than 17 months from the showroom.
With the launch of the Mito out of the way and the showroom debut of the Giulietta weeks away, getting the new Giulia saloon and estate exactly right has never been more crucial.
However, Alfa Romeo has never been better placed in terms of the quality of the components it has its disposal. Not only does it have access to the Fiat Group???s cutting-edge new Compact Global Modular Architecture, but Alfa will also be able to use upcoming developments of Fiat Power Train???s Multiair engine technology and new dual-clutch gearboxes.
The new Giulia is based on a longer version of the Compact platform used for the Giulietta. While the Alfa 147/GT platform has double wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear, it is ageing and significantly lacking in torsional rigidity. By contrast, the Premium platform that underpins today???s 159 may be extremely stiff and safe, but it is also too heavy.
Although the platform will not be the absolute lightest in its class, it makes extensive use of high-strength materials (accounting for around 90 per cent of the structure) and features lightweight crash structures front and rear, and aluminium suspension wishbones all round.
The new MacPherson-strut front end sits on a large subframe, which will allow the suspension to resist the distorting effects of the lateral forces generated by cornering. Among other advantages, this should mean the Giulia will not lose steering precision under hard cornering.
Alfa bosses say they want the Giulia to be ranked as best in class for ride and handling. Philippe Krief, head of dynamics for the Fiat Group, says that while the Compact platform???s suspension design and geometry has to cover all of Fiat???s brands, it will still be possible to tune the system to deliver Alfa???s dynamic targets.
Alfa engineers are also developing new two-stage dampers with Koni, and the company has 15 engineers working on the control software for an optional active damping system. It???s thought that the ???DNA??? control for the throttle, steering and stability control will be standard. The Compact platform will offer Alfa the option of using a four-wheel drive system for the Giulia, as well as offering the Q2 electronic differential.
The Giulia will have some of the most modern engines of any car in this class. As well as the engines in the Giulietta (118bhp 1.4 turbo petrol and 168bhp Multiair petrol, and 104bhp 1.6 and 168bhp 2.0 diesels), the Giulia will get some even more advanced powerplants.
On the petrol front, Multiair 2 will be launched, combining the clever valve timing and lift set-up with direct injection. This step forward slightly improves CO2 emissions and dramatically reduces NOx pollution, as well as improving driveability.
A new 1750 TC GDI unit, delivering between 200bhp and 235bhp, looks like it could be the choice of the Giulia range. At the top end of the petrol line-up, it???s expected that Alfa will fit a Multiair 2 induction and injection system to Chrysler???s all-new Pentastar V6 engine. Alfa???s version should be a 3.3-litre unit delivering 273bhp with an unusually muscular torque curve for a normally aspirated V6.
There???s no news yet on whether Alfa will offer the V6 with the new torque-vectoring four-wheel drive transmission. Not only does an all-wheel drive system add considerable weight, but it can also blunt even the performance sensation delivered. If this range-topper does get the nod, at least one version will wear the GTA badge.
For diesel buyers, there???s a new, sophisticated Multiair and Multijet 2 combined induction and injection system on the way. There???s no news as to which engines will get it, but the upcoming 3.0-litre V6 diesels (220bhp and 250bhp) are the most likely. A 140bhp version of the 2.0-litre JTDm with a variable-vane turbocharger is also on the cards. Multiair also helps to significantly clean up the pollution from diesel engines.
Aside from the standard-issue six-speed manual gearboxes, there will be some interesting high-end units on offer. The M40 unit is good for handling up to 295lb ft of torque, and it will come in six-speed manual and automated manual forms. These specs could point to the technical make-up of the Giulia GTA.
Higher-performance Giulias will have the option of the new C635 twin-clutch transmission, which comes in front-drive and four-wheel-drive forms and can handle between 185lb ft and
258lb ft of torque.