Romeo is an
steeped in racing
history, and a new Alfa
is always an occasion.
Alfas GT Q2 may
not have quite the
chutzpah of the
8C Competizione, but
it still cuts a dash...
TRADITIONALLY, COUPÉS ARE ALL ABOUT STYLE. As are Alfa Romeos. Therefore, you could expect an Alfa coupé to be a real looker and you wouldn't be disappointed. The Italian marque's Bertone-designed GT goes one better because under its sporting, balanced lines, you'll find a coupé that's not comprom-ised by its appearance as much as many coupés. Overlook, for a moment, the sweetly flared arches, jaunty tail and taut roofline. Instead, consider the practical touches like the rear seats that are real-world useable and the accommodating boot/load bay that is easily accessed via a large tailgate. Oh, and don't forget Alfa Romeo's new treatment that's available exclusively with the 150bhp JTDm-engined Alfa GT and Alfa 147.
Called Q2 (to differentiate it from Alfa's Q4 four-wheel-drive system),
it employs a limited slip front diff to distribute torque between the front wheels. In as short a sound-bite as possible, the Q2 maintains traction, roadholding and stability during hard acceleration in low grip conditions and, notably, when exiting corners. It manages this by splitting torque between the two front driving wheels constantly and dynamically in response to changing driving conditions and road surfaces ensuring that effective grip is maintained at all times.
While not the first manufacturer to employ an LSD installation at the front of the vehicle, Alfa Romeo has combined the technology with an exclusive double wishbone front suspension to allow very effective fine tuning of the car's chassis. In addition, the GT's ride height has been lowered and different anti-roll bars, springs and dampers, along with bigger (18-inch) wheels and low-profile 225/40 Pirelli tyres, have been specified.
For the keen driver, the most attractive advantage of the Q2 set-up
is that it works with the traction control to maintain power and acceleration at all times. Without the Q2, all traction control systems will reduce power to a spinning wheel to allow the car to regain grip; effectively slowing down the car. With Q2, it simply shifts power to
the wheel that has more grip, and therefore maintains acceleration.
The result is that the front-wheel drive GT is a cleaner, faster and tighter-cornering performer. As already mentioned, underpinning the GT is Alfa's familiar double wishbone front and MacPherson strut rear sus-pension layout fettled with stiffer anti-roll bars, different springs and revised damper settings. In Q2 spec, the GT is only available with Alfa's 1.9 JTDm turbodiesel. But that's certainly no hardship, because the MultiJet turbodiesel offers tremendous economy without sacrificing performance. Sounds amazingly sensible, doesn't it? Sensible and sexy an unexpected combination that's as more-ish as a Hotel Chocolat Chocolate Log!
Before delving deeper into the GT's abilities, it's worth casting an eye over what else you get for your money. In the GT's case, your £24,100 buys the following: leather sports upholstery, Bose sound system
with 8 speakers and a radio/MP3 reader/CD player, interior Q2 styling touches that include special stainless steel kick plates, a satin alloy effect to the small but shapely door mirrors and aluminium pedals; unique pattern 18-inch alloy wheels, chromed exhaust, rear parking sensors, remote audio controls for the Bose stereo, cruise control and VDC system on the leather steering wheel, multi-function display/trip computer, ski hatch, heated and electrically-adjustable door mirrors, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a fire prevention system, Follow-Me-Home headlamps, one-shot electric front windows and also driver, passenger, front side and window airbags. Not to mention sports suspension and the Q2 limited slip differential.
Performance-wise, the GT has 150bhp under the bonnet sufficient for it to run to 130mph and get off the line and hit 62mph from stand-still in 9.6 seconds. It also boasts a surfeit of torque: its 225lb ft (on hand from 2,000rpm) betters that of its 240bhp 3.2 petrol V6 sibling that musters 213lb ft. Equally important today are the GT's 'efficiency' figures an extra-urban fuel consumption figure of 57.6mpg and, res-pectively for city and combined driving, 33.2 and 45.6mpg. Emissions are 165g.km, placing the GT in Band D and incurring an annual road tax bill of £140.
For the record, on a 300-mile round trip to Bath we recorded a
genuine 54.2mpg without going out of our way to drive economically. Impressive stuff. Out test average worked out to an equally good 39.6mpg.
Swing open a door and settle into one of the front sport seats and you'll immediately feel at home. Snug but without all the physical restrictions that description usually implies. The leather-clad, three-spoke steering wheel, smartly finished by the Alfa roundel gracing the boss, feels good to hold: just the right diameter and just the right thickness rim, with perforated sections on the work areas. And it adjusts generously for reach and rake. The driver's seat also gets adjustable lumbar support and height adjustment, so setting a good driving position is easy. Side and forward visibility is fine.
Alloy pedals are well spaced and the triple-cowled instrument binnacle dead ahead of the driver is home to a selection of fine-looking white-on-black dials with large crisp graphics. The fascia and centre stack are well laid out, with just enough chrome and alloy highlights to make it all look special. Nice touches included the slide-out lined oddments drawer in the centre stack you also get a pop-out cupholder.
The comfortable, shapely seats offer good hip and thigh support although some drivers may find them a touch narrow at the shoulders. Restricted rearward visibility is the price you pay for the elegantly sweeping low roofline; but at least rear parking sensors are fitted as standard. Still on the low roofline, rear passengers taller than 5' 11" may feel a bit hemmed in sitting in the equally comfortable and well-shaped rear seats. Getting in and out is easy enough, courtesy of the efficient tilt 'n' slide front seats and frameless doors. And thanks to their low-set squabs and sculpted form, the rear seats do provide comfortable seating for two adults with fair legroom if not a lot of headroom.
Luggage capacity is a pleasant surprise: lift the tailgate and you'll find a spacious 320-litre luggage compartment. Easily big enough to take four fair-sized cases (and quite a lot of oddments) for our three-day working trip to Bath. With just two travelling, the 60:40 split rear seat-backs can be folded down (the bases tumble forwards first) to create
a very useful flat load platform with 905 litres of luggage space.
Ride around town in the Alfa GT and you'll find the ride firm but not harsh, even on the unique 5-spoke design 18-inch rims our test car was running. Leave the city behind you and pick up speed. The sports suspension feels happier out on the open road; firm yes, but country roads don't trouble it. Body control is consistently well controlled and there's no penalty to pay pressing on along twisty lanes.
Motorways are a breeze. The 70mph legal limit is realised at peak torque in sixth gear (90mph calls for just 2,500rpm in top at which speed the GT is deceptively quiet and stable). Progress is unruffled, the 1.9 MultiJet turbodiesel engine unobtrusive but ever ready to propel you forward with gusto if you need to speed up. Drop down through the manual 'box it's a lovely shift action; fast and polished and you'll hear a characterful note that let's you know it's game for some fun. In fact, Alfa's 1,910cc in-line-four is a particularly likeable unit. With four valves per cylinder driven directly by two overhead cams it's a lively player that serves up gutsy, unfaltering acceleration from around 1,500rpm all the way up to 4,500rpm.
In spite of the power having to be put down through the front pair of wheels, the GT still manages to deliver an involving drive, thanks to predictable handling and the quick just 2.2 turns lock-to-lock accurate and nicely-weighted rack-and-pinion speed-sensitive steer-ing. The Q2 diff builds on the inherent strengths of front-wheel drive
to create palpable front-end grip (even in the wet) and keeps the front hooked-up through demanding twists and turns. So much so that if
you pile on more power you can sense your line tighten.
And it works smoothly, too you're never aware of the mechanical transfer of power, nor is there any unwelcome kickback through the steering. It also intrepidly resists understeer if, for example, you need to back off unexpectedly through a corner. And when you need to stop you won't find the brakes (discs all round, ventilated up front, and with an upgraded servo) wanting. As you would expect, they're backed up by ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution as well as Alfa's Vehicle Dynamic Control system. As traction control systems go, the VDC is blessed with an obligingly mellow nature it doesn't interfere pre-maturely, allowing the full satisfaction of driver control to the limit of critical conditions.
Sexy, characterful, sporty, economical and practical. The Alfa GT is all of those, but it also has street presence and the inimitable Italian flair epitomised by the Alfa shield-badge: a red cross on a white back-ground alongside a crowned serpent. Whatever the reason you choose to drive an Alfa GT for, it will be the right one.
Alfa Romeo GT 1.9 JTDm 16v Q2 | £24,100
Maximum speed: 130mph | 0-62mph: 9.6 seconds
Overall test MPG: 39.6mpg | Power: 150bhp | Torque: 225lb ft
CO2 165g/km | Insurance group 15D
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