2009 Alfa Romeo 159Enlarge Photo
Alfa Romeo will likely relaunch as a brand in the United States with its limited-production 4C sports car, followed by the far more mainstream Giulia sedan. To say that Alfa has a lot riding on the success of the Giulia in both the U.S. and Europe is a huge understatement, and it’s seen as the key to the brand’s rebirth.
Despite its front-wheel-drive layout, Autocar is calling the Giulia a rival to the BMW 3-Series, primarily in its market position and luxury content. It’s unlikely that U.S. buyers will get the base 1.4-liter, 120-horsepower MultiAir engine, but instead will probably have both turbocharged four-cylinder and Pentastar V-6 engine options to choose from.
Expect handling to rival the best front-drive sedans on the market, thanks to an updated compact platform shared with Alfa’s smaller Giuletta. Roughly 90-percent of the chassis is composed of high-strength materials, and features like a cast aluminum shear plate stiffen the chassis to improve handling and steering response.
Buyers objecting to front-wheel-drive will also get the option of all-wheel-drive (AWD), making the Giulia a legitimate rival to cars like the Audi A4. Parent Fiat sees AWD as essential to selling the car in the United States and re-establishing the Alfa Romeo brand.
The Giulia’s platform is also used to build the Dodge Dart, although the Giulia will ride on a longer wheelbase and will sport a more sophisticated independent rear suspension. That’s still enough to give rise to rumors that the Giulia could be built alongside the Dart at Chrysler’s Belvidere, Illinois plant, but no decision has been made by Fiat.
Styling is on track to be completed this fall, which means that a near-production version could be shown by mid-2013. Given the delays already experienced in Alfa’s return to the U.S. market, Sergio Marchionne is clearly more focused on getting the Giulia right than on simply getting it into the market. We suspect the end product will be worth the wait.