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Unread 2012-08-09, 10:22 AM   #1
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Default Alfa readies 3-series rival for 2014

New saloon to spearhead Alfa Romeo relaunch; production likely in US and China with 4WD offered as an option

Saloon body style will be followed by a Sportwagon

Alfa Romeo’s new Giulia saloon is just months away from being frozen into its final form and committed to production for a 2014 launch. The new BMW 3-series rival is evidence that Fiat Group boss Sergio Marchionne remains determined to revive the ailing brand.

The Giulia will be the first all-new mainstream model launched under Alfa’s revival plan. The saloon, plus the mid-engined 4C sports car (due on sale in early 2014) and the reborn Spider (2015), are intended to put Alfa Romeo firmly back in contention as a viable global premium brand.

The front-drive Giulia (the name is used internally but is not final) will arrive as a saloon first and then a Sportwagon.

Prices are expected to kick off at around £22,000 for the entry-level 120bhp 1.4-litre MultiAir version. In addition to this familiar unit, the Giulia will be powered by a series of new turbocharged petrol engines exclusive to the Alfa brand, including an updated version of the highly regarded 1750 TBi unit used in the defunct 159 and Brera, as well as Fiat’s own diesel powertrains.

Marchionne recently revealed that, in future, Alfa will benefit from a range of engines that are not shared with Fiat-branded cars. However, with Fiat seemingly shrinking back to a core range of Panda and 500-series vehicles, any future clash between them is unlikely.

The Giulia will also use a new MultiAir version of Chrysler’s latest Pentastar petrol V6, though this engine may not make it to Europe. Four-wheel drive will be an option on the Giulia, and is particularly important if Alfa is to successfully relaunch itself in North America.

The new car will aim to compete with the Audi A4 and BMW 3-series in Europe’s compact executive sector. This market is still very healthy, in stark contrast to the mainstream European D-sector market, dominated by cars such as the Ford Mondeo, which is shrinking fast.

The key to the Giulia being taken seriously in established premium company is an updated version of the sophisticated ‘Compact’ platform that underpins the Giulietta. Fiat says 90 per cent of the platform is made up of ‘high-strength’ materials, featuring such technical niceties as a cast aluminium ‘shear plate’ to brace the front chassis legs, greatly improving rigidity for better steering and suspension control.

The Giulia’s underpinnings are the third iteration of this architecture. The second-generation Compact platform, which is wider than the Giulietta platform, currently underpins the Dodge Dart and the Chinese-market Fiat Viaggio. The Giulia gets a further update of the Dart platform, with a longer wheelbase and a rumoured complete upgrade of the independent rear suspension.

The car’s final look — which has been agonised over by Fiat Group bosses — is expected to be finalised this autumn, when the production process is set to begin. A thinly disguised version of the final car is expected to be unveiled in the middle of next year.

The new Alfa could be made alongside the Dodge Dart at Chrysler’s plant in Belvidere, Illinois. Officially, Fiat says this is possible, but no decision has been made.

In truth, building the Giulia in the US will give a huge boost to the chances of a successful relaunch of Alfa there after the brand pulled out of North America in 1995.

Building the Giulia in Europe then shipping it to the US would undermine profitability, and greater economies of scale can be achieved by building the car alongside its Dodge cousin.

The Giulia is also likely to spearhead the introduction of Alfa to the Chinese market, with local production alongside the Viaggio (the Chinese version of the Dodge Dart) a racing certainty.

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