I loved an Alfa Romeo, once, and now I'm pretty sure I'm about to love one all over again

Head teacher Brian Stimpson, played by John Cleese in the 1986 film Clockwise, perhaps said it best: “It’s not the despair, Laura. I can stand the despair. It’s the hope!”

Look at the picture above. 
It’s an Alfa Romeo. It’s called the Giulia and I think it’s rather good looking for a four-door saloon.

Geneva 2016 update: Alfa Romeo Giulia range revealed ahead of going on sale in the UK

Better than that, it has a V6 twin-turbo engine developed by the same people who will be making sure that a similar V6 goes into the upcoming Ferrari Dino. The chassis has been engineered on a shortened Maserati Ghibli platform, by specialist engineers in some kind of skunkworks near Modena, away from where other Alfa Romeos are developed and rather close to where Maseratis and Ferraris are engineered.

It will have more than 500bhp and rear-wheel drive in this form, and although there will 
be a range of more ordinary, 
less racy Giulias than this one, they should, fundamentally, 
look as good as this.

Now look at the other picture above. It’s an Alfa Romeo called the 156 and in 1997 I thought it, too, was gorgeous – and not just for a four-door saloon.

I don’t know what they were putting in the water in the mid-1990s, but in 1997 the equally beautiful Ford Puma and Peugeot 406 Coupé were launched, too.

It’s worth bearing in mind that good-looking cars were a rarity in those days. Perhaps auto makers realised that cars were becoming all quite good but all really dull to look at and needed to differentiate them somehow. I don’t know who exactly started it, but by the time the Audi TT arrived in 1998, it was becoming pretty clear that good design sold cars.

But anyway, 1997 and that Alfa. I remember sitting in an office in Harpenden in my first job in this game, sourcing pictures for a car yearbook, and receiving a print of the 156. Good grief, I wanted it to be good. At the time, SZ aside, Alfa Romeo hadn’t made a truly desirable car in my lifetime, but I knew there was a reason I should want one.

And, do you know? The 156 was good, mostly, even though it stayed in production longer than it should probably have, spawned the disappointing 
GTA and, eventually, was replaced by the 159, which was… okay, for a time. But then it wasn’t and the hope, and the success, so moderate, so fleeting, was gone again.

But like Brian Stimpson, I could live with that, too. Emotions and hope and optimism are for the young, and at 40 I’m quite happy not to feel the same way as I did in my early 20s. I was content it was over.

At least, I was, until they pulled the covers off this Giulia. And so it all begins again.

Our Verdict

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Alfa Romeo and the Giulia name is back, and returned in the shape of a saloon that is determined to disrupt the top order - watch out BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Audi

Join the debate

Comments
15

10 July 2015
In many ways the 90s were a high point for many manufacturers, they nailed the quality of cars before they got overly complex and therefore unreliable again.

The 156 was gorgeous, it wasn't squared off like the 155, it looked like a luxury Italian saloon, the offset numberplate with the proudly shown Alfa grille was a design feature that made its way into all later models. Yet it was no more expensive than any other 90s repmobile.

It introduced the common rail injection diesel engine to European motorists, now all diesels use this technology. The demise of the old school reliable iron lump diesels like XUDs and early VW TDs, but a new era in which diesels drove like petrol cars, and produced less emissions. The JTD found its way into Saabs, who in return fettled with the GM platform that would be used to underpin the 159. Due to the Swedish obsession with solidity and safety, the gorgeous 159 maybe wasn't as sporting or quick on its feet as it looked. However they're a cracking used buy - Saab solidity and the best looking Italian saloon car (until the Guilia).

10 July 2015
Can't wait. I had a 156 GTA and loved it, not disappointing at all. With RWD and 500bhp this one should be even better. Depreciation will be bad though...

10 July 2015
Some analysts are expressing serious reservations about the Giulia. Perhaps the first question to ask is: when will it go on sale? This 'skunkworks' sounds like the kind of operation that builds concept cars, not mass-production ones. Is it real?

10 July 2015
scrap wrote:

This 'skunkworks' sounds like the kind of operation that builds concept cars, not mass-production ones. Is it real?

Skunkworks, generally speaking, consist of a group of individuals set away from its main office or HQ, with little or no interference from masters. In this case, they've engineered some bits of the car, but won't be building it.

My OH was part of a skunkworks for a TV company, coming up with format ideas.

10 July 2015
kraftwerk wrote:
scrap wrote:

This 'skunkworks' sounds like the kind of operation that builds concept cars, not mass-production ones. Is it real?

Skunkworks, generally speaking, consist of a group of individuals set away from its main office or HQ, with little or no interference from masters. In this case, they've engineered some bits of the car, but won't be building it.

My OH was part of a skunkworks for a TV company, coming up with format ideas.

This shunkworks seems not to have included body designers. An Alfa that drives well but looks average is not a recipe for commercial success. And Machionne talks of an Alfa renaissance? Judging from the many responses on this forum, most remember the 156 for its good looks, rather than its dynamic abilities. The problem is: Alfa has a strong design language for the front end, but none for the profile. BMW has the Hofmeister kink for the quarter rear door window, while for Mercedes that quarter window is always triangular without any upward inflexion. But how to recognize an Alfa from the side? Its about time Alfa developed a theme for its profile, otherwise future models will end up looking as forgettable as this Giulia.

10 July 2015
but can't help feeling it's another false start. It's good looking but just not distinctive enough when compared to the dull Germans. The 156 (pre-facelift) was, and still is a stunning looking design which was replaced by the disappointing 159. While this design was appealing enough at the time, it was no 156. Having said that, if Alfa Romeo were to sell the Giulia with a 5 year warranty and servicing package then I'd seriously consider one as my next car. I would even put up with the dodgy dealer service!!

10 July 2015
What a great drawing the 156 !
The beginning of the 90's was the apogee of automotive !
I have already said that.

10 July 2015
Ferrari engine, Maserati chassis, 3 Series shape. Developed "away from where other Alfa Romeos are developed". Is there any "Alfa Romeo" in this car?

10 July 2015
Can anyone else see an Infinity Q50/70 in the side profile? No? Just me then.....

10 July 2015
The Giulia shares nothing with the Ghibli. Not 1%. It's all new.

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