Click Thumbnails to Enlarge

Alfa Romeo to dump front-drive hatches for rear-drive saloons

By Georg Kacher

Motor Industry

19 July 2013 09:00

Alfa Romeo is set to drop the Mito and Giulietta hatchbacks around 2015, as it switches to solely rear-wheel drive models, CAR's Georg Kacher reveals today (Friday 19 July). The sensational news, which will be music to car enthusiasts' ears, is part of a radical, new plan involving closer collaboration between Alfa Romeo and Maserati.

Starting in 2015, Alfa will roll out a BMW 3-series rival, followed by a 5-series rival in 2016. Two SUVs will follow. This year's mid-engined 4C and the 2015 Mazda MX-5-based roadster are unaffected by the new plan: they are already rear-wheel drive.

Why is Alfa taking this direction?

It's a radical u-turn from Fiat-Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne, but one that's not entirely unexpected: Alfa Romeo's true overlord has always expressed the importance of rear-drive dynamics for credibly taking on BMW and Mercedes. And now he seems to have come up with a plan to make good on his intentions. But it will mean the long-delayed Giulia – pictured here in a CAR-rendering that was close to the front- and all-wheel drive proposal – will slip back again from its 2014 launch.At least four new models will be launched including a pair of saloons and two SUVs. The aim is to make Alfas better to drive. ‘Sure, design is important, Italian flair is important, top-notch quality is important’, an insider told CAR. ‘But it is impossible to challenge Audi, BMW and Mercedes if you cannot match the Germans in terms of vehicle dynamics and driving pleasure.’

How will they do it, and when will the new models arrive?

Alfa will work closely with Maserati to develop a new modular platform that can cater for the four model lines. Arriving first will be the Giulia, which targets the BMW 3-series, which should arrive in 2015. Following a year later is the Alfetta, which is gunning for the 5-series and E-class and may include a Sportwagon version. The Alfetta will be smaller than the old Alfa Romeo 166 and there will be some overlap with the Maserati Ghibli in terms of size, say insiders.

Two SUVs will follow on in 2017 and 2018 respectively, with the CAV (Compact Activity Vehicle) aimed at the BMW X1 ahead of an SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) chasing the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. The new platform will save significant weight, meaning the new models won’t be bloated like the Brera and 159. It will also cater for short overhangs and a longer wheelbase for improved dynamics, while allowing Alfa’s tradition of beautiful proportions to continue. Technology such as the eight-speed ZF gearbox, V6 Maserati engines and hybrid drivetrains will be accessible to Alfa product planners.

The plan is part of Fiat-Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne’s push to boost Alfa Romeo sales from 100,000 to 300,000 per year. That in itself is a reduction of 100,000 units on the volume target Marchionne told CAR last year – but that included Mito and Giulietta sales, which at that time were still in the product plan.