► New Alfa Giulia GTAm driven
► £156k in GTAm form – is it worth it?
► Video: '66 GTA Corsa meets new Giulia GTAm
Alfa Romeo doesn't often deliver a stripped-out, limited-edition performance car – especially one wearing the fabled GTA badge – so when it does it's time to sit up, take notice and watch the houses of M and AMG glance nervously over their shoulders.
The Giulia GTA – or Gran Turismo Alleggerita to give it its proper title – refers to the lightweight element of a car based on the Quadrifoglio super saloon. And yet, while weight reduction – down 100kg to 1,580kg – is significant, it's nowhere near as big a jump as the price tag. The GTA comes in at around £152k, while the even lighter GTAm (precise differences explained shortly) is £156k. The 'regular' QV, remember, is a comparative snip £67k.
So, two big questions; what exactly can this GTA version do that the QV can't? And, is it worth the eye-watering £85k price difference?
Talk me through the changes
As well as the weight saving (achieved using carbon fibre and composite materials, an Akrapovič titanium exhaust system, Brembo carbon ceramic stoppers and lighter springs), the GTA also boasts an array of chassis and engine mods. Both the front and rear tracks are wider and the steering and suspension have both been recalibrated. Bespoke Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres – wrapped around 20-inch lightweight forged alloys with a centre locking nut – are also a feast for the eyes.
Under the bonnet it's the same 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 but power is up 30bhp to 533bhp, thanks to redesigned conrods, two additional piston oil jets, a new oil cooler, a modified operating range for the turbo and, of course, that titanium exhaust. Upgraded aero also plays a role, with the giant rear spoiler, underbody aerofins and rear diffuser contributing to a 300% increase in overall downforce. The result? All of this adds up to a lap time that's almost five seconds quicker around the Nardo test track than a regular Giulia QV. Not bad at all.
What's the difference between the GTA and GTAm?
It's all to do with shedding off that extra little bit of weight, although Alfa has resisted the urge to start removing things the driver might want such as air-con and a radio. All in, an extra 40kgs of weight is trimmed thanks to a composite rear door panel, Sabelt carbon fibre shell seats, door pull loops (instead of regular handles), polycarbonate rear windows and removaal of the rear seat bench.
Does it drive differently to the regular QV?
Yes. But maybe not in the way you'd expect. See, we've been careful not to use the word 'hardcore' to describe the GTA because that would suggest it's a less comfortable version of the Giulia QV. But it isn't. Sure, at very low speeds there's a slight brittleness to the ride and the exhaust is louder at full chat. But otherwise, this is a surprisingly polite limited-edition super saloon when you're bumbling down to the petrol station for a shot of Shell's finest.
Fear not, though, as this isn't a sign that Alfa has bottled – what is on paper – its most serious performance car for years. The ride and refinement may have suffered little, but as soon as you slide into the GTAm's carbon bucket seat, turn the key and start putting lock on, you can sense there's a different beast underneath.
The whole car feels tenser, more focused, coiled up like a jack-in-a-box, ready to deliver on its considerable promise made partly by its stand-out exterior. This is a fabulous looking thing what with its aero, centre-lock alloys and F1 car-esque rake. Turn the wheel an inch off centre and there's instant response (same as in a QV), yet this time you feel the rest of the car is more tuned in. Dial the lock into a fast corner and there's greater conviction on turn in, the whole car pivoting around its middle with encouraging stability.
Body roll isn't entirely absent – even at road speeds – yet it's this little bit of movement and perceivable weight transfer that helps deliver a sharp but largely predictable manner through the fast stuff. Again, understeer is present if you look for it, but there's undoubtedly more bite through the front tyres. And of course, like the standard QV, oversteer is on tap with a mere flex of the right foot and flick of the TC switch. More feel from the steering certainly wouldn't go amiss, mind, as while it's pure and precise there's little in the way of feedback before committing to a bend.
And the engine?
The changes aren't huge in this department, yet there's no denying that the GTA feels that bit quicker. It's almost like you're getting a bigger hit of torque in the mid-range, the recalibrated software dealing out a heftier punch where it matters. There's no doubt this is an engine that excels on flexibility. It still pulls at the top end, yet the legwork and eye-opening g-forces are produced lower down.
That said, the sound from the titanium Akrapovic exhaust system is worth an extra 50bhp on its own. Raspy and rumbling at the same time, it's got more character than most regular OEM systems seem to manage. Alfa's also done a good job with the 8-speed ZF box – snappy downshifts and crisp upchanges are the order of the day, with enthusiastic blips travelling straight through down to those centrally mounted twin rear pipes.
Alfa Romeo GTAm: verdict
Leaving the questionable price tag aside, the Giulia GTA is a hugely likeable, capable super saloon that also has the distinction of being deceptively usable. It builds on the already excellent platform of the QV and delivers even greater performance and thrills without seemingly any real compromise. From first impressions it's the finest fast Alfa in years and, in all honesty, can you really put a price on that?
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