Friday, May 27, 2011

It's old, it's small, it's stylish. It's named after a French-Canadian city. It's an Alfa, of course.

Just doing a Montreal-watch I guess. Good condition. Tick. Owned previously by a rock-star's wife. Tick (hmmm, is that a good thing?). Small capacity, stylish and it works. More ticks. It's also unusual in overall concept. So all ticks, really. Of course you'll spend big bucks on it, but that's part of the price of entry.

PistonHeads Headlines - You Know You Want To... Alfa Romeo Montreal
This particular Montreal has the added draw of having once been owned by Yasmin LeBon (to all PHers who are under 35, she's a stunning former model who married Duran Duran frontman Simon LeBon. If you don't know who Duran Duran were, you're not missing much...). Described by its current owner as being 'in condition one, but not concours' this car appears to be completely original, having had no major work done to it, just the correct maintenance.

Alfa 4C - sub 2 litre sports mid-engine - to spawn both Maserati and Abarth versions?

Well it makes some sense to share, even if it rarely works: take one design and remodel and rebrand it several times (think Alfa 164 and its SAAB and Lancia cousins). In this case it's a low-volume "exclusive" mid-engine sports car, so they will have to be careful with the differentiation or the "exclusivity" will not wash at all...

On the good side, it's a 4 cylinder and relatively light and frugal for this level of performance. Why throw petrol away simply shifting needlessly porky pounds?

Maserati To Build Its Own Version Of Alfa Romeo 4C: Report
Both Alfa and Maserati have proven their ability to turn out fantastic exteriors and truly gorgeous interiors, things that have, at times, been lacking in the segment, even toward the upper end.

Pair that with the 4C's largely carbon fiber construction, a 200-horsepower turbocharged 1.75-liter four-cylinder and a curb weight below 1,800 pounds and you have something of the old Lotus born into an Italian body. What could go wrong with that formula? Even better, there's an Abarth Roadster version planned that will drop the top and bring the fight to the Boxster and its cohorts as well.

Alfa Romeo 4C U.S. Bound, Abarth Roadster Version Planned
Taking inspiration from the legendary 33 Stradale from 1967, the new 4C follows the route of limited weight, made possible by extensive use of carbon, which also plays a structural role and guarantees exceptional agility with a weight/power ratio which is lower than 9 pounds per horsepower. The low-slung sports car tips the scales at just 1,784 pounds and develops more than 200 horsepower from its direct injected and turbocharged 1.75-liter four-cylinder engine.

A classy European seen testing on US soil (OK, it's an Alfa Giulietta)

With the price of gas rising inexorably at the pumps the US market's taste for smaller, more efficient cars is growing. About time, I know. Just think about the billions of barrels effectively wasted all over the world by the motor industry's twin obsessions - OTT performance and "model evolution". Where model evolution means a small car becomes a much larger one over time, accruing extra weight via driver-distracting "features" and pork-focused "ease of use". Whilst European cars fall prey to up-sizing as well they are generally more effective packagers. Alfa is certainly one of the best at combining good performance with economy and practicality and dressing it up with some Italian style, so their re-appearance in the US makes sense.

Spied! Alfa Romeo Giulietta Testing on Michigan Streets - WOT on Motor Trend
Having just caught the Fiat Doblo testing in its backyard last week, our friends at Automobile recently spotted the Alfa Romeo Giulietta driving on U.S. soil – wearing manufacturer plates no less. Although parent company Fiat can’t seem to make up its mind about Alfa’s American comeback, this photo seems to substantiate the Italian automaker’s claim that the brand will return to the U.S. market by 2013.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gasp - an almost "good" review for an Alfa. Still loaded with cliched prejudice, though

DISCLAIMER: I've always preferred smaller, more economical cars with some sporty, stylish flair. Brand doesn't matter that much - but Alfas generally seem to satisfy best. And they have been charming, reliable and solid performers.

But it seems that motor-noters just can't break free of the tired old cliches - they have to be trotted out again and again. Usually it's "trading on past glories", "all style no go", "long arms, short legs" or "not as well built or reliable as a...". At least they have shaken off the rust tag - I hope.

From my personal experience my 3 Alfas - 1982 GTV, 1981 Giulietta and 1989 33QV - were/are not as absolutely, boringly faultless as my Hyundais, Mazdas or Toyota but were/are more fun to own. And they were/are on a par with my somewhat fragile VW Golfs. From what I have seen and heard from friends that's pretty well how it is still. And FWIW my Toyota rusted faster than any Alfa I've ever owned....

Anyway, the review is mostly positive...
Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV
Finally, there's a worthy Italian alternative to some of the default hot-hatch choices, writes Bruce Newton.
Although it lapses into dangerous territory. What exactly was wrong with MiTo sharing a platform with FIAT's Punto? And which production car isn't a watered-down version of a concept?
Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV
The Giulietta QV is Alfa's latest attempt at Italian soul-stirring. Thankfully, it is neither a rehashed Fiat like the MiTo city car, nor a compromised production version of an exquisite concept such as the Brera coupe.
As for the Giulietta not being a "rehashed" FIAT, bear in mind that it's still a FIAT shared platform.... and design work started before the MiTo.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV
Alfa engines traditionally sing their way into the heavens, prepared to sacrifice some lower-end tractability to do so. But not in this case, with the rev limiter cutting in at just over 6000rpm.
"Traditionally" meaning when they are the smaller, shorter stroke motors and often in comparison with other, less sporty car makes. But not when thinking generally of Alfa engines which come in all shapes and styles of bore, stroke and piston number. I guess I could agree if I didn't drive an '82 GTV 2.0... which has a low-end torquey kind of engine.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV
The Giulietta QV is a modern Alfa Romeo that can wear the shield with pride. It's flawed, of course … hey, it's an Alfa. But little detracts from the fundamental quality of the engineering base and the package assembled atop it.
Not too bad over all.