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30 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Alfa Romeo GT | evo Car Reviews | Car Reviews | evo
Alfa Romeo GT

Twin-Spark versions of Alfa’s new coupe start to arrive next month, but we’ve already driven it

January 2004

It’s not quite a 147 and it’s not quite a 156; it does, however, borrow bits from both. Alfa’s snappily named GT is a niche vehicle in the truest sense, a stand-alone member of the clan that’s very hard to pigeonhole. It’s a coupe but it’s also a hatchback.

In its heart it wants to compete against the BMW 3-Series coupe, yet lacks the marketing confidence (though not necessarily the dynamic ability) to tackle such a rival head-on in terms of price.

The GT is also aiming to be a more practical coupe than the lower-slung Alfa GTV, an alternative for those who fancy a bit of Milanese style but need to stick family or friends in the back. But although its rear compartment is larger than that of its distant cousin, the GT is only just a four-seater. Those in the back must have the courtesy to be less than six-feet tall, and while it does have a hatchback, it really doesn’t have much of a boot.

As we said when we reviewed the flagship V6 version (issue 063), one thing you need to be aware of with the GT is that (and with the greatest respect to the snapper) photographs seldom flatter it. Odd but true, it’s just one of those sort of cars. In the tin, it has an eye-catching, comment-inspiring elegance that’s well worth a visit to your local Alfa dealer to check out.

Of course, some of this you’ll know if you read our piece on the V6-engined car, but the reason for revisiting the new Alfa is that we’ve now had a chance to try the new direct injection 2-litre unit, which actually arrives here first. Sure, at 165bhp it’s dropped 75 ponies compared with the V6, but in its favour is a reduction of weight in the nose that with a bit of luck will sharpen the turn-in.

Unfortunately the 2.0 JTS we drove was saddled with a Selespeed gearbox, Alfa’s take on the fashion for paddle-shifting. Selespeed is one of those systems that you keep hoping will get better the next time you drive a car with it fitted; trouble is, you keep being disappointed. And, sadly, the GT is no exception to the rule. Even when you dial up the ‘Sport’ shift program, the ‘box conducts its upshifts with an annoying sloth and an irritating vibration through the bodyshell.

Downshifts are more acceptable, but acceptable is all they are.

Fortunately that 2-litre engine has enough soul to banish your disgruntlement over the gearbox to the far corner of your mind. It’s not stunningly gutsy – at times you’ll be jumping up and down in your bucket seat trying to spur the GT on, willing it to go quicker – but it has that spirit-lifting four-cylinder warble to compensate, to make you believe you’re punching on faster than you actually are. Alfa’s old boxer engines sound better still, but there are few modern four-cylinder engines that are as aurally charismatic.

Another reason to forgive the injection unit’s modest 165bhp output is that it’s so keen to deliver everything it’s got. It revs freely and with zest, never shy to make the acquaintance of the redline and never ill-mannered when it does. It’s an engine that invites – no, implores – you to drive it hard.

Alfa Romeo GT

The chassis is up for it, too. We’re not going to get too carried away and claim it has the panache of a 3-Series, but its handling balance is a notch or two above what you get in either a 147 or 156. With less mass under the bonnet than the V6 model, the JTS’s nose is more agile, and gives you more access to the benefits of the super-quick steering rack.

What you’re still lumbered with is a lack of ultimate feel.

There’s a hint of understeer to contend with, but nothing too upsetting, and for the most part the GT simply latches onto a given line and follows it faithfully. The chassis does have a playful side, though, and if you pitch it into a tight corner and lift-off sharply the tail responds with a gentle twitch out of line; drive more moderately and the rear wheels obediently follow the fronts.

Some praise for the brakes, too, which are powerful and impressively resistant to fade, qualities much appreciated on our test route, which comprised for the most part a succession of short straights and sharp corners. A firmer pedal wouldn’t go amiss, though.

We said it before and we’ll say it again – the Alfa GT makes an excellent alternative to a 3-Series coupe, without actually bettering it in any way. Whether you should have it as a V6 or a 2-litre JTS depends on whether you’re prepared to trade the pace and delicious engine note of the former for the extra nimbleness of the latter. But whichever you plump for, just make sure it’s not a Selespeed.

For an alternative review of the latest Alfa Romeo GT visit our sister site

Alfa Romeo GT
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