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Driving the new Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA

Mad, bad and dangerously good fun to know, the Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA is exactly the kind of car Australia’s old-school rev-heads understand and cherish.

Under the bonnet is a mighty engine, with the power to instantly transform this super sedan’s rear tyres to smoke. Its ground-hugging stance, wide tyres, and serious spoilers signal its readiness to rumble, even before its tailpipes talk.

Imagine a smaller, lighter, classier and quicker HSV Commodore GTS and that’s the essence of the Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA. But even if HSV was not RIP, the Alfa Romeo’s real rivals would be European. Similar-size cars from Mercedes-AMG and BMW’s M division are closer for size and sophistication.

The Alfa Romeo easily outguns the Germans for power. No wonder; its twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 is basically Ferrari’s current V8, minus two cylinders.

New con-rods, faster-spinning turbos and a titanium Akrapovič exhaust bump max power to 397kW, an increase of around 20kW over the version of the same engine in the Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde. There’s a similar margin of superiority over the twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 of the Mercedes-AMG C63 S.

While the engine takes a beat or two to get into its turbo-boosted stride, from relatively low revs all the way to its 7000rpm-plus cut-out it’s all finely toned, elite-grade muscle.

The high-rev rasp from the dual pipes of the Akrapovič exhaust is almost as impressive as the acceleration. Alfa Romeo claims 0-100km/h takes just 3.6 seconds, making the Giulia GTA a good margin swifter than both the C63 S, M3 and M4.

Alfa Romeo’s engine delivers its awesome output to the Giulia GTA’s wide rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic made by German transmission specialists ZF and an electronically controlled diff.

As well as extra power, there’s less weight. GTA stands for “Gran Turismo Alleggerita”, Italian for “Lightened GT”.

The name also references a famous model from Alfa Romeo’s past, the Giulia Sprint GTA of 1965. That car used aluminium to cut the kilos. The new Giulia GTA instead relies on carbon fibre to shave 100kg from its kerb weight.

Alfa Romeo already uses composites in the Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde, but the new GTA takes carbon intensity to another level. As well as roof and bonnet, its front bumper and guards, rear wheel arches, and most of the aero add-ons are carbon fibre.

The Giulia GTA wears massive Michelin tyres on lightweight forged aluminium alloy rims. Carbon ceramic discs and massive calipers from Italian brake specialists Brembo take care of stopping. For improved handling the GTA has lowered suspension and wider-spaced wheels front and rear.

The GTAm – the extra letter standing for “modificata” – goes even further. The rear seats are deleted and a half rollcage installed. So are polycarbonate rear windows, carbon fibre shell seats with six-point harnesses, plus an adjustable front splitter and a larger, manually adjustable rear spoiler, both in carbon fibre.

Those spoilers, as well as the front splitters, rear diffuser, side skirts and underbody fins and ducts were developed in the wind tunnel of Sauber Engineering, Alfa Romeo Racing’s Formula 1 partner. Team’s drivers Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi tested the Giulia GTA during development.

Whatever advice they gave, it was good. The Giulia GTA is simply brilliant to drive hard on a track…

Light, but laser accurate, the steering is truly outstanding. Those big Brembos are brutally efficient, too. And the chassis inspires confidence when corner-carving.

The engine works perfectly with the transmission, whether it’s left in Auto or paddle-shifted. The abundance of grunt means sliding the rear end to adjust cornering lines comes naturally to the Giulia GTA. This Alfa Romeo is a drifter’s dream.

It’s also superb on the road. Despite the extreme looks, the Giulia GTA is a comfortable everyday road car… just one with exceptional performance. In this respect, it’s vastly superior to the shockingly stiff Mercedes-AMG C63.

The catch? The Giulia GTA may be the world’s best sports sedan, but it will very, very expensive. Only 500 will be produced for the entire world (customer choice will determine the split between GTA and GTAm), so exclusivity is guaranteed. Only three examples of the GTA and 15 of the GTAm are heading here, priced from $268,000 plus on-roads for the standard car and $288,000 for the two seater – an even bigger shock than its unexpected greatness.

Big nuts required

Alfa Romeo says the Giulia GTA is the only road-legal sedan in the world with wheels held on by single nuts. This touch adds to the Alfa’s racer-for-the-road aura.

Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA

Price: From $268,000 plus on-roads

Engine: 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo; 397kW/600Nm

Transmission: 8-speed auto; RWD

Thirst: 10.8L/100km

Performance: 0-100KM/H 3.6 secs

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