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“STORIE ALFA ROMEO” EPISODE TEN: GIULIA AND STELVIO EXPRESS 110 YEARS OF ITALIAN EXCELLENCE
22 Jun 2020
The "Storie Alfa Romeo" series comes to an end in the week of the Brand’s 110th anniversary, highlighting the cars that embody 110 years of styling and technical excellence, all proudly “Made in Italy”.
Giulia and Stelvio are the ultimate expression of "The mechanics of emotion": a philosophy that has always placed the driver at the heart of a thrilling driving experience.
A top-down approach has enabled the Giulia and Stelvio ranges to be developed from the extraordinary Quadrifoglio models.
Quadrifoglio models have set category records at the Nürburgring, cementing outstanding performance as part of their DNA.
On its debut, the first Alfa Romeo SUV inevitably became the fastest SUV ever.
Track records are only part of it: Giulia and Stelvio are the most award-winning Alfa Romeo models ever.
Alfa Romeo returns to the Nürburgring
Imagine the infamous Nurburgring Nordschleife on a spectacular day. The iconic “green hell” set deep in the forests. The air is cool and dry – ideal performance conditions. Two months after its launch, the Giulia Quadrifoglio is called upon to conquer a track that over the years has witnessed many Alfa Romeo wins.
Its ominous nickname was, it seems, invented by Sir Jackie Stewart in the 1960s, and he was right: this is a circuit that could have been designed by the devil himself with over 70 corners mixed with undulating straights and elevations of up to 300 metres.
Poised for action, the Giulia Quadrifoglio is ready. It hasn't been specially prepared, is not fitted with "slick" tyres, and doesn’t have a roll cage: it is exactly the car that anyone could buy. Were it not for his helmet, even the driver - in jeans and polo shirt - would seem like any ordinary driver. There are no green lights to set him off, and no chequered flag waiting at the end of the lap, but adrenaline levels could hardly be higher: there’s a record to beat.
The driver activates the Alfa DNA "Race" mode and accelerates with a roar. 7 minutes and 32 seconds later he can relax again. The stopwatch has incredible news: seven seconds below the previous record set in 2015. Just over a year after this, Stelvio does even better: at the end of its lap, the stopwatch stops eight seconds below the previous class record.
Giulia and Stelvio are the fastest production sedan and SUV ever, on one of the most difficult tracks in the world. That's a record that will take some beating.
Who is Giorgio?
The name Giorgio first appeared media back in 2013: the next Alfa Romeo generation was on its way, we were told, and Giorgio was the platform on which it would be built. Social media was immediately excited, everyone asking what the name could mean. The romantics think it could be a tribute to Tazio Giorgio Nuvolari. Others imagine a personal choice by Marchionne. The secret has never been explained but Giorgio would have rear-wheel and four-wheel drive – and ambitious goals.
The company was planning huge investments on the platform and on the Cassino plant where the new models would be produced. It was coordinating its best technical talents in dedicated "think tanks" and was asking everybody to set aside old rules and habits, to think outside the box, and to "believe, dream and create."
Who are the Skunks?
The Giorgio teams isolated themselves from the rest of the company to focus exclusively on the new platform. Corporate jargon invented a nickname for them, which they proudly adopted.
This nichname’s origins start 70 years ago. Clarence Leonard "Kelly" Johnson is not an Alfa Romeo designer, but his story is relevant all the same. He is an aeronautical engineer with Lockheed Martin, and in 1943 he is put in charge of a special project: to develop a fighter aircraft capable of shifting the balance in World War II skies, from scratch and in just six months. It’s an impossible challenge: but he accepts, on condition that he is given carte blanche. One week before his deadline, Johnson delivered the revolutionary "XP-80 Shooting Star", the first American jet fighter. His team was called "Skunk Works".
This influenced the Giorgio working groups to became "skunks". They, too, started from a blank sheet, had tight deadlines, and a vastly ambitious task: to put the driver back at the heart of it all, forging a driving experience worthy of Alfa Romeo's values and tradition. A whole new generation of brand products has been based on their work.
The launch of the Giulia in the new Alfa Romeo Museum
The version that best expresses the deepest qualities of the Giorgio platform is the sportiest of them all: the Giulia Quadrifoglio. The company adopted a top-down approach, beginning with its sportiest variant.
The long-awaited launch was a Top Secret operation: no photos or technical specifications were leaked to the press. Not even the model's name.
The new Giulia was finally revealed to the world on June 24, 2015: a very special day for many reasons. It was the brand's 105th birthday; a star car was born that enthusiasts had been eagerly awaiting; and because Alfa Romeo once again had a home: to the notes of Puccini's "Nessun Dorma", maestro Andrea Bocelli welcomed Giulia in the rooms of the renovated Museo Storico Alfa Romeo in Arese. Past and future united.
The new Giulia
The product objectives were inscribed in Alfa Romeo history: cutting-edge and innovative engines; perfect weight distribution; unique technical solutions; the best power-to-weight ratio in class; and, of course, a truly extraordinary design with unmistakable Italian flair.
Giulia's engines are all entirely new, and all entirely in aluminium. The Quadrifoglio's bi-turbo six-cylinder petrol engine delivered 375kW and 600Nm, sensational for an “average” four-door sedan. Weights and materials were designed to guarantee perfect weight distribution: 50/50 between the two axles.
The sheer number of innovative technical solutions was dazzling: the whole car embodies a new concept. The front suspension has double wishbones with semi-virtual steering, to make the suspension angle more controllable and obtain optimal road grip: the two lower links create a "scissor" movement that generates a linear feeling in all conditions. The new Alfalink ™ is introduced on the rear suspension, a multi-link system with four-and-a-half links: rigid when cornering, but also longitudinally flexible. Both these solutions are "made in Alfa Romeo".
Lightweight and always under control
In order to ensure Giulia the optimal power-to-weight ratio, ultra-light materials are used in all parts of the vehicle: aluminium (for the engine’s block and head, body parts and suspension); an aluminium and plastic composite (for the rear crosspiece); carbon fibre (for the driveshaft, the bonnet, the roof, and also for the front seats). The body-in-white weighs only 322 kg. The Electronics team were asked to increase safety and driving pleasure, but without robbing the driver of their freedom. As a result, the Giorgio team had developed specific systems with clear Alfa Romeo connotations: from the Q4 ASR traction control (which intervenes autonomously only when absolutely needed), to the Integrated Brake System (which manages the braking devices and the stability control), from the Differential Linear Slip (which improves cornering response) to Torque Vectoring (which distributes power to the rear wheels in a programmed way, improving traction and steering response). To coordinate all the functions, a "super brain" consisting of the exclusive Chassis Domain Control was introduced.
The extraordinary dynamic performance of the Giulia is enhanced by its styling, revealing its Italian character in elegant harmony and its technical prowess in its impressive aerodynamics (0.25 Cx).
What Giulia and Quadrifoglio share
To create their sportiest models, almost all manufacturers modify the basic model to improve weight and performance. These machines are then produced on separate lines, and in many cases by third party suppliers. Giulia, on the other hand, is derived directly from the Quadrifoglio, and not only aesthetically: the two cars share the same architecture, the same light materials, most of the mechanics and even the same assembly line in Cassino. The result is unique in the sector: every Giulia, starting from the first engines, has the same weight distribution between front and rear, the same torsional rigidity, and the same steering and suspension as a very top-of-the-range sports car.
Stelvio: the first Alfa Romeo which is also an SUV
The Giorgio platform was not created only for Giulia. The time had also come for Alfa Romeo to prove itself in the Utility Vehicles segment, the most dynamic and innovative area of all. In February 2017, Stelvio made its debut: the brand’s first SUV. It was not a simple challenge to make an Alfa capable of driving with agility on snow and dirt roads, without losing anything in terms of performance, handling and road holding. In other words: an SUV that can be driven like a sports sedan. Compared to Giulia, it has a higher floor and a higher driving position, it has more space available for passengers and luggage, the suspension travel is longer to ensure the correct ground clearance in off-road driving, and in order to increase stability, the axle track is also slightly wider. But architecture and mechanics remain the same, as do the engine range and electronic systems. The result is a car with "an Alfa Romeo soul in an SUV body". A combination that no one expected and that generates unique driving experiences.
Giulia and Stelvio are absolute leaders in their segments in terms of performance and dynamic response. The basic technical specification is - and remains - pioneering. As a result, the new Model Year cars shift their attention to the on-board experience, providing an increasingly pleasurable, safe and connected experience, allowing the brand to recapture its traditions of "elegant sportiness". It is a recurring concept in Alfa Romeos from every era, expressing the perfect balance between form, function and driving thrills.
Giulia and Stelvio Model Year 2020
The most advanced solutions in the new Giulia and Stelvio is focused on comfort and a typically Italian zest for life. The interiors of both cars have been redesigned to further highlight quality and elegance. Connectivity has become a key focus thanks to the 8.8-inch touch-screen infotainment system and smartphone-like ease of use and enables a suite of Mopar services for remote car management. The innovations in driving technology include the new ADAS (Advanced Driving Assistance Systems) marking the transition from first to the second level of autonomy, not only informing the driver reactively when needed, but also actively, enhancing vehicle safety.
The most award-winning Alfa Romeo models ever
Over the last five years, Giulia and Stelvio have become the most-awarded Alfa Romeo cars ever: 170 international accolades awarded by specialised and general media, voted by juries of experts or directly by customers, dedicated to both innovation and style. Starting from the "Eurocarbody of the Year" in 2016, for the best vehicle architecture project, and continuing with its growing collection of awards, the trophy cabinets are full. But the prizes continue to arrive: like the "What Car?’s Performance Car of the Year 2020" for the Giulia Quadrifoglio for the third consecutive year after comparing it to sports cars from all segments of the market. Their description is rightly a source of pride for Alfa Romeo designers: "a high-performance car that can also be driven every day".
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