22 Jun 2020
“Storie Alfa Romeo”, tenth episode - Giulia and Stelvio express 110 years of Italian excellence
- The “Storie Alfa Romeo” series comes to an end in the week of the Brand’s 110th anniversary, highlighting the cars that today embody 110 years of stylistic and technological excellence Made in Italy.
- Giulia and Stelvio are the ultimate expression of “The mechanics of emotion”: a project 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 as departures from the extraordinary Quadrifoglio versions.
- Outstanding performance is part of the DNA of both models, which in the Quadrifoglio versions have set their respective category records at the Nürburgring circuit.
- On its debut, the first SUV to also be an Alfa Romeo 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 you’re there on one of those days when the sky above the Nordschleife looks like a mighty painted backdrop. Spectacular clouds soar above the green crown of the circuit. The air is cool and dry... ideal for the man behind the steering wheel. Two months after its presentation, Giulia Quadrifoglio is called upon to dominate a track that over the years has witnessed many Alfa Romeo wins: the “Grüne Hölle”, or “green hell” of the Nürburgring.
This 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... over 70 curves mixed with alternating straights, and ups and downs involving 300 meters of height differences.
In the starting area, Giulia Quadrifoglio is ready. It hasn't been specially prepared, is not fitted with "slick" tires, and doesn’t have a safety roll bar: it looks exactly like a car that anyone could buy. Were it not for the helmet, even the driver - in jeans and polo top - would seem like any ordinary driver. There are no green lights to set him off, and no checkered 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 8 seconds below the previous category record.
Giulia and Stelvio are the fastest 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 appeared for the first time in the trade press 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 drumbeats were excited. Everyone asking what the name can 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. What transpired was that Giorgio would have a rear-wheel and four-wheel drive, and that his goals were shockingly ambitious.
The company was planning huge investments on the platform and on the Cassino plant, which was planned to manufacture the new models. Above all, it was organizing its best technical talents in dedicated “think tanks”. And was asking the planners and designers involved 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. To explain this nickname and its origin, we must insert a flashback to seventy 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 from scratch, in just six months, a fighter aircraft capable of changing the situation in the skies of World War II. It’s an impossible challenge: but he accepts, on condition that he is given carte blanche on the process to be followed. At the end of the established period - indeed, a week in advance - he delivers the revolutionary “XP-80 Shooting Star”, the first American jet fighter. His team was called “Skunk Works”.
And so, between themselves and for the rest of the company, the Giorgio working groups became “skunks”. They too started from “a white page”, had skin-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 all: the Giulia Quadrifoglio. The company decided to adopt a top-down approach, and make this its first presentation.
The long awaited launch was a Top Secret operation: no photos or technical characteristics 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. Because it was the brand's 105th birthday. Because a star car was born that fans had been eagerly waiting for. 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 embrace.
The new Giulia
The product goals were inscribed in the history of the brand: cutting-edge and innovative engines, perfect weight distribution, unique technical solutions, the best weight/power ratio in the category - and of course, a truly extraordinary design with an unmistakably Italian flair.
Giulia's engines are all entirely new, and all entirely in aluminum. The Quadrifoglio's bi-turbo 6-cylinder petrol engine delivered 510 HP for 600 newton/meter, sensational values 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 a double wishbone with semi-virtual steering axle, 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, with a record steering ratio (less than 12:1). The new Alfalink ™ scheme is introduced on the rear axle, 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 weight/power ratio, ultra-light materials are used in all parts of the vehicle: aluminum (for base and engine head, body parts and suspensions); an aluminum and plastic composite (for the rear crosspiece); carbon fiber (for the drive shaft, the bonnet, the roof, but also for the structure of 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 readiness). To coordinate all the functions, a "super brain" consisting of the exclusive Chassis Domain Control was introduced.
The extraordinary dynamic performance of the car is enhanced by a tense and rigorously essential design, revealing its Italian character in the elegant harmony of its volumes and its technical prowess in its stunning aerodynamic results (0.25 Cx).
What Giulia and Quadrifoglio share
To create their ultra-sporty versions, almost all manufacturers enrich the basic model, often modifying structural elements 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, the same steering and suspension systems as very top sports car range.
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. And so, in February 2017 Stelvio made its debut: the first SUV in the history of the Brand. This had been no 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: a 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. Suspension travel is longer, to ensure the correct ground clearance in off-asphalt driving. 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 a 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 system is - and remains - pioneering. Therefore for the new Model Year of the two cars, Alfa Romeo designers have shifted their attention to on-board experience, making it increasingly pleasurable, safe and connected. So the brand reconquers its traditional territory: that of "elegant sportiness". This is a concept that we have seen recurring in Alfa Romeo stories from every era: not the "premiumness" of certain brands flaunting their soulless wealth, instead expressing the perfect balance between form, function and driving thrills. The launch of the MY20 Giulia and Stelvio variants marks another step in this direction.
Giulia and Stelvio Model Year 2020
The most advanced solutions in the new Giulia and Stelvio versions are 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 protagonist, thanks to the 8.8-inch touch-screen infotainment system and a smartphone-like ease of use. The telematic offer is completed by a suite of Mopar services for remote car management. The innovations in the field of driving technology have become even more important. The new ADAS (Advanced Driving Assistance Systems) mark the transition from the first to the second level of autonomy: the systems do not only inform the driver, in case of need they also become active, enhancing vehicle safety.
The most award-winning Alfa Romeo models ever
Over the last five years, Giulia and Stelvio have become the most frequently awarded Alfa Romeo cars ever: 170 international titles - awarded by specialized newspapers and generalist 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 with all kinds of motivations. The prize cupboards are full, but the prizes continue to arrive: like the “Performance Car of the Year 2020”, which the expert jury of “What Car?” assigned to Giulia Quadrifoglio for the third consecutive year, after comparing it with sports cars from all segments of the market. With an official motivation which is rightly a source of pride for Alfa Romeo designers: “a high-performance car that can also be driven every day”.
Turin, June 22, 2020