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Future models - Alfa Romeo - 156 - GTA

Alfa brings back GTA badge

Souped up: Alfa Romeo's 156 GTA sedan and Sportwagon score a host of mechanical and cosmetic upgrades to boost their performance and visual appeal.

Alfa Romeo aims to take on the Germans with high-performance variants of the 156 sedan and Sportwagon

2 Jul 2001

ALFA Romeo has released the first official pictures of its barnstorming 156 GTA sedan and Sportwagon.

European sources suggest the reappearance of the venerable GTA badge is an indication Alfa plans to take on BMW's M division Audi's S with its own high-performance variants of mainstream models.

The GTA (Gran Turismo Allegerita) badge was last used on 1960s sports cars like the Giulia coupe.

At the heart of the 156 GTA lies a 3.2-litre V6 engine that cranks out a hefty 187kW - a handy increase on the 140kW of the current 156 V6 flagship. Two transmissions will be offered, a six-speed manual and a hydraulically activated Selespeed unit.

Despite the extra grunt, power is still relayed to the tarmac via the front wheels only - but Alfa says the brakes are significantly improved, the suspension geometry is new and the steering is more direct. It also scores chunky 17-inch alloy wheels shod with 225/45 tyres.

External modifications include new front and rear bumpers, flared guards, side skirts and twin chrome exhausts.

The 156 GTA arrives here next year, priced just under $100,000 - making it easily the most expensive production Alfa Romeo sold in Australia. A 147 GTA that uses the same drivetrain will follow in 2003, possibly priced around $80,000.

It is believed the GTA's chassis received more attention than the engine to ensure it delivered the sort of handling demanded by the enthusiasts who will buy the car.

British magazine Autocar suggests changes have been made to the suspension geometry to inhibit torque steer. The car sits lower, track is widened and spring and damper rates are revised to cope with higher cornering loads.

"From the start, our aim with this car was to provide sensational performance," Fiat group product chief Antony Sheriff told Autocar.

"The old GTA models were lightweight but we decided not to go down that route," he said.

"We could have used an aluminium bonnet, for example, and saved 10kg - but it's not worth the cost for such a marginal gain when we can deliver extra performance through other means."

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