Extract from the Herald Sun
"First drive: Alfa 147 GTA
ITALIAN carmaker Alfa Romeo has come up with a winner with the latest 147 GTA – and it's seriously fast, writes PAUL GOVER.
AMERICANS have never been able to teach Italians much about cars.
But one old-fashioned American idea from the muscle-car school of engineering – dropping a big engine in a little car to make a seriously go-faster machine – is working very nicely for Alfa Romeo.
The Italian carmaker has even used its power-up plan to revive the GTA badge, which signalled a serious Alfa speed machine in the 1960s, and has really done a number on its baby 147.
The first of the born-again GTA cars to hit Australia was the 156, which is fast but flawed. Too much go, too much crash-and-bang in the suspension, and not very enjoyable if you aren't flat-out on a fun run.
The latest 147 GTA is fast without the flaws and should be an instant hit with Alfa lovers Down Under.
The key to the car is its 184kW V6 engine, but it also has a pumped-out body, much better brakes and suspension, and seats that grip when you go. It hit the road last week and is a relative bargain at $59,990.
Alfa even believes it creates a new class of car, which it does.
The company says it is the new playmaker in the new "hyper hatch" category. It says the 147 GTA's only rivals are the Renault Clio V6, Volkswagen Golf R32 and Audi's S3 but believes its effort is quicker and better.
"It's much more than just an engine. It's a new category of car," Alfa Romeo Australia general manager Kevin Wall says.
"All the hyper-hatches have an engine with more than 200 horsepower, so you get a car that's not revving as hard as a hot hatch."
But the 147 GTA proves you don't have to work hard to run hard, as Alfa quotes a 0-100km/h sprint in just 6.3 seconds with a top speed about 240km/h. The car comes loaded with everything from four airbags to cruise control, leather seats and automatic air-con.
On the road:
ALBURY was 7C and sleeting last week. Not nice at all.
In those conditions, with such a build-up, including the unmistakable rumble of a seriously quick car, the 147 GTA was a very pleasant surprise indeed.
Not gruff, not grumpy and definitely not a hot hatch with an engine hiding all its delights at the very top end of the tachometer.
It was easy to waft along suburban streets, changing early and easy without upsetting the car, its passengers or people on the street.
The GTA was just about invisible, except to car buffs who knew the bold bodywork was wrapped around something special.
Away from the city, on the open and deserted roads towards the ski fields, the GTA was quick through the gears but surprisingly supple and enjoyable.
The ride is firm and you always know – just from the seats, which wrap you tightly in all the right places – that the car is quick.
But it is swift, not silly, and that means it covers ground rapidly but without upsetting anyone.
The gearshift is light and direct, the steering, with a lovely leather rim, is direct but not jerky, and the ride is sports-car firm but not too stiff.
We grounded the exhaust over one sharp bump but that was the only mild surprise on a 300km first drive.
In the right setting, which is probably somewhere on the wide open roads of regional Australia, this car would be a rare treat.
Use all the go, pushing through every gear, and the 147 GTA is fantastic fun and seriously fast.
But even a brief tweak on its tail is enough to make anyone smile.
Thankfully, an Italian approach to the electronic assistance package means it's never intrusive but can help in a sticky situation, while the luxury gear is more than enough to satisfy $60,000-ish shoppers.
The 147 GTA is a grown-up car that could rival a BMW for elegance and sophistication but can squirt away from more expensive cars.
Fast machine: the latest model should be an instant hit with Alfa lovers Down Under.
Verdict: three stars
Engine: 3.2-litre V6 with twin overhead camshafts, fuel injection
Power: 184kW at 6200 revs
Torque: 300Nm at 4800 revs
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front wheel drive
Body: Three-door hatchback
Price: $59,990 "
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