Behind The Alfa Romeo Giulia’s Brief, Two-And-A-Half Year Gestation

Any search engine will readily confirm the immense popularity of the Alfa Romeo Giulia “Quadrifoglio Verde” (meaning: “Green Four-leaf Clover”). It’s been three weeks now since its official unveiling, and still the car is remarkably oft-searched.

You might be surprised to learn, then – given the Alfa Romeo Giulia’s meteoric rise to fame – that it was rushed through the stages of development in a rapid 2.5 years. That’s astonishingly quick for a modern car, which is subject to loads more safety and emissions restrictions than those built just several decades ago.

To get a sense of what the development process was like, the UK’s CAR magazine recently caught up with Alfa Romeo Giulia Chief Engineer Philippe Krief.

On The Giulia’s Developmental Brevity

First, regarding the car’s impossibly brief period of gestation: “You ask every car maker: doing a car in two years, everyone will tell you it’s not possible,’ Krief told CAR. “The industry standard says four, the longest say five years, everywhere in the world. We had to do it in two and a half years. Marchionne said – and he’s right – ‘the only way to achieve that is to be different.'”

Interestingly, when the idea for the Alfa Romeo Giulia was originally conceived, Mr. Krief was working not with Alfa, but with Ferrari. Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne sought Krief out personally: “It was 29 April 2013. I was working at Ferrari and received a phone call saying ‘You have to come and do the new Alfa, we have to do something totally different. So please take a bunch of guys, go somewhere and think about that. You have two years and two months!’”

So, Krief assembled a team of specialists, working outside of the Fiat R&D center. “We were together always,” said Krief, “so we had a huge amount of ideas and a quick decision-making process that you can’t have in a big company.”

On The Giulia’s Lofty Targets

According to Alfa Romeo Giulia Chief Engineer Philippe Krief, the Ferrari-esque magic of the sedan doesn’t stop at the Maranello-derived 3.0-liter V6; the chassis dynamics were influenced by the supercar-maker, as well. “I worked on the [Ferrari] 458, the Speciale especially,” Krief told CAR. “Ferrari had a big advantage of having rear-wheel drive, so it’s exactly the same kind of stuff we wanted to put on the Giulia, this kind of feeling… It has to be precise, very quick, very agile, very stable. It drives fantastically really.”

Helping the Alfa Romeo Giulia to feel decidedly Ferrari are a number of advanced tricks, like an active front splitter; downforce can be manipulated by motors connected to an ECU which knows not only whether the Giulia is heading straight or cornering, but also whether it is understeering, oversteering, or balanced.

But more important than that, the new Alfa features a thoroughly dynamic torque-vectoring AWD system. Said Krief: “You have a differential, two clutches, there’s always torque coming, even if you’re not on the throttle. Thanks to the torque vectoring, this torque can be split front and rear, left and right. It can create whatever you want: to start stable, have oversteer, then stable, understeer, you can do what you want because this clutch is very fast, the control is very fast… Today the limit of the car is given by the tyres but here you have to think that once you are at the tyre’s limit, it’s like you have a hand above that can add an extra element. You can send 100% to one wheel, it can send everything to one wheel, or another.”

On The Giulia’s Midterm Future

Of course, it’s easy to forget that the “Quadrifoglio Verde” trim level that was unveiled will serve as the Alfa Romeo Giulia’s highest; other powerplants – and possibly drivetrain alterations – will eventually follow. In fact, Krief told the folks at CAR that there would “probably” be a four-cylinder Giulia down the road.

He said: “There will be other engines of course. We will show these engines in Frankfurt… And we are package-protected for V6 diesel, we can install it in the car and after we can decide whether to put it in or not.”

Aaron Birch is an automotive enthusiast and writer/filmmaker from Detroit, MI. As a rule, he only buys cars older than himself.

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