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Alfa plans for new coupé and supercar to take on German rivals

Alfa Romeo is to receive the biggest transformation to its brand and model line-up in its history, according to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles boss Sergio Marchionne. By 2022 not only will there be two additional SUV models in the range, positioned directly above and below the extant Stelvio (right), but there will also be a new sports coupé and supercar, which will carry the much loved GTV and 8C nameplates respectively.

The move seems to have been sparked by the success of the Stelvio in a market in which Alfa Romeo had no previous experience or presence and which is dominated by the German premium brands like Porsche, BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. As brand boss Timothy Kuniskis said: “What we’ve learned in last four years is that when we stay true to Alfa DNA, we can stand out in any segment, as we did with the Stelvio.” There will be plenty of Alfisti out there who would say they figured that out some decades ago.

The GTV will likely be based on the same platform as the Giulia and Stelvio, but like all previous GTVs will come in 2+2 configuration. The range will be topped by a Quadrifoglio model likely to combine the 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 already seen in the Giulia and Stelvio equivalents with an electrically driven front axle to produce a car with a combined power output of 600bhp. Alfa is promising a 50:50 weight distribution, though there is no talk of a manual gearbox. Most sales however will likely go to more modestly powered models, probably using a 2-litre turbo engine with outputs up to 300bhp.

Meanwhile the 8C supercar seems to be aiming its guns squarely at Ferrari, which following its listing on the New York Stock Exchange is now only loosely connected to FCA. Alfa Romeo says the new car will have a carbon-fibre chassis – something Ferrari has yet to introduce to its mainstream production models – and a twin-turbo mid-engine hybrid powertrain capable of generating 700bhp, more than the current Ferrari 488GTB. With four-wheel drive it will likely hit 60mph from rest in less than three seconds.

The previous 8C Competizione was built in limited numbers from 2007 as both a coupé and a roadster, but was really a Maserati. So, the forthcoming 8C will be the first true Alfa Romeo supercar, arguably since the original 8C produced from 1931 to the outbreak of war.

MASERATI GOES ELECTRIC

Meanwhile over at the sister ship that is Maserati, this once blood-and-thunder marque is to be rebranded as an environmentally saintly citizen with its eyes squarely on becoming the Italian answer to Tesla, offering pure electric vehicles throughout its ranges.

This does not mean Maserati is going all- electric, just that the choice will be available on future new model ranges. Perhaps the most exciting of these is the Alfieri coupé. First seen in 2014 in concept form powered by a traditional V8, the car never reached production as Maserati instead turned its attention to getting the Levante into the SUV marketplace. But it’s now back in development as both a coupé and convertible and will be built on a new aluminium platform designed to allow conventional, plug-in hybrid and electric powertrains. The quickest version is said to be capable of hitting 62mph in about 2sec with a top speed in excess of 186mph.

Future versions of the Levante SUV and Quattroporte saloon will be available as purely electric cars, while a smaller SUV is also being prepared, probably on the same platform as the Alfa Stelvio to take advantage of this still expanding market.

FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY

The Association of British Insurers and Thatcham Research have both said that the use of the word ‘autonomous’ in the description and promotion of various driver-assistance systems is dangerous, leading customers to trust and rely on their cars’ self-driving capabilities more than they should.

“There’s a problem with the manufacturers trying to introduce technology and consumers not being ready for it, not being sure if it’s automated or ‘Do I need to keep watching?’” said Matthew Avery, of Thatcham Research which conducted the research on behalf of the ABI. “We want it to be very clear. Either you are driving assisted, or you’re not driving, automated.”

At present, while some cars on sale are entirely capable of steering themselves, braking to a stop and accelerating away from rest without input from the driver, it is a legal requirement for the driver to remain in control of their car with their hands on the steering wheel at all times.

TAYCAN LIBERTIES

Porsche’s long-awaited Mission E electric saloon has moved one step closer to reality with the release of its official name – Taycan.

The Taycan will be formally unveiled in production form next year, probably at the Frankfurt show – exactly four years since the original Mission E concept was shown. This would be a perfectly reasonable time-frame for the development of an entirely conventional car, let alone one containing what could be the most sophisticated all-electric powertrain yet seen.

The Taycan is believed to produce at least 600bhp and therefore sprints to 60mph in less than 3.5sec and to 124mph in under 12sec, despite the unavoidable weight of its electric motors and lithium-ion battery pack. The car will have a claimed range of at least 300 miles and will be capable of being recharged to 80 per cent of its battery capacity in just 15 minutes. Cars are expected to start reaching customers in 2020.

NEW McLAREN TEASED

That McLaren is working on a more extreme version of its Sports Series has been a poorly kept secret for a while – and it seems more news is imminent.

McLaren has issued an interesting teaser image of the car’s rear, most notable for the absence of any exhausts. It is more likely that the pipes have been relocated to the top deck than that this the first all-electric McLaren.

Indeed in seems this new Sports Series McLaren will receive a raft of modifications, similar to but not as extensive as those that turned the Super Series 650S into the 675LT. The new car will almost certainly retain the LT branding and feature a similar rise in power to about 600bhp. As with the 675LT, however, it’s likely that most of the engineering work will have been directed at lowering the car’s overall weight, as well as further modifications to the car’s aerodynamics and suspension.

It’s not yet clear whether the new LT, due to be unveiled this summer, will be a series-production car like Ferrari’s 488 Pista and Porsche’s 911 GT2 RS, or a limited-edition model like the 675LT. Either way the car is likely to be priced between the 570S on which it is based and the 720S from the Super Series, which would indicate something around the £180,000 mark.

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