It’s no big secret that Alfa Romeo is, as a company, currently in deep trouble. It has the problems which most medium-sized European car makers have and, in addition, a few sell-inflicted wounds of its own. The introduction of the Arna (the Alfa Romeoengined Nissan Cherry) to keep plant and dealers occupied after the end of the Alfasud was a desperate act.
Last year was Alfa Romeo’s 75th anniversary. a poignant time, for no car company in Europe has a more glorious past. It was natural that a car introduced in that year would be called the ’75’ and it has now reched these shores. It is the sporting saloon model of the Alfa range, bearing a family resemblance to the 90, and the new importers have decided to bring In the 1.8 litre 4 cylinder model (at £8,949) and the 2.5 litre V6 Cloverleaf which costs £11,649 or £11,861 when fitted with the Blaupunkt radio which came on the test car. In other markets there are 1.6 and 2 litre engine options along with a2 litre turbo diesel.
The oversquare sohc V6 injected engine is a free revving, flexible unit with a melodious exhaust note and power to match. 156 bhp is available at 5,600 rpm while 155 ft lb torque is produced at 4,000 rpm. Power passes via a two piece propshaft to a five speed transax le which helps to achieve a 50/50 weight distribution. Front suspension is by double wishbones, torsion bar, telescopic dampers and anti-roll bar, while at the rear is a de Dion axle located by trailing links, a Watts linkage, and coil springs, with telescopic dampers and an anti-roll bar.
Front braking Is by 10.5 in ventilated discs, with inboard 9.8 in discs at the rear. The rack and pinion steering is power assisted, alloy wheels come as standard and on the test car were fitted with 195/60 VR. Michelin MOO tyres Equipment included central locking on all four doors, automatic radio aerial and electric front windows.
Had I been in the market for this car, my interest would have ceased the moment I got in it for the pedals are impossible, being far too high off the floor — and for no apparent reason as there is plenty of space behind them. With the adjustable steering column set as high as possible and with the seat set as far back as possible, my left thigh still dug into the steering wheel when operating the clutch and at 5 ft 9 in, I can hardly be regarded as unusually tall. Being so uncomfortable the whole time meant that it was many miles before I’d become sufficiently acclimatised to be able to enjoy the car. Even after acclimatisation, I found it impossible to drive for more than two hours at a stretch.
Italian ergonomics seem to consist of carefully locating the horn button and throwing everything else around it. There’s no sense of rhyme or reason within the 75’s cockpit; the window controls areas the roof, the instruments have fussy white lines all over them, the handbrake is U shaped for some reason which is beyond me. All it means is that you bark your knuckle on the gear knob when releasing the handbrake when reverse is engaged. Overall, the interior does not live up to the price tag. The heater / ventilator system is disappointing, there is little interior storage space (there is a hidden drawer under the dashboard but nothing which is lockable) and the trim is, all in all, a little below parlor a car which, on the road, costs over twelve thousand pounds. It must be the only car in its price bracket which is not available with a sun root Part of the door trim fell off the first time the door was closed and the windscreen seal lifted at speed, causing a leak.
Once you’re on the road, though, these criticisms seem altogether less important. The main input of design has been to make the driver feel at one with the car and the road. The engine burbles pleasingly, a dab on the throttle brings instant response, and there is a terrific sense of being in control.
Alfa Romeo claims 0-60 mph in eight seconds and a top speed of 130 mph. The test car didn’t feel quite up to those figures but with just over 2,400 miles on the clock the engine still had some loosening to do. The engine is extremely tractable, there’s frequently no need to drop from fifth in town for it is perfectly happy at 25-30 mph. With third gear being long enough to acheive 80 mph, rapid overtaking in most situations is easy.
The gearchange is a little stiff until the oil warms up and even then changing down to second remains awkward—just like in a GTV6. The power assisted steering is light, precise, and full of feel. When you come teas interesting stretch of road, everything about the car makes you want to enjoy it.
Driven briskly the car understeers but pressure on the throttle pedal in mid corner converts that to controllable oversteer. A limited slip differential might Sea useful addition for the inside rear wheels slip when one corners hard.
Where I had reservations was in cross winds which caused the car to twitch a lot, though without feeling threatened, and in the wet. Here I suspect the Michelin tyres may be at fault bull have to say that it did not feel at all sure-footed in damp conditions. With discs all round, you expect the brakes to be effective and so they are, but they are not strong on feel.
Ride and passenger comfort are very good for a car with such a strong bias towards driver satisfaction. There are seat belts for three in the back but It’s more realistic to regard the 75 as a full four seater offering ample room front and rear. Both front and rear seats have head rests but I found these restricted my three quarters rear vision.
Although one is aware of pleasant noises from the engine department, the 75 is not an unduly noisy car. You have to be travelling over 100 mph before wind noise becomes a nuisance while road noise is fairly low on most surfaces.
Overall economy worked out at a fraction better than 22 mpg which gives an effective range of 240-260 miles. There is a dashboard computer which automatically gives warning when the fuel tank is about a quarter full and then gives a constant read-out of the number of miles one has left before running dry. So far as I could see, this was a fairly accurate reading While the fuel economy is fairly typical of the 75’s class, it is heavy on oil and I found myself putting in a litre every 450 miles or so.
I found the driving position so dreadful that I could not possibly consider buying this car. A friend of a different shape found it fitted him like a glove and fell in love with it. It’s a shame that Alfa Romeo has placed such an obstacle in the path of potential buyers for in essence the 75 is a great deal of fun. — M.L.