With the New Year upon us, I thought we might look at one of
the cars we don’t get in Thailand, but can dream about. We do get the
‘cooking model’ Alfa 147 which has a 2 litre four cylinder in the sharp end,
but the one our Down-under correspondent John Weinthal has just spent a week
with, the 147 GTA version, has a 3.2 litre V6 delivering a very healthy 184 kW.
heads his write-up with “Driver fatigue will never occur in this one!” Here
are the Words from Weinthal on the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA.
***“Like a long planned holiday there can be much
anticipation of a drive in what seems to be a particularly exciting new car. As
with holidays, the anticipation is often better than the reality. Such was not
the case with the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA.
in May I drove its bigger brother and declared it one of the great drivers cars
even at a seemingly implausible AUD 90,000. After a week in that car the price
seemed wholly reasonable and I knew I had driven another of those rare cars to
be remembered forever.
“This has been a good year for excitement machines - the
brilliant-for-the-money Ford Falcon XR6 Turbos and GT, Nissan’s delicious
350Z, Suzuki’s astounding top-value Ignis Sport and the fascinating Mazda RX8
one of the best came right at the end - the Alfa 147 GTA with the same
outstanding 184kW 3.2 litre V6 powerplant as the 156 GTA in a smaller, lighter
package. It had to be good - and so it proved.
“At AUD 60,000 it makes a heap of sense for anybody who
wants to carry four people in a stylish, always exciting machine without, say,
the bulk of a Camry - and dare I say it, with the supposed prestige attaching to
a heritage-laden badge like Alfa’s.
“This car whips its class against the clock with the 0-100
kph dash taking just 6.4 seconds and a top speed of around 240kph. Never was the
term pocket-rocket more aptly applied.
“The GTA brings the number of stylish Alfa 147s available
in Australia to six including the three and five-door offerings with Alfa’s
confusing Selespeed manual-automatic transmission - a choice I would forego were
it my money on the line. (We get only the 3 door and 5 door variants with the 2
litre and Selespeed (Sillyspeed) in Thailand and costing around 2 million baht.
“This car responds almost telepathically to any driver
input. The car almost appears to anticipate the driver’s intent, which is
wonderful provided you give 100% attention to your driving at all times.
“Rolls-Royce used to refer to their building in a ‘sneeze
factor’ to the steering and other controls - an allowance for the fact that
the chauffeur’s intent might be considered momentarily by the car so as not to
upset Milord and Ma’am in the rear. Sorry folks, Alfa does not subscribe to
that theory. This car is fabulously nervous. Keep your eyes on the road, your
mind on the job and your reflexes primed at all times.
“Of course such sheer driving joy involves some compromise.
The ride is firm at all times, but surprisingly bump absorbent at the same time.
Never harsh, one is nevertheless always aware of road imperfections. Rapid
progress through less than excellent hill country can see your Alfa twitch
offline, but it is always easily caught adding to the great driving experience.
In this car one comes alive and stays that way. So-called ‘driver fatigue’
will never assail the pilot of a 147 GTA!
“There are, as ever, a few beefs about the Alfa as with so
many Italian cars. Driving satisfaction clearly has priority over user
friendliness in some areas. The most notable problem - and it IS a problem - is
an absurdly large turning circle, just like other current Alfas. Ordinary
streets in which one can perform an easy U-Turn in a Commodore (Chevrolet Lumina
here) become three-pointers with all that implies for traffic hold-ups and even
potential danger or damage to the expensive alloy wheels.
“It takes a while to achieve a totally satisfactory driving
position in the 147 and there are inadequate storage spaces. The excellent
8-speaker sound system can be confusing to operate. By day there is bad
reflection in the instruments although they are an exemplar of clarity by night.
The cruise control switches and lever are hidden by the
steering wheel and the speedo has ridiculous 30kph interval numbering.
“Ah, such mild complaints against the backdrop of the sheer
guaranteed driving pleasure. This is a stunning smile-a-mile experience - all
the more rare in a roomy, hugely stylish sedan!
“The engine has seemingly endless torque at all times. It
will pull strongly from as low as 60 kph in sixth gear. It is so tempting to
skip 2nd, 4th and 5th gears in everyday driving, while 6th can still be used
around town while ensuring safe, rapid autobahn-style overtaking.
“The Alfa is strong on safety with front, side and window
airbags, electronic vehicle stability control and huge ABS brakes with
electronic brake distribution. It has climate control air-con, remote central
locking and power front windows, a powerful 8-speaker sound system with CD
player, central rear armrest and five-hole design 17 inch alloy wheels. Xenon
headlamps and a sunroof are optional.
“This was another week to remember. For AUD 60,000 this 147 GTA would be a
fine fit in any driving enthusiast’s driveway. This car was long anticipated
and the experience more than matched my high expectations.