LA MECCANIA DELLE EMOZIONI
Written by Andre James
Photos courtesy of FCA
While the flashier fronds on the family tree of Italian automobile manufacturers often garner the lion’s share of attention, brands with deeper roots—Fiat, Maserati and Alfa Romeo—have been turning heads and amassing accolades for more than a century.
The first Italian car, essentially a petrol-powered tricycle, was built in 1884. A little more than a decade later, Fiat was founded and produced its first model, a FIAT 4HP, which had a a top speed of 22 mph. Alfa Romeo wasn’t far behind, tracing its roots to the Società Anonima Italiana Darracq, established in 1906 by Frenchman Alexandre Darrracq with backing from Italian investors. Three years later, after a slow start to sales and economic hardships, managing director and Italian aristocrat Ugo Stella acquired the company and relaunched the plant under a new name: Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (ALFA).
Designed by Giuseppe Merosi, the 1910 24 HP was the first car to come off of the production line at Portello in Milan under the Alfa name; the 4.1-liter engine could reach speeds up to 62 mph. In 1911 ALFA made its foray into motor racing, beginning a long and storied run as a constructor and engine supplier in Grand Prix motor racing, Formula One, sportscar racing, touring car racing and rallies. Enzo Ferrari drove Alfas in the 1920s before striking out on his own.
ALFA faced financial challenges during WWI and was acquired by Nicola Romeo, a successful electrical engineer from Naples, Italy. While automotive production ceased during the war, the company continued to prosper by making airplane engines and portable compressors. Investors took the company public in 1918 under the new official name of Alfa Romeo, and resumed building and designing automobiles at the end of WWI.
The marque’s four-leaf clover “Quadrifoglio” logo first appeared in 1923 on an RL Targa Florio. It was painted on the front by legendary driver Ugo Sivocci, who was looking to break a string of runner-up finishes. While he went on to win the Targo Florio race in Sicily, Sivocci later perished in a crash while testing a new race car that did not bear his lucky clover. From that point on, all Alfa Romeo race cars featured the four-leaf clover on a white triangle, with a missing corner symbolizing the loss of Sivocci.
In spite of their laurels, financial woes plagued the company over the decades. Fiat Group Automobiles acquired the brand in 1986, beating out the likes of Nissan and Ford to keep it under Italian control. The 1995 Alfa Romeo 164 was the last Alfa sedan sold in the United States before the brand returned to North America two decades later. By 2018, Alfa Romeo’s annual sales in the United States reached a record 23,820, nearly doubling sales from the previous year.
Current Alfa Romeo models available in the United States include the Stelvio SUV, the Giulia sports sedan, and the 4C Spider, with powerful Quadrifoglio versions of both the Stelvio and Giulia representing the cutting edge of Alfa Romeo design and performance.
Named for the Stelvio Pass, a mountain pass in northern Italy, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio (MSRP from $73,700) holds the Nürburgring record for the fastest production SUV, making it the fastest production SUV in the world. Available in six models, Stelvio (MSRP from $40,195) is well-equipped with standard premium features including a direct-injection 280-horsepower turbocharged and intercooled 2.0L engine delivering 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds, DNA drive mode selector, genuine leather interior, remote start with passive entry, bi-xenon headlamps, dual exhaust, class-exclusive carbon-fiber driveshaft, and a flatbottom Formula One-inspired steering wheel. The Quadrifoglio variant boasts an all-aluminum, 2.9L, twin-turbo V6 engine with 505 horsepower, completing the 0-60 mph sprint in 3.6 seconds and able to reach a top speed of 176 mph.
In 2018, the Alfa Romeo Giulia won the 25th edition of the “Compasso d’Oro ADI,” the most prestigious world design award. As the first of a new generation of vehicles on an all-new platform, the Alfa Romeo Giulia (MSRP from $38,195) and Giulia Ti (MSRP from $40,195) models embody Alfa Romeo’s "la meccanica delle emozioni" (the mechanics of emotion) spirit, delivering race-inspired performance with a class-leading 280 horsepower and available Q4 all-wheel-drive system. Standard accoutrements in the mid-size sedan include leather seating, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, passive entry, remote start, bi-xenon headlamps with LED Daytime Running Lights and LED taillights, DNA Drive Mode selector and back-up camera with rear park sensors.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio (MSRP from $73,700), highlights Alfa Romeo’s exclusive motorsports expertise with a best-in-class, Ferrari-derived, 505 horsepower, 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine with a 3.8 second 0-60 mph time and a top speed of 149 mph. Also notable on this variant is its carbon fiber hood, roof and rear spoiler; adaptive performance suspension; DNA Pro with Race Mode; torque vectoring; carbon fiber active aero front splitter; Harmon Kardon Premium Audio System; carbon fiber interior trim; full-speed Forward Collision Warning-Plus; and 3D Navigation.
Handcrafted in Modena, Italy, the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider (MSRP starting at $66,900) offers a state-of-the-art Formula 1-inspired ultralight carbon fiber monocoque chassis that enables a 10.4 power-to-weight ratio. Advanced technologies include the all-aluminum 1750cc turbocharged engine with direct-injection, dual intercoolers and variable-valve timing, enabling supercarlevel performance. The 4C Spider delivers 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, powering it from 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds with a top speed of 160 mph.
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