If the automaker had its way, the compact Alfa Romeo 156, introduced in 2004, would have been a lightweight, rear-wheel drive sports sedan.
Unfortunately for Alfa, the 156 was dragged down by parent company Fiat’s joint venture with General Motors. The 156 ended up riding on GM’s heavy, front-wheel drive ‘Premiuim Platform’, which gave it a larger and comfier cabin than the 156 it replaced, but at the cost of driving dynamics.
With the new Alfa Romeo Giulia, the automaker is finally getting the chance to build the car it wanted to in the early 2000s. The Giulia and its light, rear-wheel drive Giorgio platform were Alfa’s doing from the get-go and it shows – the car has been lauded by reviewers for its handling prowess and overall on-track performance.
In 2003, GM pulled out of its partnership with Fiat. GM’s then head of product development, Bob Lutz, said the Premium platform would be “useless,” for GM, with the automaker cancelling the Cadillac, Buick and Saab models it had planned for it. The partnership turned sour for all involved, with GM losing billions of dollars and Alfa being left with a heavy, oversized front-wheel drive sedan.
“There was a lot of constraint,” Philippe Krief, the chief engineer of Giulia and 159, told Automotive News in a recent interview. “The platform was for GM as well, so we put everything on the car, and by the end, we were alone. But we kept the weight.”
Alfa’s Giorgio platform will now be used elsewhere in Fiat Chrysler’s portfolio, including on the coming Alfa Romeo Stelvio SUV. The automaker is hoping to deliver the most dynamically capable SUV ever with the Stelvio, and unlike GM’s Premiuim platform with the 156, it’s the perfect place to start.