Telly ads, publicity stunts and a vigorous shake-up in sales and marketing management. Alfa Romeo (UK) seems to be going for broke with its new GT coupe.
Although only about 1,500 examples will be registered this year – the majority to company funded user-choosers – this £20,995 to £26,695 two-door coupe represents a revitalising Alfa brand.
Its launch here at the end of March coincided with the start of a multi-million pound ad campaign incorporating city roadshows and prime-time TV ads designed to whip up public awareness and to give prospective Alfa retailers food for thought: there are still a few open points to be filled.
From the outset, three engines and four models are offered for the 156-based three-door: 1.9JTD M-Jet diesel, 2.0-litre JTS petrol and a 3.2-litre V6 petrol. A 1.8 Twin Spark petrol will be added in the autumn.
Early indications are encouraging – more than 100 GTs were registered in March. Insiders say dealers have orders for more than 600 and have been surprised by the model mix. Alfa initially expected petrol to outstrip diesel by three to one but it's been a 50:50 split so far, indicating a fleet thumbs-up for the 150bhp JTD. The flagship V6 accounts for a little more than 10% of the petrol orders, but right-hand drive models won't be available until the end of May.
Another surprise is the high demand for upgrades from a long (and from the dealer's view, profitable) options list. This is despite generous equipment on all models which include as standard ABS and EBD, vehicle dynamic control, 16in alloys, dual zone climate control, cruise control, immobiliser/ alarm, RDS radio CD, and space saver spare wheel (not the 3.2 V6 – which comes with a puncture repair kit instead). Top of the add-ons are leather or Alfatex synthetic upholstery, bigger alloys and Connect CD/sat-nav systems.
Alfa hasn't produced what can be described as a true Gran Turismo coupe since Bertone's classic Sprints of the 1960s, and the new GT is well placed to exploit the nostalgia. Its UK arm sees the BMW 3-series coupe as a natural rival, though in reality, an Alfa buyer is chalk to BMW's cheese.
The GT is a happy blend of 147 and 156. It matches the agility and fire of the small hatch with most of the comfort and capacity of the saloon.
We were unable to get a drive in one of the two apparently very quick V6s provided, but spent sufficient hours in the diesel and JTS to come to the conclusion that the JTD is the superior drive. The refined and smooth 150bhp turbodiesel is heavier than the 165bhp petrol, but it has prodigious low-down torque of 225lb-ft @ 2,000rpm, which makes it a calmer everyday drive, with flexible overtaking capacity.
There's little doubt the 3.2 V6 will provide the rush of blood the dedicated Alfisti requires, but both the 2.0-litre petrol and the 1.9-litre diesel entertain the enthusiastic driver.
Strengths: Looks, diesel, low volume
Weakness: Ride/handling are good not excellent
Opportunity: Sales from upper end of volume coupe sector
Threat: Parent company health
The USP: First proper Alfa GT coupe in decades
Prices: £20,995 (JTD), £21,495 (JTS), £23,545 (JTS Selespeed), £26,695 (3.2 V6)
Engines: 1.9 JTD, 2.0 JTS, 3.2 V6,