The slogan went 'A win a day with your everyday car'. It was the Nineteen Sixties and the Giulia Sprint GTA (Gran Turismo Alleggerita) was winning everything there was to win on the world's racing circuits. Today Alfa Romeo revives the GTA legend with another car. Two actually. The 156 GTA and Sportwagon GTA, cars which embody the highest level of sportiness, today as yesterday.

Alfa Romeo cars are known the world over as beautiful, sporty cars with a great past of races and victories made possible by brilliant up-to-the-minute engineering. Cars that offer new sensations and make driving a really enjoyable experience.

The Alfa 156 GTA and Sportwagon GTA retain these characteristics, but when necessary they offer something extra: more performance, more handling, more braking capacity. In a word, the dynamic behaviour of a car that brings the sensations of the racetrack to the normal road.

Alfa Romeo had a precise goal when it developed the Alfa 156 GTA: to create a car that was ideal for everyday use but which would, in the right conditions, provide customers with the performance, behaviour and driving sensations of a car built to race. The designers were set no constraints, but they chose to highlight the functional aspects of the car, making drastic changes to the already excellent base of the Alfa 156, a saloon with the heart of a sports car. They modified all the components that impact on the dynamics of the car. Starting with the engine.

The engine on the Alfa 156 GTA and Alfa Sportwagon GTA is derived from the classic 3-litre V6 24-valve unit that powers the top-of-the-range versions of the Alfa 166 and Gtv: a vigorous, but above all 'round' engine. For the 156 GTA, the technicians modified the crankshaft and pistons to raise capacity to 3.2 litres, lengthening stroke to 78 millimetres. Which says plenty about the type of performance they wanted to achieve. If their goal had only been to increase power, this could have been achieved by modifying the timing gear, fuel system and electronics.

Increasing capacity by lengthening the stroke on the other hand is a change that aims to obtain not only absolute performance and high peaks of power and torque, but also regular, smooth delivery even at low speeds. And the result? The power delivery is now 250 bhp at 6,200 rpm, and peak torque is 300 Nm (30.6 kgm) at 4,800 rpm. Sufficient to obtain exciting performance when you want it, with a torque curve that reaches very high values even at low speeds, allowing the car to travel in sixth at less than 2,000 rpm, and to sprint off without having to change gear.

Alfa decided to upgrade the transmission too, to cope with the more powerful engine. The axle shafts are new, the clutch is larger and numerous components of the six-speed gearbox were strengthened. The manual gearbox is now joined by a Selespeed version with an operating logic borrowed from Formula 1, designed for rapid gear changes at low and high speeds.

However, an excellent engine alone does not a sports car make. The suspension had to be modified too, to guarantee superb dynamic performance and outstanding comfort. The choice went to the layout that had already decided the success of the Alfa 156: high double wishbone at the front and an evolved MacPherson system at the rear.

Work then began to adapt the suspension to the car's particular features and the specific weight distribution on the Alfa 156 GTA. The goal was to achieve the highest level of handling, to guarantee maximum dynamic performance and to dominate the car's great sporty temperament. The resulting performance can be summed up as follows:

  • smooth, pinpoint steering;
  • prompt response;
  • excellent stability and ease of control even at grip limit;
  • negligible body movement;
  • outstanding comfort in all use and road conditions.

Still on the subject of the engineering, the Alfa 156 GTA and Sportwagon GTA fit an ASR (Anti Slip Regulation) system as standard, to optimise traction at all speeds using the brakes and engine control.

On a sporty car like the Alfa 156 GTA, one expects direct steering and brakes suited to the car's thrilling performance. Which is why the Alfa technicians modified the steering chain and steering box to increase the precision and speed of the car's response.

Changes were also made to the brakes. The front discs are of the ventilated type, 305 mm in diameter, with twin-plunger Brembo calipers. The rear discs are marginally smaller at 276 mm. The brake servo was upgraded and the system incorporates ABS with the EBD electronic brakeforce distributor.

The result is two cars with really exciting performance and response, in terms of dynamism, ride and handling. Cars for people who demand the most when it comes to sportiness. And want others to know it, but without ostentation.

The designers decided not to radically alter the successful line of the basic saloon and Sportwagon, but to limit exterior changes to a few touches that could emphasise the car's sporty appeal.

From outside, the car is still recognisable, it just looks like a gutsier Alfa 156: wider, lower, and firmly glued to the road.

The larger front wings now accommodate generous 17 inch wheels (225-45); the foglights have been moved towards the outside of the car to free the air intakes and to let the powerful engine breathe better, and the black background of the headlights makes the 156 GTA look more aggressive.

The side view reveals the new five-ring wheels that identify the 156 GTA, with their essential, highly 'technical' profile (as an alternative the customer can choose the spoked wheels typical of the racing world) and a new sill plate which stylistically links the two large wings.

The new rear bumper fits in perfectly, in spite of its larger size. It is a feature that is just visible in profile but gives a distinctive touch to the rearview of the car.

From the boot floor down, the rear end of the 156 GTA appears totally different from that of the basic model. Partly because the bumpers incorporate a large fin, known as an extractor because it draws (i.e. 'extracts') air flow from the front of the speeding car to the rear end.

The two exhaust tail-pipes are slightly oval and chrome-plated, a classic for Alfa.

There is a choice of ten body colours on the GTAs, including Nuvola Red, an iridescent shade that is exclusive to this model.

The interior of the Alfa 156 GTAs was designed around the driver. The goal was to ensure that whoever sits behind the wheel enjoys perfect control of the car in all circumstances. Over and above the lavish, exclusive outfit of the new Alfa 156, the GTA versions also offer a number of specifically sporty details that are exclusive to the version.

For example the Pewter grey trims, in a darker shade of metalluro than that on other versions of the new Alfa 156. The steering wheel spokes have an exclusive design, with metalluro inserts, like the gear lever knob with its leather gaiter. Without mentioning the ergonomic sporty pedals with rubber inserts, which match the metalluro mat with rubber elements in the central storage compartment.

The Alfa 156 GTA adds sporty seats, with an adjustable thigh support, upholstered in top quality leather. They are exclusive to the model and come in four colour combinations: one in solid black, and three two-tone (natural leather, grey and blue with black side strip). The rear seat has the same sporty configuration but still accommodates three people comfortably.

The door panels have leather inserts which repeat the pattern and colour of the central seat panel. The ceiling is grey-black while the boot lining is all black, like the pillars, grab handles and sun visors. One final distinguishing feature of the Alfa 156 GTA is the mat which is standard equipment and is anchored mechanically to the carpet, with the letters GTA hand-sewn in Pewter grey thread.

There are also a few changes to the instrument panel of the Alfa 156 GTA: special dials with black backgrounds, new styling for the gauges and an engine oil temperature trend display in the multifunction monitor.

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