The Awesome Alfa Romeo 147 GTA
Following the presentation of the 156 GTA in late 2001, it was a no-brainer for Alfa Romeo to offer the same package on the 147, and the 147 GTA went on sale a year later. Nowadays, it's an increasingly collectible modern classic...
If the 156 almost singlehandedly saved Alfa Romeo in 1997, inaugurating a new era of record sales the brand has yet to repeat, the launch of the 147 in 2000 further boosted the Marque's fortunes: 651.823 147s would be produced between 2000 and 2010, which places it high among the Marque's most successful models.
As the 147 was built on the same platform as the 156 (albeit with a 49 mm shorter wheelbase) and shared with it most major subsystems, it was a no-brainer for Alfa Romeo to create a GTA variant of the 147 too, which was presented in November 2002, about a year after its larger sister.
The hottest "hot" hatchback
The Alfa Romeo 147 GTA could accelerate from naught to 100 Km/h in 6.3 seconds and reach a top speed nearing 250 Km/h: figures that, upon its launch, few models in its category could match.
Such performances were possible thanks to one of automobile history's greatest engines: the last evolution of Alfa's melodious V6 engine, known by enthusiasts the world over by the surname of its original designer, the legendary Giuseppe Busso.
The specification of the 3.2 V6 used on the 147 GTA was exactly the same as the 156, and it produced 250 HP at 6200 Rpm: the highest among all period competitors, including the mighty Volkswagen Golf R32, which was perhaps the Alfa's closest rival both in performance and technical terms.
What the Golf had that the Alfa didn't was four-wheel-drive, but that wasn't for lack of trying on the part of Alfa's engineers.
The 4WD that never was
During a special event dedicated to the 156 and 147 GTAs at Alfa Romeo's Arese museum, I had the pleasure to listen to a couple of engineers who worked on these projects and learned from them that a four-wheel-drive transmission was indeed investigated for the 147, but dismissed on costs grounds.
On top of the costs associated with the added driveline components, their presence would also have dictated a redesign of the V6 engine's oil pan, a new oil pump, and rerouting of the associated plumbing. Technically feasible, but hardly justifiable from an economic standpoint against the limited production volume expected for the GTA.
The Alfa 147 shared with the 156 a sophisticated chassis design that featured a double wishbones front suspension and a McPherson at the rear, which was significantly uprated to match the GTA's performance.
Compared to the standard Alfa 147 configuration, the GTA's front suspension had a reinforced lower beam, revised spring and damper settings, a repositioned steering link, and a larger diameter anti-roll bar.
The rear McPherson was modified in geometry and construction, with different attachment points to the body, revised spring and damper settings, and a larger diameter anti-roll bar.
The brake package was again shared with the 156 GTA, with 305 mm ventilated front discs with Brembo calipers, 276 mm rear discs, and an upgraded servo. Steering was the quickest this side of a go-kart, with just 1.8 turns lock to lock.
The original GTAs from the 1960s were lightweight, stripped-out racers whose body panels were made of aluminum to shave as much weight as possible. However, the 147 GTA was a very different animal, as much about luxury as it was about performance.
It came loaded with a luxuriously appointed interior, dual-zone climate control, Bose sound system, plus the full suite of electronic driving aids, including the stability control VDC. Xenon headlights were optional, like the beautiful iridescent paint "Bianco Nuvola," which was the model's launch color.
A look to die for
Choosing a favorite between the 156 and the 147 GTA is nearly impossible, as both cars could be considered as genuine masterpieces among modern automobile designs.
Even though the 147 GTA is perhaps a tad more extrovert in its appearance than the 156, due to its different target market, the Centro Stile Alfa Romeo designers once again managed to strike the right balance between sportiness and elegance.
The 147 GTA's wings were widened to accommodate its 17" "teledial" alloy wheels and 225/45 tires. The new front bumper incorporated an enlarged front spoiler and two ample air intakes for better airflow to the radiators.
The aesthetic package also included a relatively small spoiler above the rear window, side skirts similar to those used on the 156, and a new rear bumper integrating an aerodynamic extractor.
As often happens with beautiful things, the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA only had a short and fleeting existence. Two years and it was gone, during which just over 5000 cars (5029) were sold, of which about one-fifth (1004) were equipped with the Selespeed automatic transmission. Interestingly, the country that bought more 147 GTAs wasn't its native Italy but Japan, where 878 examples were exported from new.