9th May 2014
The first question to ask is why I rate the GTV ahead of the 147 GTA and you can call me a tart on this as I have rated it better on looks alone! I know the GTA is a faster car and it handles better but it is a hot hatch. The GTV is a coupe, a proper sports car, would it be the same accelerating over the Alps-Maritimes towards the Côte d'Azur in a hot hatch? No it wouldn't. There are some occasions when only a coupe and a little bit of Matt Monro will do, just avoid the tunnels! Seriously though there is something about a small high powered coupe that is sexy. The lack of practicality adds to the image, there is the promise of freedom there that you don't have once you have 50 years of commitments behind you and there is no way you could squeeze two small children into the back of a GTV for more than a trip to the local pub for lunch. Should you decide to go a little further with the family the only option is to forward the luggage with DHL as there is no room in the boot for it.
Up front in the GTV there is that glorious V6 however in this case it is a tiny one of only 2.0 litres displacement. Alfa made two versions of the 2.0l V6 essentially to avoid luxury car tax in the home market, the first was normally aspirated and only produced around 130 bhp and then there was this beast. There is something about small displacement V6's and V8's that is appealing maybe because they are always so willing to rev, ask any Montreal owner, and a 2.0l V6 is no exception. The engine has a very short stroke of only 66mm compared with a bore of 80mm which is a recipe for lots of revs, anyone who has driven a high revving car will know that almost invariably they lack torque and this is where the turbo comes in; it fills in the bottom end of the power curve. So looking at the figures the 2.0L turbo has 207 bhp @ 6000 rpm and 280 Nm of torque @ 2500 rpm while the 3.0L V6 has 217 bhp @ 6300 rpm and 270 Nm of torque @ 5000 rpm and while total power and torque outputs are not that different just look at where the torque is on both engines. On the road this translates to a feeling of power no matter what gear you happen to be in at the time which is always nice.
The 2.0L V6 has a single cam for each bank of cylinders with two valves per cylinder, like an Alfetta GTV6, and there is a push rod across the top of the engine to operate the exhaust valve. The single turbo is just in front of number six cylinder located on the front of the engine which makes the exhaust system a bit of a nightmare; the front bank of cylinders feeds almost directly into the turbo while the rear bank's exhaust comes forward between the sump and the flywheel and is then siamese'd into the front banks exhaust system which then feeds into the turbocharger and the waste gas from the turbo heads straight for the front right hand wheel before looping round the engine towards the back of the car! The inlet tract in not much less complicated than the exhaust system; air is drawn in from the left hand wheel, through an air filter and air flow meter, then it disappears down to the turbocharger back to an intercooler behind the left hand fog lamp to reappear in the engine bay just behind the distributor. It isn’t just complicated it's fiendishly complicated; no wonder there is a slight turbo lag!
The 916 series GTV shares its front suspension with the Alfa 155, 145 and 146 and the MacPherson strut suspension was previously used on Alfa's as far back as the Alfa Sud, so it has quite a long heritage with the marque. The steering is power assisted but it has only 2.2 turns lock to lock, which means that the front of the car turns in very quickly with almost no effort. The rear suspension was far more advanced than anything so far fitted on an Alfa. In essence, the rear of the GTV is suspended by two wishbones on each side, this is however a very simplified explanation of the suspension design; the lower wishbone is longer than the upper one, so as the car rolls into a turn the wheel moves in an arc which keeps it perpendicular to the road giving the tyre the largest contact patch possible and therefore the most grip. Also by off setting the wishbones mounting points the rear wheels steer as the car rolls which helps with turn in. Finally as the forces on the finely tuned bushes in the rear wishbones increase the rear wheels start to turn in the same direction as the front wheels, all clever stuff. The rear suspension was designed by Gianclaudio Travaglio and if you get to drive a properly sorted GTV you will understand why he gets a mention here.
The newest GTV's are now approaching 10 years old and we now know most of their foibles. As with any car there is always the possibility of accident damage and that is not really going to be covered here but I do intend to run through the more common issues with ownership. Luckily a lot of the wearing parts are shared with other models of Alfa, such as the front wishbones, and are therefore quite easy to get hold of. However the rear suspension is bespoke to the 916 series cars and it wears in all the ball joints. Early 2.0l Cars had the particularly nasty habit of wearing a groove in the rear sub frame, necessitating its replacement in the worst cases. Fitting the rear arm from the 3.0l, which has a spherical joint instead of a rubber bush, makes sure it doesn’t happen again but eventually this wears and you get a rattle from the rear suspension. If the rear suspension squeaks you may need to replace the spring pans and they are not cheap costing in excess of £225 each; a rear suspension rebuild on a GTV could easily set you back £1000 if you are unlucky!
Up front the engine is pretty bullet proof but you do have to replace the cam belt every 5 years. Replacing it is a bit of a rigmarole as quite a lot of the engine has to be taken apart to get to the cam shaft timing marks; they are inside the rocker covers and the rear rocker cover is hidden below the inlet manifold! I suspect that in time that getting hold of the cam belt will become an issue as it only fits the 2.0L turbo and the 155 2.5l V6 neither of which is a common engine, however if push came to shove I suspect you could fit the cam belt drive off another type of 12 valve V6 but it would make it quite a big and expensive job. The turbo on the car is exceptionally reliable however it is best to let the car idle for 10 seconds or so on start up and maybe 30 seconds when you are at the end of your run, this allows the oil to cool the turbo a little and helps to stop the oil forming black deposits in the turbocharger.
The GTV like many Italian coupe's was styled at Pininfarina, this time by Enrico Fumia and it is difficult to fault its’ looks. In sales terms it is quite a rare car, to give you some idea of how rare, all models of the 916 GTV sold total only 41659 cars, that is less than the production run of just the Giulia 1750 GTV (44269) and total production of the Giulia Coupe was in excess of 223,000! 2.0 l turbo GTV's sold 6914 cars that makes it as rare as the 2600 Sprint was in its day and when did you last see one of them! In my opinion this makes the GTV and Spiders without doubt a future classic.
The GTV was released to the press in 1995 at the Geneva motor show. From the start it was designed by Pininfarina with a Spider version running in parallel, the car took many cues from the 1991 Alfa Romeo Proteo. The Proteo was a two seater coupe based on the Alfa Romeo 164 floor pan and used a 260 bhp version of Alfa’s stunning V6 24V 3.0 litre engine. The GTV however is based on a very highly modified Fiat Tipo floor pan, in fact the only similar parts left are the floor, front bulkhead and the two chassis rails either side of the engine. The cars lines are very aggressive the crease line from flows down from the rear window down the door and along the edge of the clam shell bonnet, the headlamps now reduced from six on the Proteo to four are mounted under the bonnet and peep out from holes in the bonnets light weight plastic moulding, the rear of the car is quite stubby has a very subtle lip on the rear edge of the boot, just enough to separate the air flow from the car. The whole car sits high at the rear and low and wide at the front adding to the sense of menace.
Any Alfa Romeo sports car needs a heart and the GTV is one the first Alfa Romeo’s to come with the Fiat derived 4 cylinder engine as an option the other being the glorious V6 The car originally came to the UK with two engine variants, the 2.0 Litre twin spark and the 3.0 Litre V6 24 Valve however there are some 2 litre V6 turbo versions over here now and in Europe they did a 1.8 Twin spark version. Later in the production run the 2.0l twin spark engine was changes for the JTS unit and the V6 had a capacity hike to 3.2 Litres. The 2.0 Litre Twin Spark engine produced around 150 bhp and in this guise the car is fast and very nimble, the engine has 4 valves per cylinder, variable inlet camshaft timing and twin balancer shafts. As the engine developed it got a variable length inlet manifold, when the rocker cover changed to plastic and later still it got another two catalysts. This engine loves to be revved and is happiest as it approaches the red line, each gear ratio is then perfectly placed to take you to the cars maximum 134 mph. The two V6 engines the 3,0l and the 3.2 l transform the car from a very nice sports car into a monster, if the Germans had made this car it would have traction control, flashing lights that told you that you were about to die and all manner of fun destroying devices. Needless to say the Italian’s didn’t bother. This car goes like stink. It is not particularly fast off the line as any application of even ½ throttle results in massive wheelspin but from the top of second gear acceleration is relentless. Opening the bonnet on a V6 you are confronted by one of the most beautiful engines in the world, Alfa Romeo’s incredible all alloy V6 24 valve engine it is an absolute work of art both to look at and in engineering terms, it is a 60 degree V6 with wet liners, sodium cooled exhaust valves and twin overhead camshafts per bank, the only other place you find engine’s like this is in Ferrari’s and like Ferrari’s the sound track is awesome you have to wind the window down and knock it down a couple of gears whenever you are in a tunnel just to hear it, you just can’t help yourself.
Suspension is Mac Pherson strut on the front and double wishbone on the rear, this combination does a surprisingly good job of controlling the power especially of the V6. The rear end is so much better than the 155 set up with a lot more feedback and masses more grip, roundabouts are great fun as long as you balance the car on the throttle, vicious prods of the throttle end up with understeer. Roll is well controlled at both ends and the car rarely gets out of shape without driver provocation.
This car is very comparable both in price and performance with the Audi TT, however the Audi TT feels like a tarted up golf and the engines are not even in the same league, it does not have a soul. Along your favourite roads an Alfa Romeo GTV will worm your way into your affections you to will become infected with virus Alfa Romeo and I am afraid there is little chance of a cure.