Alfa Romeo 147
Alfa Romeo 147 2004 facelift
Alfa 147 04 facelift model
Alfa 147 Car of the Year
Review of the Alfa 147 GTA
I make no bones about it I love this car! Yes it has tried to kill me a number of times especially before I fitted a Q2 differential in it and it does have a prodigious appetite for both fuel @ around 22mpg and front tyres which rarely last more than 5000 miles, but I still love it. It is as mad as a box of frogs, what Luigi at the Alfa Romeo factory was thinking about when he decided to put the most powerful engine they were producing at the time into the smallest car that was in the range, I don't know. It's a bit like going out with the most beautiful girl in the world only to find she has a meat cleaver in her handbag and if you put a foot wrong she WILL use it, no questions, no hesitation and no second chances.
In many ways the 147 GTA is all about the engine, it completely dominates everything from the moment you turn the key. Initially, it has a deep subdued burble that instantly settles down to a nice 800 rpm idle, as the revs rise the engine note hardens and at just over 4000 rpm you feel the car come on cam as it howls towards the red line. As you hit the red line grab second, then by the top of second gear you will be hitting 60 mph, with the Q2 differential this should have taken around 6 seconds. It doesn't stop there however, the power is relentless in every gear she will pull, you don't stop accelerating hard until over 130mph and she will pull too in excess of 150 mph. Conversely, if you want to tootle along at 45 mph in 6th gear at just over 1000 rpm, you can. With that Busso V6 just smoothly doing its work with no fuss or bother, however, the slightest touch of the throttle and that eagerness, that little devil on your shoulder is immediately there in your ear; I want to go, come on, come on, let me go, faster, faster.
Then you open the bonnet and once again the engine dominates, there are no plastic covers to hide it, NO one is ashamed of this engine and it fills the engine bay. All the ancillaries are tucked into the corners it doesn't need, hidden away. If the marketing men hadn't insisted on air conditioning I am sure the engine would have chewed it up and spat it out just so it had a little more room to show off its glory. Huge amounts of aluminium greet your eye and then in the middle of it all the chrome intake runners; nice, no stunning, no one does it better than this, some may equal the show but no one can better it.
The engine itself originates from the Alfa 6 back in the 1970s but it is so different that no parts are interchangeable now. It only really shares the same basic design, i.e. it is a 60 degree wet linered V6 using an alloy block with steel liners, itself largely an inheritance from the glory days of Alfa Romeo. Indeed the engine would look very familiar to any of those great pre-war engineers. They might have been a little surprised by the short stroke, it has a 93mm bore but only a 78mm stroke and the cam belt would have been an anathema to them, a camshaft timing chain would have been much more what they had been expecting. The engine's development went roughly like this, first, it was enlarged from 2.5 to 3.0 litre, next it was fitted across the engine bay, then it got 4 valves per cylinder heads and eventually the oil pump was driven off the crankshaft rather than off the cam belt. This is a simplification of the development but it is near enough. The 3.2 litre engine uses the same block and cylinder heads as the 3.0l but it has a longer stroke crankshaft with much shallower pistons with the gudgeon pin nearer the piston crown and different inlet cams. And it is sweet, very sweet, of all the engines Alfa have ever made this is one of the best and of the Busso V6's it is the sweetest. It is just hungry for revs, it wants to be there on the limit like no other engine I know.
The 147 GTA chassis is shared with the 156 GTA and GT 3.2, however, it has a shorter wheelbase than either. 10 cm of floor pan is removed from behind the front seats, whilst also having 10 bhp more than the GT, this makes the 147 GTA the most extreme car of the bunch. The rear subframe is alloy on the 147 GTA rather than pressed steel on the lower power 147 models and it has a wider track by around 5cm than a standard 147. Even the petrol flap is modified on a GTA when compared with a standard 147. All these detail changes give the car much more presence on the road; it looks meaner than the standard car. Inside the car the 147 GTA has those gorgeous body-hugging leather seats which are both a work of art and a joy to sit in, they are extremely comfortable and very supportive and in front of you, the classic white on black dials are simple and easy to read.
So what are the issues with the 147 GTA? The only real issue with the engine is the water pump, for some unknown reason they changed the impeller on the water pump from metal on the earlier engine to plastic on the later engines, the shaft through the centre of the impeller corrodes slightly and the increase in size causes the impeller to crack and spin on the shaft. This then causes overheating at high speeds, it is a well-known fault and most of the cars will by now have had the water pump changed for the earlier type with the metal impeller from a GTV V6 24 valve. The V6 engine is good for at least 175,000 miles and will give little trouble as long as it is maintained correctly. The gearbox has two known issues, the first is the bearing at the far end of the first motion shaft has been known to fail prematurely and the second is the planetary gears in the standard differential break. Like the water pump, most cars will have had this fault cured by the fitment of superior parts, in this case, a Q2 differential which uses a different method of allowing the front wheels to rotate at different speeds. The only other real issues are the door handles, these break off at the front hinge and then eventually break off altogether if not repaired and at around £150 per side they are not cheap to replace. The front sidelights are also a pain to change if your car has the xenon lights entailing the removal of the bumper which isn't cheap.
Day to day the 147 GTA isn't a relaxing car to live with, this is no Rolls Royce, The ride is extremely firm and you feel every imperfection of the road, Alfa Romeo has used a significant amount of bump stiffness on the shock absorbers, much more than some German marques might and it really shows. Spring rates are also high, and so on an undulating country road, you tend to be thrown about significantly to the point where you can have trouble controlling the car. Turn-in is very good, but if you are pushing on it will turn into mild understeer, this can be alleviated by the fitment of a Q2 differential but it cannot be eradicated. In the extreme, on track days etc you can feel the vehicle dynamic control (VDC) applying the brakes to help steady the car so you don't spin which is quite interesting! The trick with the GTA is not to overdrive it, ease the power in, use the old rear-wheel-drive techniques, slow in, get the car settled and then power out, perfect! As you may have gathered I love this car even with its drawbacks and I would recommend it to anyone.
The new Alfa Romeo 147 was released in 2000 at the Turin Motor Show and it immediately won the European Car of the Year award, beating cars like the Audi A2 and the Mercedes C class with 51 of the 56 judges placing it top of their list.
Based on a 156 chassis the 147 replaces both the Alfa 145 and 146 and initially came with a choice of 1.6 and 2.0 litre petrol engines and a 1.9 litre JTD common rail diesel engine. In the UK the transmission could be either a 5-speed manual or the selespeed automatic gearbox. For the first time, all the models got an integrated computer network round the car, this links the ABS (anti-lock brakes), EBD (electronic brake distribution), ASR (anti wheel spin), VDC (vehicle dynamic control), Climate control, body computer and dashboard amongst other things and interestingly a fault on the CAN line is indicated by making the odometer flash.
Suspension is double wishbones at the front with a high upper wishbone, the rear suspension comprises unequal length radius arms and this gives the car a degree of passive rear-wheel steering. The body shares the same tensional rigidity as the Alfa 156, and all this adds up to a decidedly sporty ride. Styling is by Alfa Romeo's in house studio, the Centro Stile and it combines cues from the 156 and also maybe little touches from the 2500 Villa d'Este of 1949 and the deep channel down the side has to be from a 105 series spider.
In 2001 Alfa Romeo brought out the five-door 147 version which shares exactly the same lines as the 3 door car and has the neat styling touch carried over from the Alfa Romeo 156 of hidden door handles in the C pillars.
In 2002 they released the mighty 3.2 litre V6 GTA. This 250 bhp front-wheel-drive animal really put some performance into the range; it is one of the fastest of the hot hatches available with a top speed in excess of 150 mph, and it is really not advisable to turn the ASR off as the engine's torque will just rip the front tyres to pieces
In 2004 the entire range was revamped, getting a new exterior reminiscent of the 159 and Brera, at the same time Alfa Romeo also uprated the diesel engines. the diesel JTD was supplemented by the Mjet, lifting the power of the diesel to 150 bhp with 305 lb-ft of torque.
I don't often get a chance to extensively road test vehicles but I have managed to get my hands on a 147 GTA and I am in heaven, what a car, My GTV has now done 150,000 miles and I could not get my delivery's in it so I have taken the plunge and purchased a GTA. The first thing I like is the absolutely creamy power delivery at low revs and I have been trickling it around town with absolutely no fuss, there is an instant response to the throttle and the ride although firm is more compliant than I remember from previous outings in them. Plant the throttle and nothing much will stay with you and as the engine hits 5000 rpm and from there to 7000 the thing goes mad, it is absolutely BRILLIANT. The only slight downside is the response of other people, I just don't understand the need to make rude gestures to other motorists just because they want to go faster than you, what is all that about? don't people know that its an Alfa and you just have to drive it fast occasionally, it is not personal. Anyway, I am also quite surprised how well it handles when pushed to the limit there is not the massive understeer that you might expect, it does understeer but not like a GTV 3.0l it is altogether more controlled with just a hint of oversteer if you back off the throttle, so all in all you need to try one they are an Alfa worthy of the name. Now, where is that Q2 differential............
Related Links: Alfa Romeo 147 Buyer's Guide |