Trendy all-wheel drive models, topped off by Auto Delta performance derivatives, will ensure that Alfa Romeo’s future product line-up will be far more diverse.

Trendy all-wheel drive models, topped off by Auto Delta performance derivatives, will ensure that Alfa Romeo’s future product line-up will be far more diverse.


The Italian marque’s head of research and development, Paolo Masai, recently said a significant portion of Alfa Romeo’s R5,3-billion new-car budget would be spent on 4x4s – the first since 1991, when a four-wheel drive version of the 155 was produced.


Earlier this year, the Milan-based manufacturer gave a clue as to what’s in store with its Kamal SUV concept (unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show). Fitted with a 188 kW 3,2-litre 24-valve V6 engine (the same powerplant used in the 156 GTA model in South Africa), the Kamal had a double wishbone suspension front and rear, six-speed Selespeed gearbox and electronic 4x4 and Torsen system with three differentials.


To begin with, all-wheel drive versions of the 156 Sportwagon (fitted with a 130 kW 2,4-litre turbodiesel) and 147 are in the pipeline and should break cover around April and September respectively next year.


“The all-wheel drive system will first be used in diesels to harness their low-range torque, with a 40:60 front:rear split for a rear-drive handling bias,” Masai said.


Apparently, the successors to the 156 and 147 are due in early 2005 and 2006 respectively and will be underpinned by Alfa’s new Premium platform that was designed for front- and four-wheel drive layouts.


CARtoday.com reported last month that because sales of compact 4x4s were expected to reach one million per annum in Europe during the next five years, BMW, Mercedes, Renault, VW, Fiat, Saab, Volvo – and Alfa Romeo – planned to build models for that particular segment. Thus it can be expected that the “next” 147 will be the platform for a crossover 4x4.


And around 2006, Alfa Romeo will launch an M-Class/X5-bashing big SUV, featuring a sophisticated drivetrain that constantly adjusts torque distribution according to the conditions. New six cylinder petrol and diesel engines – and a petrol-powered V8 – would do duty in the off-roader.


Meanwhile, all-wheel drive Auto Delta variants of the 157 and 148 will also be built. Alfa Romeo’s racing division will reportedly develop a 261-kW V8 mill for the models by the end of 2005. Masai said: “They (the Auto Delta models) will make the current GTA models feel relaxed by comparison”.

Original article from Car