One of the world's leading car designers, Giorgetto Giugiaro, has revealed at the Geneva International Motor Show what he believes the new flagship luxury Alfa Romeo should look like and, as the man already tasked with producing the replacement for the beautiful Alfa Romeo 156, he is in a unique position to be able to propose what Alfa's competitor for the top of the market could look like.This is further emphasized by the fact the Alfa Romeo Visconti is built on the new Alfa Romeo Premium Platform that will also carry the replacement for the Alfa Romeo 156 and the production version of the Alfa Romeo Brera concept car shown in late 2002.
Under the bonnet is the first sighting of a new Alfa Romeo V6 engine, a twin turbo 3.2 litre V6 with the lean burn JTS heads used in the 2.0 litre engine in the present 156. This is not a derivative of the 3.2 litre GTA engine, but the first of an all new family of V6 power units that will produce more than 400 bhp and 680 Nm of torque.
'Alfa Romeo is a marque that made a strong impression on my career as a designer,' explains Giorgetto Giugiaro, who was voted Designer of the Century by his peers around the world. 'The first series-produced car I designed was the Alfa 2000 Sprint. Italdesign itself was created to give life to the Alfasud project. Over now what must be almost a career span of fifty years, I found myself designing cars on more than one occasion for the "Biscione" carmaker, sometimes by way of contract, and sometimes just for the sheer pleasure of designing a new Alfa Romeo."
'For the 2004 Geneva Motor Show, I decided to develop the shape that I felt more fitting for an Alfa flagship. Not a traditional 4-door three-volume sedan, but an almost two-volume great sports car, with a downward sloping shaped tail.'
The outcome is known as Visconti, a name chosen in honor of a Milan family ancestry, the coat of arms of which represents the Alfa Romeo marque.
Almost a coupe
At a first glance, the Visconti appears almost a 4-door coupe, though its dimensions, which touch five meters in length, are those typical of a flagship.The front is extremely sculptured and very balanced in its modeling. In the plan view the front-end, weaving from wheel-arch to wheel arch, rounds towards the Alfa Romeo grille thereby becoming a characterizing element embedded in a single curve. The front optic units are designed with flowing movement and elegance. The rear guards are a key element, placing in evidence the modeled upper section which narrows significantly thereby highlighting the majestic shape.
However, this architecture never before seen in the panorama of contemporary production is not entirely new to Giugiaro who, back in 1993 with the Bugatti EB 112, had theorized a great two-volume sports sedan.
Explains Giugiaro: 'The EB 112 was a true source of inspiration for the tail shape. However, as time passed, the design became so intermeshed with Alfa Romeo that any train of thought to the Bugatti disappeared, thus becoming a coherent evolution of the lines and spirit of the Brera.
''The proportions of the Visconti are indeed substantially diverse, as is the mechanical arrangement, a V6 rather than a V12 engine. Placed clearly in evidence is a more advanced interior compartment than on the Bugatti, with the windshield base becoming almost level with the center of the wheel. The downward sloping tail-end becomes one to itself, all-embracing and underscored by the powerful strength of the mighty rear guards.'
The launching pad: the Alfa Romeo Premium Platform.
The launch pad for the Visconti was the Premium Platform, developed by Alfa Romeo as the basis for the next-generation 156 Sedan, Sportwagon, Coupe and Spider, a quartet of cars all drawing life from the pencil of Giugiaro as evolution of the Brera concept car.
Given the flagship characteristics with which the Visconti takes the scene, Giugiaro lengthened the wheelbase of the Premium Platform by 20 millimeters, stretching it out to 2,825 mm, with two almost identical overhangs, 1,064 mm to the front and 1,066 mm to the rear, thereby attaining a total length of 4,955 mm.
The width has been restrained to just under 1.9 metres, whilst the height stretches to 1,474 mm, the right compromise between flowing line and flagship ease of accommodation.Innovative, yet feasibleDespite the provocative design, Giugiaro has not wandered from his tradition of creating concept cars that are ready for production. Also at the level of concept cars, research into proper functionality even imposed compromises which the Designer regrets.
'I would have preferred to accentuate more the V at the rear window base, but this aesthetic would have reduced slightly in size the boot flap, thus making it more difficult to load bulky luggage or packages.'
A new approach to the Alfa grille The Visconti has the ninth evolution of the Alfa Romeo grille, it grows bolder in size and dominates, even more than in the past, the front end, due to both the size of the vehicle and its flagship role.
In this interpretation, the powerful outline of the Alfa brand identity includes, as on the more recent Alfa series, by small chromed strips, which here, however, are thicker and farther apart from each other.
The circular brand logo is surmounted by a chromed eyelid that stretches across the engine bonnet pushing through a slender trimming - chromed as well - that runs up to the windshield base.There are six air intakes on the front-end, two at the guard base, two in proximity to the lower part of the grille (which also house the fog lights), plus two on headlight inside rims.
However, more than just a question of aesthetics, these seemingly in excess air intakes are the result of the expertise gained during the industrial development of the Brera, which, in its preliminary definition, did not ensure enough airflow for a turbo-engine car.
Unlike the traditional 4-door three-volume sedans featuring a tapering engine bonnet, the Visconti has a short and compact front grille, which, rather than offering grandeur, transmits a sense of power lying in wait to leap.
Also pushing through this front volume layout was compliance with pedestrian-impact new standards, scheduled for enactment in 2005, which call for more vertical fronts and raised bonnets.
Fresh and simple body side, with an elaborated tail-end full of surprise
The body side is incredibly fresh. The traditional outline that connects ideally the two wheelhouses is merely a sheet metal pleat, barely noticeable.The roof seeks to maintain the most harmonious route possible, making almost imperceptible the "elbow" needed to allow the back window to be rolled down.
Without doubt, the low-lying and spinning tail-end is the most unusual aspect of the Visconti. Indeed, from a three-quarter front view, the car looks just like a two-volume car. Moving to view from the side, starting however to emerge - between the powerful relief of the high wide shoulder of the rear wheel-arches - is a real and proper boot, albeit presenting a downward curved line.
Accordingly, it is from the rear three-quarter view that the boot shows itself not just to be a hint of shadow, but a generous volume of space, allowing 458 liters of carrying capacity.
From a historic standpoint, the low, muscular and cut-off tail reflect a dash of the "Fifties" capturing the style of cars such as the Pescara 6C.
Dominating the full view from rear are the mighty all-embracing light units, which, with a circular motive designed inside, weave their way from the body side.
From a mechanics stand point, the Visconti uses a V6 3.2 liter JTS direct injection bi-turbo petrol engine, with 405 bhp and 680 Nm.
The six speed automatic gearbox provides for permanent all-wheel drive with rear wheel steering as well, whilst vehicle stability is ensured - other than by the VDC, an Alfa Romeo interpretation of the ESP - by use of stabilizer rod active control.
Comfort is assured by air suspension, which also enables the electronic control of the height from the ground, whilst Brembo CCM ceramic composite disks pave the way towards exceptional braking performance.