From the August 1985 issue of Road & Track
The Alfa Romeo GTV carries a lot of tradition within its familiar wedge-shape form. The current Giugiaro-designed two--two coupe, with its rear-mounted transaxle and de Dion suspension, has been around long enough that some of our younger readers may not remember it as the four-cylinder, 2.0-liter Alfetta GT that made its debut in May 1974. In June 1975, when it was new to America, we chose the Alfetta coupe as the Best Sports-GT in the $8000-$12,000 category in our list of 10 Best Enthusiast Cars, and in June 1978, as the Sprint Veloce, it took the same honors. Three years later, with the insertion of the strong and willing 2.5-liter V-6 engine, the GTV convincingly outpointed the Datsun 280ZX and Porsche 924 Turbo in our Gran Turismo comparison test (July 1981). The GTV label itself (V for Veloce, of course) dates back to the old Bertone 1.6-liter Giulia (also Giugiaro-styled) of the sixties, and that car was a development of the famous Giulietta Sprint of the fifties.
The last four years have not been particularly kind to the GTV/6 2.5, or rather the competition hasn't. We've seen a new Nissan 300ZX, a Porsche 944, a Toyota Supra and the GSL-SE version of the Mazda RX-7, all cars of more recent conception and greater refinement. In our most recent test of the GTV/6 2.5 (Road & Track's Guide to Sports & GT Cars 1984), we criticized its vague shifting, heavy steering and dated interior.
For 1985 Alfa Romeo has addressed some of these shortcomings, particularly the gear linkage, and has made the GTV/6 more competitive by removing some items of luxury equipment and trimming the base price to $16,500 (down from $19,000). The new shift linkage is a clear improvement, allowing confident and quick—though still slightly stiff—changes up or down. There's still a bit of synchro "wait-for-it" in 2nd, but the vague ness of the old linkage is gone and will only be missed by a few traditionalists who took pride in mastering it. The change has made a positive difference in the Alfa's usability and appeal.
Making leather an option because of the lower base price, Alfa has come up with nice fabric-covered seats that pleased most of the staff but still made problems for certain drivers de spite the adjustable steering wheel. The main difficulty is with the legs; the seat cushions don't give enough thigh support and the driver's left knee may become sore from the leg being angled excessively toward the clutch pedal. The rest of the interior is still Dark Ages: an unattractive hodgepodge of controls in an excessively angular black panel, wispy ventilation and several examples of poor quality control.
The V-6 engine has always been the car's main appeal; it still makes those great Italian ripping-raw-fabric sounds, has lots of torque and sends the car down the road smartly. In the standard 1985 GTV/6 we got substantially better acceleration times than in 1984. 0-60 mph in 8.5 seconds, for example, and 24.3 sec to 100. These are more than a half-second quicker to 60 and nearly three seconds quicker to 100, and the improvement is welcome: a much better performance-per-dollar package.
But forget all that. Here comes the Callaway Twin Turbo, a conversion that transforms the Alfa into a supercar worthy of the Nuvolari and Fangio tradition. How about three seconds quicker to 60 mph and twelve seconds quicker to 100? How about mean, ripping-raw-concrete power? Power that comes in at 3000 rpm, demands all of your attention at 4000, and swings the needle to redline so quickly that you'd better be watching the tach or have a really good ear. It's a blast—in a way that the much used word seldom really means. Full acceleration pushes you back into the seat and even makes the belt ratchet you tighter. Nothing incredible happens at less than 3000 rpm but if you slip the clutch to build up revs, you run the risk of burning it out. First gear is suddenly very short, and you won't stay in any gear very long.
Callaway Engineering of Old Lyme, Connecticut has installed two IHI RHB5 turbos that push the charge through twin air-to-air intercoolers mounted on top of the engine. They are fed by a Callaway-designed air scoop, a well integrated fiberglass piece that distinguishes the conversion (along with the rear spoiler, "Callaway Twin Turbo" window lettering, BBS 1 6 x 7 wheels and Goodyear Eagle 205/55VR-16 tires). Callaway has also incorporated a solid-state fuel injection control it calls the Microfueler, which senses engine speed and manifold pressure to monitor the Bosch L-Jetronic injectors. All the stock Alfa emission controls remain. But the result is 230 bhp at 5500 rpm, a 50-percent increase over the stock engine, and 245 lb-ft torque at 2500. Overall the engine is very flexible and you can drive it virtually in 5th gear most of the time: cruising at 55 mph in top you're using 2500 rpm, just a bit less than the point where the fun starts. Even then you won't have to shift down to surprise those who don't know which Alfa this is.
We heard a little detonation at sustained full throttle, and when you back off there is noticeable turbo surge. On some turbos we've likened this sound to that of a respirator, but on the Callaway Alfa it's nothing less than the panting of a fire-breathing dragon.
Despite the Alfa's entertainingly responsive handling, several of our staff expressed more than a little respect for the available power, something they wouldn't want to learn about suddenly on an 80-mph curve. The chassis gives the driver the security of direct response. It can produce a diagonal pitching during fast cornering, but the steering is wonderfully precise and an educated use of the wheel and the throttle is what's called for. Nevertheless, we couldn't match the slalom speed of our previous GTV/6 test, the extra power being an excess in this case.
The ride is firm but acceptable; the Callaway's Goodyears give a good combination of ride and handling, although a true Big City pothole can give the whole structure a big bang.
To sum up the GTV/6, the stock version is a moderately improved product at a much more attractive price, appealing to the driving enthusiast but overdue for replacement by something more refined. (Sorry, all you tifosi out there, but it's true.) The Callaway Twin Turbo version will keep even the most skilled driving-with-a-capital-D enthusiast entertained for as long as his license lasts. It's the first Alfa in a long time (perhaps since the 8C 2900B, that supercharged master road car of the late Thirties) with the power to take on almost any rival. As equipped, the Callaway test car cost $27,234. That's half again as much as the standard GTV/6 but you do get half again the power, as well as full membership in the Supercar club.