Alfa Romeo 169
The Alfa Romeo 169 (internal name Progetto 941) is expected to be the replacement for the long running and commercially unsuccessful Alfa Romeo 166.
Originally planned to be launched in late 2009 to coincide with Alfa Romeo's North American relaunch, it has been continuously pushed back due to a combination of financial problems, change in leadership at Alfa Romeo and most recently problems with finding a suitable platform. At the launch of the Alfa Romeo MiTo on June 19, 2008, Alfa's CEO Luca De Meo revealed that while the Alfa Romeo 169 was definitely going to be made, development is to be pushed back a year while a suitable platform is sourced. The launch date is now predicted to be mid 2011.
The biggest factor in the 169's long delays has been the lack of a suitable platform. The 166 used a front wheel drive base related to its predecessor, the Alfa Romeo 164. Originally, after sales fell short of Alfa's expectations, no successor was planned. The large executive market was deemed to be of limited value for Alfa Romeo, who at the time were trying to deal with budgets that had been massively cut in an attempt to stem parent company Fiat's then huge losses. The successor to the 156, the Alfa Romeo 159 was deliberately pushed upmarket in an attempt to attract business from the E-segment (that of large executive cars) However, shortly after the launch of the 159 at the beginning of 2006, Alfa's leader Karl Heinze-Kalbfell (formerly of BMW) was fired.
Thanks to the success of the Fiat Grande Punto, Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat group, was able to turn some of his attention towards Alfa Romeo. A new model plan was revealed shortly after Antonio Baravalle's appointment as CEO, with a replacement confirmed for the then recently discontinued 166. What surprised many people was Baravalle's claim that the new large Alfa would be rear wheel drive, which would make it Alfa's first mass-produced rear driven car since the demise of the Alfa Romeo 75 in 1992. This announcement caused a flurry of excitement among "Alfisti" (Italian name for Alfa Romeo enthusiasts), and rumours were soon circling that the 169 would be based on the much acclaimed Maserati Quattroporte. These rumours were further bolstered by images circulated over the net that showed a low slung mock up, similar in proportion to the Quattroporte. While the rumours grew and grew Alfa Romeo began its search for a suitable platform. Having no rear wheel drive platform of its own, and with finances still tight, Alfa Romeo began to look for alternatives to developing a platform for scratch. Converting the Premium platform, used to underpin the 159, to rear wheel drive was quickly discounted, as the platform was considered too heavy and too expensive to modify. Attention then turned to the Quattroporte platform, and right up until this June the platform was indeed under consideration. However, the Quattroporte platform was seen as a last resort at best, being very expensive to produce. Sergio Marchionne, a fan of component sharing, entered talks with Daimler in October 2007. Daimler wanted a partner who specialised in small cars to develop a new platform that would be used as a base for the next generation of Mercedes-Benz and Smart small cars. In return, Fiat would gain access to Mercedes' rear wheel drive platforms. For a while it looked almost certain that a deal was going to go through, with the 169 to be based on the next generation Mercedes E-class. However in December 2007, after almost two months of negotiations, the talks broke down. Daimler stated 'differences of opinion' as the main reason for the failure to come to an agreement.
Almost as soon as those talks ended yet another platform sharing rumour was started. Tata, India's largest manufacturer, had emerged as the lead bidder for the purchase of Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford. Tata and Fiat have had an agreement in place to produce cars together in India since 2006, while Ratan Tata is a member of the Fiat Group board. The rumour was that in return for advising Tata on how to run a premium car company (something that Tata has never done before), Alfa Romeo would gain access to the excellent Jaguar XF platform. In March 2008 Tata officially gained ownership of Jaguar and Land Rover with Sergio Marchionne starting talks with Tata about the possible usage of the platform. Little news concerning the usage of the XF platform has come to light since then, but it seems as if this is still an option under consideration. Most recently there has been a hint that Alfa Romeo will indeed develop its own rear wheel drive platform. The replacement for the 159, rumoured to be launched at the end of 2011, will be rear wheel drive, while recent news concerning the new Giulietta indicates a move away from platform sharing by Alfa Romeo. Comments made by Luca De Meo in June 2008 confirmed that Alfa Romeo had ruled out using the Maserati Quattroporte's chassis. He said that Alfa was still looking at sharing with other manufacturers; however, the announcement of development being put back a year does suggest that a new platform will be developed.
The 169 will mark a complete departure from Alfa Romeo's current styling direction and will set the tone for future large Alfa's. While the Alfa Romeo 8C is being used as the inspiration for Alfa Romeo's small cars, it is likely that the 169 will take a different approach. The Alfa Romeo Visconti concept was the last attempt at showing what a modern executive Alfa could look like, and will probably influence the Alfa 169 to a certain extent. However, the Visconti was not universally well received and it is highly unlikely that the finished product will be similar to it. What seems definite is that Alfa will not try and build a conventional executive saloon -as it did with the 164 and 166- but will offer something different. The most likely approach will be to build a '4 Door Coupe', similar in concept to the Mercedes CLS and the forthcoming Audi A7. Alfa isn't expecting huge sales, so a niche approach should suit well. It is expected to be sporty, aggressive, but also considerably more upmarket looking and larger than the Alfa Romeo 166, as it will be a lot pricier, predicted to start from around £35,000/€45,000. Sketches by Autocar and various other online sources have shown a sleek, coupe like car with head lights drawn back on to the bonnet/hood in Alfa 8C fashion. No confirmed spy shots have been released, so the 169's final appearance is a mystery.
As the 169 is to be a true rival to the German manufacturers, it will come with a range of powerful petrol and diesel engines with power outputs likely to range between 250–450 bhp. It will probably be the first car to have Alfa Romeo's new Multiair V6, as well as possibly coming equipped with a Maserati sourced V8. Diesels will be an essential part of the cars range in Europe; however, it is unlikely that these will be launched in the USA.
It has recently been rumored that Alfa Romeo is engineering a 3.0 twin-turbo V8. The engine will be of Alfa Romeo's own design and feature the Multiair technology. This engine is being designed specifically for the American market. This engine may be Alfa's attempt at besting BMW's turbocharged V8 in the upcoming 5 Series. Regardless, this new twin-turbo V8 has the potential to produce in excess of 400 horsepower. This promises to make the 169 a serious competitor in the sport sedan segment.
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