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Skunks and RWD in Alfa's Italian future


Every future Alfa Romeo will have three essential ingredients.

It will be made in Italy, have a rear-wheel drive chassis, and be designed by skunks.

Alfa is going back to its roots as driver's cars with the first two essentials, while the third is a tongue-in-cheek reference by chief designer Lorenzo Ramaciotti to the type of people in his department.

Alfa created a special engineering and development 'skunk works' during the development program for its make-or-break Giulia sedan, which was created from scratch in only two years.

We designers are all skunks

The outfit - which took its name from the top-secret Lockheed-Martin group that worked on a variety of aerospace programs from the 1940s in the USA - was staffed by experts who could think outside the circle on car development.

But Ramaciotti says there was no need to conscript special skunks for design work on the Giulia.

"We designers are all skunks," he tells CarsGuide in Milan as he shows us over the Giulia.

"We are all car enthusiasts with a lot of passion. So, for us, being skunks is the key word for our work."

He points out everything from the super-tight packaging of the Giulia's headlights to the number plate on the boot instead of the rear bumper, the first Alfa in more than 20 years with the plate in this position to cut 60 millimetres from the car's overall length.

"Designing a car is a very complex activity. You cannot believe how many constraints and trade-offs you have to come through. There are so many demands from different areas."

He believes the Giulia is different enough to make an impact against heavy hitting rivals such as the BMW 3 Series and C-Class Mercedes-Benz, even though details of the cabin work are still secret.

"Alfa has the history and the charisma to avoid this. We don't have to change our DNA just to follow the trend of some newcomers to the market."

But he confirms essential work on two new SUVs from Alfa Romeo as part of the eight-car model lineup for 2018 and the brand's full-scale return to the USA.

We will have space for our fantasy

"We don't call them SUV because we have Jeep in the range. We think of them more of crossover vehicles because we are more on the sports side," Ramaciotti says.

"You can make a good compromise between the stance and practicality of the crossover vehicle and the dynamic shape of a sports vehicle. I think the Porsche Macan is a very nice looking sports SUV."

Ramaciotti's final insight is on the names for the future Alfa models.

"For sure, we will not name our cars with numbers or letters. We want to use names. We will make the best use of the historical names we have. We will have space for our fantasy."