Alfa Romeo is Courting Enthusiasts by Changing Entire Lineup to RWD

Alfa Romeo MiTo Large

The Alfa Romeo MiTo will be gradually phased out in the coming years. Photo courtesy of Alfa Romeo

In a rare surprise move from Alfa Romeo, the Turin-based manufacturer has announced it will gradually change to rear-wheel drive platforms that will eventually underpin its entire lineup. The decision to move Alfa upmarket to provide a feeder into the Maserati brand is supposedly the reason for the dramatic move. Currently, Alfa only sells three cars, two of which are FWD compact and subcompact cars.

Fiat seems to be benefiting from its ownership of Chrysler, as the platforms underpinning Alfa’s next-gen cars may also be used in future iterations of Chrysler’s large RWD offerings, including the upcoming 300, Charger, and Challenger replacements. Those cars are far from svelte and were expected to ride on a smaller platform going forward anyway. A new, shorter platform would allow the Fiat Group to recognize vast economies of scale if it proliferated throughout the Fiat umbrella, with Chrysler, Dodge, SRT, Alfa Romeo, and Maserati profiting from the endeavor.

Whatever the reasoning is for Alfa’s decision to keep future cars running power through the rear tires, it is clear who will benefit: people who love to drive. While the company doesn’t suffer from a Lotus-like obsession with curb weight, none of the cars in the current lineup could be accused of being porkers. The combination of a sporting chassis and relatively low weight in comparison with other luxury vehicles may prove to be irresistible to those tired of seeing endless hordes of BMW and Mercedes sedans. The jewel in Alfa’s crown is clearly the 4c coupe, which is expected to be the first mass produced Alfa sold in the US since the 164 left our shores in 1995; the 8C supercar was briefly brought to the States in the late 2000s, albeit in extremely limited quantities.

A RWD Italian sedan also is the perfect package to market a manual transmission in. Most current Chrysler/Dodge/SRT models are too large and comfortable to ever justify something as sporty as a manual transmission. The 4C, which is expected to launch in the US at the end of this year, will only be available with a dual-clutch tranny, but the low production numbers most likely forced a choice on some issues to maintain profitability.

Alfa Romeo 4C Front

Alfa Romeo 4C

What is for certain is that when Alfa Romeo fully commits to bringing cars to the US marketplace, as Fiat head Sergio Marchionne has promised for years, it will do so with a clear purpose: to compete with the long-standing German and Japanese luxury automakers on the basis of driving dynamics, gorgeous styling, and the word that must be mentioned anytime an Italian car is mentioned: passion. Fiat is in an enviable position by excelling at all three; judging solely by the fact that this Maserati Ghibli article is this website’s third most popular article of all time, it looks like the time has never been better for sporty Italian cars on this side of the Atlantic.


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About Cameron Rogers

Cameron Rogers is the founder and lead writer at Downshift Autos, the only automotive blog on the Internet*. Born in the back of an AMC Gremlin, Cameron vowed to never let this extraordinarily embarrassing detail define him, so help him God. He drives a GTI but absolutely will not shut up about it if somebody asks. He will not hesitate to let people know that no, they shouldn't get a Porsche 911 when a Morgan 3 Wheeler is so obviously the superior choice. He is obsessed with the seats of a Carrera GT and the steering wheel of a Fisker Karma. He once sat in the driver's seat of a Tesla Model S, his greatest accomplishment to date. He is just now realizing that writing an autobiography, however miniscule, in the third person is odd and unnerving. *As of this writing, Cameron has been informed that there are, in fact, many websites and blogs centered around cars and car culture. He regrets his grievous error.

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