Romeo Without Julia Wouldn’t be Romeo: Coure Sportivo lineup review
Since the majority of Romeos in GT4 date from 2000s, I decided to open the marathon with a car that initiated the new wave of charismatic Romeos. A car on which Fiat laid its highest bets, a car due which other designers started revising their skills in art, a car for which going to a mechanic would became a pleasant experience. One and only 156.
The 156 was a true hit, a major success for Alfa Romeo. It revolutionized design of the classic estates, without compromising company’s historic trademarks inherited from the past. It is believed that among all the in-house models from that time or beyond, the 156 did the greatest job explaining the idea of a new-age Alfa Romeo and how exactly one should look like.
What kind of pleasure must be to possess and daily milk one, we can thankfully feel in this game. But this ain’t gonna be just another Italian Miss depreciation story; the ownership pleasure here will set you back for about 25 grand at best. Not really your ideal starter car, eh?
And that's just the first step. You gotta pick the right colour for your pet. This is perhaps the most frustrating part as it implies repeated visits to the used car lot until something you like comes up. Most people will want their 156s painted in Rosso Alfa, but I would recommend not to disregard other colours, preferably silver shades, as they are getting on value as time goes by. It might take a while to get what you want given the number of colours that can appear, but it’s worth waiting for it. Driving an Alfa in a colour that doesn’t suit you is like drinking warm mineral water or taking a dump without reading a newspaper.
Fans frequently say Romeos are characterized by their powerhouses. Ours is the 2.5 litre V6, second best of the range and elder in terms of how often it got applied to a Romeo. It pants for strain and pain, so you gotta keep the revs high if you want to feel the power stated in brochures.
You can plug in a supercharger, which will help you level the crest of peak power and provide more equal distribution of torque. We are talking about 250 HP without any additional upgrade, so it's advisable to fiddle with suspension kits and learn a thing or two about tuning. Don't forget that even the GTA models had problems coping with so much iron, in spite of having better tires, better brakes, better.... ha, everything!
Standard coils keep the car stable, though pronounced leaning sometimes gets in the way. I have seen more efficient springs working on front-wheel drive cars with less sportiness. But hey, this is Romeo, and it has to have some quirks. Its chassis repeatedly rattles, inner rubber screams on every turn exit like its being exposed to a burning flamethrower, and understeer gets in your way whenever it has a chance. Typical Italian!
Yet somehow, the 156 keeps sticking to its trajectory with admirable tenacity, almost as it wants to show you how grateful it is that you bought no other but her. And knowing how much better you could have been with something else, you really gotta appreciate that and keep her by your side.
Feel the bond? Yeah, that's what Alfa does to a man.
Imminent success of the estate model encouraged its engineers to fulfil what they were only pursuing for with the models 75 and 155 – a wagon, or Sportswagon, as Alfa calls it. This model’s nomenclature perfectly described what the car really was - a wagon for sports. Not practicality.
Hence why it is unusual to me that certain people complained about the lack of space in the trunk. The press liked emphasizing that by some measures it had even less space than the estate. Oh, big deal.
Why should every station wagon have a huge overhang backpack sticking out like a pimple on otherwise smooth skin? If people bought wagons only for practicality, we wouldn’t see so many of them on the roads. And it’s not like it wasn’t practical – you could fit in a washing machine, which you couldn’t do in the regular estate since it has a much smaller trunk opening and its rear seats do not fold...
It doesn’t seem like it, but the 156 represents everything good Fiat has done to Alfa since it got under its full control. I always aspired to a 156, feeling this would be the only modern Alfa I would ever need in my life, alongside boxer-powered 146. Until that happens I’m happy I have it virtually recreated in GT4, mated to a subject of every man’s dream – Busso V6.
If, for some odd reason, the 156 is not your cup of tea, feel free to try another model. Like the 166, for example.
Today is year 2019. Since they phased the model out back in 2007, we haven't received anything even remotely executive. The largest Romeo to date can be yours in GT4 for a little over 30 grand if you prefer to drive in comfort. Or if you think size is the only thing that matters.
Remember how in GT2 we used to have three engines for the 166? In GT4 this narrowed down to only one, the 2.5 litre V6 capable of delivering 190 horses at its peak point. That's right, the same engine as in the 156. Not bad, but considering the weight of the body, something with more cojones would be far more adequate. I’m thinking 3.0 litre V6.
This was the top engine for the 166 at the time, and the largest engine ever fitted in a Romeo until they started mass-producing those 3.2 V6s in 2002. It was in GT2, so there is no reason why it couldn't be in GT4 as well. There is no place for modesty here, PD, the bigger the engines are, the greater balls growth. No superior is ever going to give you hard time once he sees the magnitude of the metal you keep under the hood.
But the 166 is not only effective in upgrading your personality, it also plays a major role in making you look classy. As long as you are careful about what colour you choose to live with.
The 166 served all sorts of paints Romeo designers had in mind. Some of these are great, some are “okay”, while some are just what-the-hell odd. Anyone up for one of two available iridescent hues? Ho-ho, and what about that purple wannabe Grigo Nettuno? I left the best for the last - dark green Verde Minerva. For which I hardly think even extraterrestrial forces could explain how it caught on.
It would be harsh to say these colours are bad, but they definitely aren’t for everyone’s liking. This is a sensitive Italian design and you can’t just apply anything you come up with and expect a match made in heaven. But as once someone said, “people there are many”, and in the charismatic world of Italian design this is perhaps the closest thing to truth than anything else. I think that every colour you can get from the used car lot will eventually find its owner.
Once you have dealt with your colouring dilemmas, the rest what remains is to stare at the car and feed your eyes. Look at that front end, look how adorable it is! I can’t imagine how decades ago people actually complained about the size of its headlights. From my perspective, that was uncalled-for, it is the headlights that gives the car so much charm and grace. Just look at the face-lift model, what they did to the front fascia is simply unforgiving. The interesting thing is, people have realized the value of the original design, and nowadays it is not uncommon to see more demands for the earlier models.
It's a shame that the 166 doesn't have a rival it can be compared to, since that would be the most accurate way to see what it is really capable of. But it stands a chance even against smaller cars such as 156, which is why I brought the two to a little comparison test.
More weight means better bump absorption and more stability when going over one. There wasn’t any problem with the traction, nor I noticed its chassis wasn’t up to task when I increased my pace considerably. You could say that extra weight pushes the car’s tires to work even further, which benefits the car on tighter corners where less speed is involved.
It’s not that the 156 is light, but it doesn’t uses its weight to maximum advantage. Maybe PD messed up 156’s default physics settings, or maybe longer wheelbase of the 166 is more suitable for a body that weighs way over a ton.
Overall, it feels like a slower, but more polished experience compared to the 156. Bigger engine would offset that difference in weight, making it a great alternative to the 156.
I should point out that everything I have written above is related to the car’s handling abilities. Once you get to its transmission, things start to become a bit too… pedestrian. Because the ZF-4 HP20 4-speed automatic gearbox (hence why the model is called Sportronic) the car comes equipped with is a nightmare. Imagine what you get when you combine exceptionally wide gear ratios with engine than is incapable of producing satisfactory power unless it is running at the highest operable power point. It’s acceleration that has no place on a race track...
Before you start throwing rocks on me for saying something tarnishing against company’s glorious engine, I’ll say I’m perfectly aware of its qualities – in real life, that is.
Alfa’s V6 engines were commended for having immediate response to throttle, and smooth acceleration regardless of the gear they were in. This made them awesome for use on all kinds of roads, especially if the car hosting the engine already had street-prep credits in every other area.
But again – that’s the situation in real life. In GT4 I experienced no such awesomeness. I wasn’t expecting it anyway, as it would require tremendous effort in programming on PD side to portray engine to such detail. Even if they did type extra lines in codes just for the sake of saying “we tried”, I’m almost 100% certain you will never be able to tell it is somehow different from other V6 engines just by watching your car’s acceleration on TV.
Therefore, let’s stick with harsh reality - our V6 is a high-rev unit with little to no interest in what is going on at lower revs. Hence why this gearbox is such a bad idea. It may not seem that bad if you pump up all the power upgrades you can find or if you drive the car on open tracks, but give it a go on something like Motorland and you'll see what the fuss is all about.
As in the case of 156, you can install both naturally-aspirated or turbo parts for extra speed. It’s strange how fully tuned 166 produces less power than equally pumped 156, in spite of having larger engine components and even more space under the hood. But whatever.
It feels great to have so much additional torque dancing beneath your thumb, especially if you decide to go with the supercharger. At this point it would be wise to fit in some LSD and improve suspension to help the car remain sporty. It runs perfectly fine normally, but under stress of power upgrades it begins to slide towards classic “I’m a heavy FWD car” side of things. Help it stay on the right path.
New suspension, new LSD, new gearbox… it seems a lot has to be done to the car. But that’s okay, that’s natural. Investing is a term very familiar to any Romeo owner in real life, so the game got that perfectly right.
Remember earlier when I mentioned the 3.0 V6 and how awesome it would had been if we got one for the 166? The truth is, it would be awesome to power any Romeo with it, not just 166. One particular car from the lot has the privilege to host it, and it’s pretty familiar to any Romeo enthusiast.
We call it Alfa Romeo GTV, and it’s as impressively styled as any other Romeo. People who are into Italian cars could never mistake its cues for something else. That “scratch” raising from the front wheel arches to the trunk door hinges, cutting everything in sight, including windows. It is a remarkable detail that would never fit to any other body as naturally as it does on the GTV. Similar wacky approach was used on Fiat Coupé, which dates from the same time GTV does.
And those headlights, ah, those headlights… let me tell you about them. Most people think that GTV has two separate bulbs on each side of its face, which is understandable since it looks that way even from up-close. But raise the bonnet up and you’ll see that it has only one headlight per side with two bulbs stored in it, much like any other modern car.
What they did, they decided to further expand the bonnet metal to hide the lights and then cut four openings so that it looks like four separate bulbs. What magicians! Some people would say this was a cheap trick, but I think it is utterly witty! It was a brave move as well since not many manufacturers – if any – would gamble with body lines as much as Romeo did on this thing.
There is also an interesting factoid regarding the model’s nomenclature. The car was available in two body types, coupé and convertible. They couldn’t make it simple, they had to assign different name to each body. The coupé got the GTV badge, and the convertible… well, let’s just say it got a real instruction to follow; takeover the grandiose Spider name, and live up to expectations coming with it. Uh-huh, doesn't sound that hard, right?
Well... there was only one “little” problem. The new Spider was essentially a “top-chop” version of the GTV. Nothing more, nothing less.
Whenever someone mentions Romeo and Spider to me in the same sentence, I immediately think of the old model, one that remained in production for about 30 years before Fiat took over to reshuffle cards. The new model was supposed to succeed the classic, and lead the name to a new era, but it failed to the job appropriately.
Unlike the old Spider, the new one never felt like a separate, stand-alone model. I know that the old Spider wasn’t mechanically autonomous to its sister models either, but at least it had its own distinctive looks, or should I say, visual independence. The new Spider was nothing like that, plus it was a front-wheel drive car, something Spider fans could not accept that easily.
To further explain how big of a deal that was, imagine someone trying to sell water as vodka - same colour, same percentage of fluidity, same temperature, but completely different taste and smell. Bartender is counting on the colour of the liquid, and the looks of the glass, but forgets that real drinkers can distinguish one from another just by glancing at the drinks from afar.
i know, that was some lame comparison.
The point is, all that didn’t mean the new Spider was a bad car, only that it wasn’t representing its name as it was supposed to.
I actually bought the Spider first because I had never driven one before, and because I wanted to see how good it would be.
The first thing that caught my attention is the most bizarre thing among bizarre - the Spider can be purchased as a new car from the new car dealership. That’s strange, ‘cause the model itself is much older than 156 or 166, so I don't see how could it stand alongside the 147 GTA, let alone brand new GT. I know some of you will say it should be there since it's 2001 model, but what about other post-2000 models from the used car dealership, how come they don’t get to be “new” cars?
It sounds like a minor thing, but when you have 50 grand in your pocket, and only one shot to pick a car that has to be not good, but perfect, player's perspective changes instantly. The good news is that you can pick whatever available colour you have, which speeds up ownership process like massively. Consider this a reward for your huge spend.
Most people consider Spider to be a sports car. Indeed, it sits low to the ground and feels, how should I put it, strained, when negotiating a turn. If I had gotten to drive this car again and again in-between long intermissions, my impressions would undoubtedly always be the same as the mob’s.
But stick with it for few more laps and it will slowly start to reveal the other side of its peculiar face.
The Spider has more power than the 156. It also has more advanced undercarriage. Hence why I found amusing I was barely getting away from the 156. When I started chasing 156’s ghost down Motorland, on several occasions I was slower by several hundreds of milliseconds.
Understeer kept interfering like I was nothing to the car, and keeping its trajectory wasn’t easy peasy Alfa squeezy. It felt fairly easy to navigate it around faster corners, where cornering forces become strong enough to strain every last bit of the car’s weight. But once the speed is reduced, the car starts to “swim”, which reduces precision of leading it around apexes. It is apparent that the Spider is a heavy car and that it might have slightly too wide tires for this type of track. You may cover certain mishaps with its quick steering, but reducing the car’s weight will be primary factor for improving its ride.
If it all came down to a simple drag race, the Spider would have had the very slight edge over the 156 due to higher power output, but on a small track like Motorland, both remained bonded to each other like nail and finger. Normally I would pick the 156 because it is more balanced to drive. And because it doesn’t have that ugly black top when racing against multiple opponents.
No supercharger? Oh, ain't that perfect! I guess the engine bay was already chuck-full of stuff, so nothing additional could squeeze in. Well, that’s a shame because that V6 really needs a fix in power delivery. Remember, it’s a high-rev engine with steep power delivery and highly pinned peak point. Both the 156 and Spider/GTV have a 6-speed gearbox – which was great at the time – but that can only do so much. You’ll want to buy an aftermarket gearbox and switch between that and the stock depending on track you’ll be racing on.
The GTV is likely going to be more popular choice, simply because it’s a coupé and coupés are awesome. Though, before you hope into one, there is something you might want to consider fixing first.
Those wheels… they gotta go.
I know aesthetics is a personal thing and should not be discussed, but I also know you would be lying to yourself if you told me it is not possible to find something more fitting. Aesthetics on a Romeo is important and you’ll be excused no matter how many minutes you spend delving through GT Auto wheel shop.
But don’t just replace them with some BBS or Falken bulls***, that would be terrible. Alfa needs to feed on original accessories. Search for designs from other Alfa models. The Spider’s wheels would look perfectly fine, but I’m crossing my fingers 166’s wheels would look even better.
Once you get that right, it’s finally time to hit the road. Your beloved Romeo will do lots of harm to other opponents as long as you driving skills are above average. If you need extra training I suggest you put it up against the Fiat Coupé Turbo Plus and see how faster can you be. Its turbocharged engine will surely pose a threat to the Busso V6, but I have no doubts in the GTV or Spider. It’s time to show Fiat who is really in command here.
We have talked about Busso V6s quite a lot. Since we still have a lot to cover, let’s pause a bit and switch to a different engine. The only one that sticks out like a nail from a wooden board. I’ve been keeping my eye on it since the beginning, wondering when will the time come to hammer its sorry ass down. This is the moment – let me introduce you to the 2.0 litre Twin Spark… in a Romeo 147.
One big thing changed with the introduction of the model 147 - no more boxer engines. Alfa discarded all plans to continue manufacturing these beauties and turned all its effort on upgrading the range of Twin Spark engines instead.
There wasn’t much ambition to fit in anything bigger either. If we do not count the limited GTA model – which felt more like an one-off project than actual high-performance model that would be sold in large numbers - the 147’s engineers weren’t allowed to speak to Giuseppe Busso or even think about his engines. As a smaller car it was destined not to carry such large engines, even though its was only marginally smaller than the 156. In terms of weight, both were almost dead even.
The relation between 147 and 156 is actually interesting. I’m not keen on talking about this for too long, but some facts have to be mentioned.
I think it is safe to say that people who worked on the 156 sketch slightly miscalculated without even realizing it. That something was off it became apparent three years later when key people decided to retire the 145/6 and pass the baton to what would soon be known as 147.
What would be its role? Where would it stand compared to the 156?
The problem was that the 156 was too big to be called a “small” car, yet it was too cramped on the inside to be called a “big” car. It was something in-between, which was the worst possible scenario for the 147 as it wasn’t really filling any gaps nor supplementing fields the 156 wasn’t present on. That raised a question as to why the 147 even existed.
The easiest way to to observe the 147 is to look at it as a successor to the 145/6, which was destined to happen sooner or later, rather than something that had to share its market with the 156. Think about the 156 as a special car that had to go against all the schedules and logics due to ingenious idea it was built on and its immense popularity emerging as a result.
All the missing pieces of this puzzle started gathering up with the release of the 159, successor of the 156. That car was huge in comparison to the 147, so now the 147 finally began to make sense. It was left to deal with compact class free of any interventions and questions.
The 147 continued to follow in the tracks of the 145/6. That meant retaining all the great ride qualities these two models were praised for. It wasn’t lacking in engine department either. The 2.0 litre Twin Spark engine was the meanest mother***** of them all, it had enough of its own jam to make you instantly forget about “some geezer's V6”.
So the question raises itself – is the 2.0 litre Sparky qualified to beat the 2.5 V6? Can the 147 embarrass the 156?
For starters, Sparky is lighter than the 156’s V6. That means better weight distribution and consequently less under-felling. The car itself is lighter as well, which leads to less body roll and more responsive handling. Finally, there is something invisible in the air, something that separates new car from an old one. That “something” leads to more downforce and shorter turning radius.
Shortly put, the 147 is technologically more advanced, so it can do the same job for less driver’s effort. Following the 156’s pace was like watching some old dude walking in front of a teenager – plenty of opportunities to get in front, he just gotta pick one.
Still, it is wise to never drop your guard down. You have to remember that the 156 has extra 40 ponies to spare and that it will use them if the opportunity is right. I raced both cars at Autumn Ring Mini. At the point where data logger clocked the 147 running at 104 kph, the 156 was 6,7 kph faster. Only 50 meters further and difference in speed climbed to 7,9 kph. Although Sparky climbs through revs with more vigour, it simply cannot outmatch the V6.
But overall, the 147 is a good catch, and for abut 30 grand it isn’t overly expensive either. It will certainly help you save some funds at the beginning, since it doesn’t require any particular upgrade until it reaches tougher races.
The fact that we get to drive the earlier model makes me even more satisfied. At one point every single Romeo started wearing the same or painfully similar front fascia. Remember those preposterous front overhangs, spreading across the entire fleet like a disease? It hurts me even when I think about that.
Okay, back to our V6s. We still have more to cover. You sure weren’t thinking that the 3.0 V6 was the best we had here?
The ultimate 3-litre V6 engine comes with additional 179 cubic centimetres of materials welded. Its production ended after only three years due to stricter rules on gas emissions enforced in 2005. Of all the models that got the privilege to host one, the GTA and GT are considered to be the most sought-after, and are capable of retaining good value through years. This is particularly true for the 147 and 156 GTA, which can fetch sky-high prices have they been properly maintained and preserved.
Some players negatively commented on absence of 156 GTA from GT4. Although both the 147 and 156 GTA are technically similar to the point of being almost interchangeable, some people are naturally more biased to the looks of the 156 and its longer wheelbase. I have to admit I’m guilty of the same thing. I would rather drive the 156, if anything, just for the sake of doing it. For guys who can’t make up their mind there is a cure in a great game called Enthusia Professional Racing. It contains both the 156 and 147 GTA so you can spend endless days looking for similarities and differences in one of the most advanced physics engine on the PS2. But if you don’t really mind driving the 156, you’ll be happy with GT4’s 147 GTA.
Not a single GTA emblem comes off cheap, even if it is just a virtual one. The badge will cost you slightly less than 50 grand, which is comparable to GTV’s level of greed. But in this case this is actually reasonable considering how different this thing was from the standard 147. Not only they worked on the body, but they also revised undercarriage and lots of other little details in order to keep the mighty 3.2 litre V6 from going insane on driver.
As soon as the car appeared in the showroom, some people raised suspicions that the car would not be able to corner well. That was justified considering how much power the front axle was ordered to handle. Over 250 would be too much even for certain today’s cars, let alone those from early 2000s.
So... how does a 250 HP front-wheel drive car corner? Poorly or exquisitely?
In this case it depends on the rubber it is fitted with.
I raced all of today's cars on sports medium tires. These tires suit the 147 GTA perfectly. They have enormous amount of grip, and conceal majority of problems associated with high-powered FWD cars. If the mood is right, they will allow you to turn the car using the accelerator. It’s cool to see and experience, but it only works on slow corners and doesn’t really improve your lap times.
On low-grade tires all of the car’s problems emerge to surface quicker than you can say “GTA”. Understeer becomes persistent and inner-wheel unavoidable. As far as I know, Romeo never offered limited-slip differentials for GTA models. There was so-called Q2 differential which was added much later, so no factory GTA could benefit from it. It was a popular upgrade though, and most owners kept saying it completely transformes the car.
What can we learn from this? Well, if real-life dudes had the guts to try it out, nothing will cost you to do the same in GT4 – so, buy an LSD. I never tried the 147 GTA with an LSD, but I’m positive it wouldn’t hurt it.
The rest of the car is well-built. Convincing acceleration, quick steering and agility that hasn’t been degraded in spite of wider tires the car lies on. Its chassis rattles, but that’s a common problem you can fix with a basic suspension upgrade.
The GTA is hard to master, without additional tuning you gotta wrestle it. If you need a car to compare your times to, either the Focus RS or SRT4 Dodge will do the job perfectly. Normally I would never mention any other non-Italian car while writing an article on Alfa Romeo, but in this case it is perfectly fine to do it, as you’ll need a good benchmark to see where and how to improve with the 147 GTA.
Another car that shares the same pattern is the notable coupé GT. This is a beautiful, slick car, but crude as any GTA model. Which confused me as I had been expecting far more polished experience. After all, it’s a coupé, close to being called a grand tourer, built for civilians and to host far larger range of engines. Nothing like the GTA which aimed for narrow niche of insane drivers. So why ain’t great to drive?
Well, it depends on what your definition of “great” is. If you’re looking for a nicely balanced front-wheel drive car with minor imperfections concealed and great all-round performance, you may want to look elsewhere. This is Alfa, and it will always have its own quirks and problems, regardless of how expensive and puffy it is. After all, that’s part of its charm.
But in terms of pure driving pleasure and how bonded you will feel to the car every time you take it out of your garage, it is in class of its own.
The GT may feel a bit rough at first, but give it some time, and it will change your perception. It is actually crisp to drive, even more manageable than the 147 GTA. The steering feel is somewhat better, I could get more turning from the same entry speed, and that never changes even when front tires start giving up. This makes the car more suitable for navigating around series of sharp corners, and more agile overall.
Keep hammering the throttle and you’ll notice that its front axle is capable of suppressing much higher amount of stress before directing the car to outside wall. Steering the car with the throttle can actually prove useful. I even got the rear axle to skid once I raised my foot off the throttle. It is definitely a step above the 147 GTA, and for the price of around 40 grand, a real bargain. You really shouldn’t expect more. If you do… well, just don’t.
Our last V6 is a fine example of “up to eleven” phrase. It is not about the power it produces, or the looks, but the field the rev needle has to cross before facing the red line. Sure, it is undoubtedly awesome to drive a 430 HP monster with a huge wing and body kit, but not as much as doing it at 11000 rpm, holy cows!
I don’t know how they got the engine to work under such load. I searched all over the internet hoping to find some valuable source of knowledge, but without much success. One thing is certain – there was no magic involved. And that by the time they finished screwing all the bolts and wires, only the displacement had remained from the standard engine. Totally different stuff, built for the sheer purpose of competing. And stealing victories. 38 in total, they say, at least in DTM.
In GT4 this engine comes as a gift. Only three 2-lap races and the craze is all yours. How generous of PD. And how cruel to the engineers. Sleepless overnights is what I think of when I look at any photo where the car and its people are posing together. Almost sad. You would think a player would have to win an endurance race first, a gruelling one at that, to win this kind of thing. But it is one thing we think, and other what PD wants.
Oh, sorry, I almost forgot! The engine comes with the rest of the car, built on the shell of the standard 155. What you ultimately see is the 1993 Alfa Romeo 155 2.5 V6 TI, the company’s only race car in GT4. This is undoubtedly the most successful version of the TI model, as it led the team to its first (and last) DTM trophy in 1993. Later models received minor updates, mostly related to the car’s power, but without the huge triumph of taking the championship title.
Judging everything Romeo accomplished with this beast, it sure is a valuable and almost extraordinary opportunity to drive it in a game, especially simulator. One of the car’s main rivals, the Calibra, never managed to enjoy so much fame in spite of adopting the same cracked engine concept, all-wheel drive, and taking a trophy title (in 1996). The reason for this is simple - Opel isn’t Alfa Romeo. It never was and it never will be.
Now it is time to say something about the 155’s drivetrain, since we touched upon that in the last paragraph. Yes, it has a four-wheel drive system, not that different from what BMW or Porsche have used on their road cars. That leaves no room for traction problems. This is probably one of the fewer race cars that can run at its full potential without relying on the electronic angle called TCS. Even on ugliest and most useless tires you can dash from a standstill like a pro.
Unfortunately, that safety comes at the cost of additional understeer. It hurts the car’s cornering potential a lot, especially at higher speeds. Eventually you start thinking that having a four-wheel drive on a powerful car in a game that doesn’t properly simulate all dangers of driving a rear-wheel drive car (and which most race cars in the game do have) isn’t really that rewarding. It puts you at big disadvantage, to say at least.
When I told about this to an acquaintance of mine, he said that my complaint was rubbish, and that the car is cool because you could perform brake drifts had the brakes been well set.
Now I ask you this – what brakes have to do with car’s traction? I don’t get it. This is a pointless response from any viewpoint, not just automotive. Besides, why would you even drift in a DTM car? What kind of madman would you have to be to do such thing?! It’s like using milk for watering flowers instead of... I don't know, drinking it?! Duh!
He even tried to convince me that with this technique he could obliterate every race car I had in my garage.
Please do not try to imagine the satisfaction I felt when his car ended up spinning out like a mischievous truth and dare bottle seeking its next target for saliva exchange. That kind of rapture could really hurt you.
So, the 155 does have its weaknesses. Normally, since what car doesn’t? But for a 1993 race car it drives pretty okay. Just make sure to learn tweaking its LSD and you’ll be fine.
I still think this is an awesome car and that it will prove very useful in the long run. I recommend going after endurance events. Can you beat seemingly equal opposition with a car whose front tires last far less? Start with 300 km Tokyo R246 event or the 60 lap tour around Grand Valley Speedway and see how far can you reach.
Even if you prefer driving just for the sake of seeing yourself behind the wheel of a Romeo, the 155 will be a perfect chance to break the classic “road car routine” and add speed to your touring.
Moving on to something different. This time engine doesn’t matter, nor its rpm figures. It’s all about age.
One of the things I loved about GT4 was its awe-inspiring list of classic cars. It must had been so hard to compile such varied list of cars never seen in any game developed up to that point. When you know this, and you know three of these cars are Alfa Romeo branded, you know you are happy.
One of the earliest vintage cars I got was Julia GTA. May I call her Julia?
I was instantly attracted by its round headlights, simplistic wheels, green Cloverleaf badge and the fact it had its papers in order – 115 HP, 745 KG, and RWD. Whoa. For a ‘65 car - just whoa.
The price of the Julia is… (drum rolls)… two dashes!! No price for this one, you gotta win it from one of the career events. Which kinda feels like a steal, because a car of this value should not be given away after only three prosaic sprint races.
But as I sad earlier - whatever. After you finally see it resting in your garage, all you’ll think about is whether you got the right colour. The Julia is available in two colours: Rosso Alfa (red) and Bianco Spino (white). That rinsed-looking white gives the car proper old-school look, whereas going for the red is a classic Alfa thing, no need for explanation. Both colours are nice and you won’t mistake for whichever one you settle with.
Time to turn the ignition key on and do some rubber burning. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as vintage rubber in GT4, every car is equipped with new-age compound regardless of how old it is. That’s not really what we want, because these tires cannot demonstrate how these cars really handle.
The best we can do is fit our Julia with some low-grip tires like N2 and hope it will be at least more challenging to drive.
And it sure is. Have you been practising hard enough, you’ll be able to clear great deal of corners by sliding its rear end. I lapped Opera Paris several times, trying to skid wherever that seemed feasible. Going crazy with the car proved to be addictive way of exploring what the car can and can’t do. Hitting the gas results in expressive wheel-spin and quick rotation that gives you some time to drift before its inner wheel starts spinning on its own. You only have to take caution when counter-steering as even the slightest mistake will steer the car into opposite direction. Train diligently and your skills will advance in no time.
One thing you’ll have to rule out is dive-bombing. Julia doesn’t like that. Or at least its brakes don’t. Although they do a decent job stopping this 50-year old car, they do not prefer turning it in the process. The car paralyses itself and starts going straight, so it’s advisable to do most of your braking before turning the wheel.
There is one nifty little trick with the brakes it would be wise to learn. If you brake too much, you won’t have enough momentum left to force the car to slide on your way in. That is okay if you prefer grip driving, but for more expressive entries, you need to release the brake pedal slightly earlier and kill the remaining sufficient speed with a slide towards the apex. That’s advanced driving, but rewarding as hell.
The Julia was built with racing in mind, so I didn’t even bother trying to lower my pace and do some casual driving. I knew there was a better candidate, much more suitable for that kind of motoring. Guess what, it ain’t a coupé, but convertible.
You know what’s awesome thing about convertibles? You can take the top off and feel the wind. Assuming you’re immune to draft-induced headache, it’s a perfect way to stay in touch with all the smells and sounds surrounding you, whether those be from the environment or the car itself.
GT4 was the first game in the series to feature open convertibles with animated drivers operating the wheel. Something we had been waiting for since the earliest game. Not only it makes you feel that convertible finally do have a purpose in their virtual life other than advertising repulsive black soft tops, but it is also amusing to watch what the driver is doing with the wheel, especially on replays. It’s a feature that makes iconic cars like the Spider Duetto more enjoyable to drive.
The old Spider assumed several shapes throughout its long life span, but neither of those gained as much recognition as the first one, l’ originale. One of the main reasons for this is that its looks had a harmony, which its successors failed to retain. They started taking various forms which strayed away from the original “cuttlebone” concept in an awkward way. Like when plastic surgeries go wrong.
The version we get to drive is the 1600, classic 1.6 model housing 105 HP. Nowadays that wouldn’t seem like anything special, but back then that was some impressive power. Romeo soon introduced two additional engines, one inferior for chaps with smaller pockets, and one bigger, spicy 1.7 engine. Though the latter engine is considered to be the sportiest, I somehow think the 1.6. was a better fit. It sounds like a more suitable choice for a car that was trying to exist for pleasure and making an impression.
Adopting a convertible form would naturally give the car slightly lower odds against classic coupés, but not in the world of charismatic Romeos.
It’s hard to throw it out of balance. The chassis is surprisingly firm and usually very neutral in dealing with cornering forces. Inner wheelspin is modest and for most of the time it doesn’t appear unless you’re really pushing the rear tires. The same goes with the handling, you gotta be persuasive about it, push the car as much as possible, be ruthless. Only then its front tires will start giving up, which may cause sudden understeer on corner entries.
Otherwise this is an obedient little convertible with above average grip and handling. Drifting and sliding is possible, but it takes slightly more effort to break the rear traction. In return, it’s easier to control any sorts of drift than with the Julia, and turning with its brakes applied is slightly more encouraged.
The car shares the same engine with the Julia, albeit in tamed form. The 5-speed ‘box is here as well, and close gear ratio means decent acceleration even on circuits for which is preferred to have more gun powder under the hood.
For all the reasons I mentioned above, many people could try tuning the heck out of it. In the universe where I live this is simply wrong. It’s like putting a boxing gloves on a flower or using your bed mattress as trampoline - it just doesn’t work. Leave competition and bar fights to Julia, she was born for it anyway. The Spider is more suitable for relaxed, steady driving in time trials or posing for wallpaper photo shots. To help you get started, watch The Graduate and you’ll become inspired in no time.
And how does it compare to the new Spider, the ‘01 model? It doesn’t. You can’t compare them. They are totally different cars, despite they carry the same nameplate.
The last preserved bottle of wine from our cellar is the Julia Sprint Speciale. This is one of the best examples of the 60’s design, curving and slickness at its finest. It was built with specific attention to aerodynamics, which resulted in coefficient that would remain highly ranked for next several years. With the same powerful engine and 5-speed gearbox borrowed from its sister models, it meant spirited driving was ensured on par with the finest track day cars of its time.
Unfortunately, the Sprint Speciale is well garrisoned in GT4. It can only be fetched from the “1000 miles” series of endurance events, each of which takes more than three hours to complete. What a load of… yeah. Either you use B-spec (which equals to not playing the game) or you take a day off from work, warm up the chair, and play. And hope your PS2 won’t burst into flames in the process.
Hence why I never got the car. It’s a shame, because it would be awesome to see how it handles high-speed curves and whether its impressive drag coefficient actually has an effect on the car’s top speed or stability.
I guess I’ll never know, so feel free to let me know in the comments down below.
That concludes my review on Romeo cars in GT4. I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I did writing. Thank you and remember – if you don’t own a driving licence or cannot afford yourself a Romeo, you can always drive it in some good simulator. It’s easy, it's safe, and most importantly, you'll never be left on the road.