Alfa Romeo GTV 2.0
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
Prior to 1981
the Alfetta was the base model of the GTV range, a fastback coupé version of the sedan. It was first introduced as the Alfetta GT in 1974
, initially available only with the 1.8-litre (1779cc) version of the Alfa DOHC four. These engines featured a chain driven 8-valve twin overhead cam cylinder head
of cross-flow design.
Alfa Romeo were phasing out of the earlier 105 Series 1.3 and 1.6-litre coupes (GT 1300 Junior and GT 1600 Junior) and the 2.0-litre 105 series 2000 GTV. The Alfetta GT became a range, also available with the 1.6-litre (1570cc) and 2.0-litre (1962cc) versions of the same engine as the Alfetta GT 1.6, Alfetta GT 1.8 and Alfetta GTV 2000. The GTV designation had initially been reserved for the 2.0-litre top version.
, some minor revisions, including a revised engine with new camshaft profiles and a change to mechanical-and-vacuum ignition advance, saw the 2.0-litre redesignated the Alfetta GTV 2000L. Autodelta also produced a limited edition turbocharged model, named Turbodelta, for FIA Group 4 homologation. This version used a KKK turbo
, the fist Italian production car to be fitted with any kind of turbo unit, and power rose to 129 kW.
The Alfa GTV 2.0
, the GTV received a restyling, with grey plastic bumpers and all matte-black trim replacing bright stainless steel, the 1.6-litre and 1.8-litre versions were discontinued and the Alfetta 2000 GTV became the base coupé model and marketed as the Alfa GTV 2.0. The Alfetta name was dropped, but the two-litre coupé retained its type designation of 11636 for left-hand drive and 11637 for right-hand drive. 15-inch alloy wheels
were now standard, as opposed to the earlier cars' 14-inch pressed steel or optional 14-inch alloy.
There were two features of the GTV which gave it a major advance over all previous examples. Firstly, thanks to continual complaints, Alfa Romeo improved the driving position. You no longer needed to fold your knees around your ears and hold your arms out straight ahead. For all export models, Alfa also fitted an attractive looking wood rimmed steering wheel with a dished boss. The driver's stance may not have been perfect, but it was far better than before.
Another item that made the GTV a true drivers car was Alfa Romeo’s decision to, as an option, shod good looking alloy wheels
with Pirelli P6 radials. At the time the P6 was capable of making an improvement to just about anything it was fitted to, but on the GTV they blessed the car with road holding and general handling that put it into the hero class. The standard steel wheels would save you around $800, but without the P6’s the GTV was a very different animal. We would almost say this was the most important option you could fit, but on a hot summers day we would probably switch to electing the air-conditioning
, which would set you back $1271. You could also add a sun roof for a pretty reasonable $66.
Inside the GTV 2.0
Inside the restrained interior trim looked the part, the front buckets being far better shaped than before. Striped velour was standard, but leather was an optional extra costing $702. Although the facia and instrument binnacles remained unchanged, Alfa added an electrically operated exterior mirror – which was somewhat of a novelty back in 1981. The multi-directional control for the mirror was mounted on the transmission tunnel between the front seats and behind the cigarette lighter.
The driver's seat was adjustable for height as was the backrest angle and closeness to the steering wheel. The wheel itself could be raised or lowered as desired, but without any reach adjustment if fell just short of being described as perfect. But it was still pretty good. Access to the comfortable rear seats was easy, with a backrest release located on the front seat. If you were sitting in the back only the rear headroom was compromised, and surprisingly knee room was acceptable – quite a feat considering the GTV was essentially a 2 + 2 coupe. Naturally enough, luggage space was not all that generous. The rear hatch gave access to a relatively shallow boot, with restricted space for tall objects. Unlike many later hatchbacks, the GTV's rear seats did not fold down to increase capacity, so with two aboard wanting to carry excessive luggage, it had to be left on the rear seat squabs.
It goes without saying that Alfa's instrumentation was comprehensive – this was an era when being behind the wheel of an Alfa was very special indeed. It clearly illustrated the company's competition background, the single small binnacle being placed immediately ahead of the driver. While we suspect the designer intended this to contain the all important tachometer, in export models at least, it contained the speedometer, complete with odometer and distance recorder. The centrally placed main binnacle, because of a left hand drive background, had the tachometer placed to the far left, a little remote for continual ease of monitoring. It was red lined at 6000 rpm, although maximum power was at 5400 rpm.
Although Alfa aficionados would have had little trouble identifying the GTV 2.0 update, there were plenty of others that could have been excused for thinking little had changed. The svelte body however contained a rash of evolutionary ideas rather than any startling innovation. There were new polyurethane bumpers front and rear, with indicator lights in the front bar. There was also a fairly deep front air dam to improve aerodynamics
, along with more efficient rear body air vents. Overall the effect, at least to our eyes, was pleasing.
Mechanically things were little changed. The GTV had always been a particularly well balanced vehicle, thanks to its equalised weight distribution. This was brought about by the use of a transaxle as the rear incorporating the five speed gearbox and differential in one unit. Rear suspension was by De Dion tube with longitudinal trailing arms and a transverse Watts linkage. Coil springs and a sway bar completed the set-up. At the front there were double wishbones operating on torsion bars
. Disc brakes
were featured all round and steering was rack and pinion. The engine was the well known and loved twin cam four, fed by a pair of twin choke Dell 'Orto carburettors. It pumped out 89.8 kW at 5300 rpm, with 175.4 Nm torque at 4000 rpm. The European version enjoys a little more of both, giving 96 kW at 5400 rpm and 180 Nm at 4000 rpm, but Australian variants were down on power thanks to the ADRs.
This alloy engine used wet liners, hemispherical combustion chambers, five crankshaft bearings and enough other features to guard against the most unfeeling lead foot of all time. You could abuse the thing all day, and it would always feel unbreakable, although a short warm up period was still advisable when starting off from cold first thing in the morning. There was a manual choke and a hand throttle to ease the start up, but both could be dispensed with after the briefest of use. After that, the engine would settle down quite quickly, and then you were left with that wonderfully smooth and forceful “lump”.
Unlike the engine however, it would take some time for the gearbox to warm up. Here the unavoidable long linkage, from the centre console to the shifter on the box itself, resulted in an initial lack of feel and a distinct impression of poor precision. Owners have told us that they would quickly become accustomed to the change and that our impressions were typical of those that had not spent too much time behind the wheel. We will take them on their word and offer no further criticism. OK, just one. The feeling of the box was very indirect. Owners would tell us there was an "Alfa secret", which translated to “kindness”. You needed to finesse the box, treat it gently and with passion, learn the idiosyncrasies and, in time, any doubts would evaporate and you would believe the box to be as accurate and precise as anything the Germans could produce. You had to remember that the box had been designed right within the long linkage parameters, so it worked well if used well.
On the Road
Compared to the GTV6 many thought the naturally aspirated 2.0 would be a bit soft by comparison. No such thing. While it was true that it didn’t keep on spinning ad infinitum, and the power was well down, the well spread power band provided for faultless driveability and made it every bit the drivers car. Perhaps fifth gear was a little long for 60 km/h suburban cruising, but a steady throttle foot and a good clear run made its use worth the effort. With speed benchmarking, a first gear that wouldn't quite reach 60 km/h promised to curb any dramatic zero to 60 times. But once you mastered the gearbox you could reach 60 km/h in a respectable 4.8 seconds, and continue on to 100 km/h figure in just under 11 seconds. In third gear 60 km/h to 100 km/h overtaking times were around 7.2 seconds – not all that good – but if you deployed 2nd and were happy to take the penalty of an extra gear change then you would not only be rewarded with a faster overtaking time, but you would also get to enjoy one of the greatest audio soundtracks then available as the engine revved out.
GTV braking was always a real joy. The four wheel discs were sensitive, providing enough feel for really quick stops without any locked wheels. The Pirelli P6’s would bring you to a standstill from 100 km/h in 41 metres – an excellent result for the pre ABS era. Handling the GTV at high speeds took some experience if it was to remain tidy. The rack and pinion steering was progressive, especially with the Pirellis, so the wheel had to be fed into corners, not jerked around. Master that and you would be rewarded with a feel through your finger tips that was almost as tantalizing as being behind the wheel of a current Mazda MX-5 – it was that good.
Turning the wheel with the throttle balanced and the car would do the rest by itself, with a gentle transition through neutrality to a touch of oversteer as the power was fed on again after the apex. Jerk it in like an idiot and one of two things would happen. You would provoke a state of exaggerated understeer, necessitating a major lift off the accelerator and a consequent lowering of cornering speed, or there would be a state of exaggerated oversteer. That may sound like we are hedging our bets, but it was true that you could provoke either, due to the GTV’s 50/50 weight distribution. Back then, and the same applies today, a driver's balance will bring out the best in a car. It was just that, in the GTV, it was so much better.
At low speeds, with all that rubber up front and without power assistance, the steering could feel heavy, but not too heavy for comfort. Power steering was well established by 1981, but at the time GTV owners would have probably preferred to do without if they were given the option. A power steering setup in the 1980s that delivered the same feel as an unassisted setup was very rare – and would probably have ruined the car. And it was a time when Alfa Romeo demanded a commitment from its customers. They did want you to be comfortable, but only up to a point. The essence and spirit of the car could not be diluted. Those that drove the GTV 2.0 would invariably arrive at their destination with a smile on their face. It was the kind of car that made you feel alive, with enough inherent personality and individuality to keep rewarding, day after day.