GTA. Just three letters, yet immensely significant when applied as a suffix to an Alfa Romeo. The acronym is shorthand for Gran Turismo Alleggerita, which translates to Grand Touring Lightened. Add a little “m” – for Modificata, meaning modified – on the end (as in GTAm), and the result is a monstrous-looking sedan that annihilates the distance-over-time equation.
Only 500 cars to be built
The first Alfa Romeo to wear this nomenclature was the Giulia GTA, born in 1965. Although it looked like a standard road-going Giulia GT, the GTA was conceived with an overt motorsport focus, with drivetrain and suspension uprated accordingly and every excess gram pared from the car.
The spirit of this historic lightweight special has now been reprised on the modern-day Giulia GTA and GTAm, of which a combined total of only 500 units will be built. Available only via special order, pricing starts at an eye-watering Dh750,000, but this sizeable outlay gets you a car that's quicker across a mountain road or racetrack than, arguably, anything else with four doors.
As with almost every go-faster special, the revamp begins with an uprated engine that pumps out 540hp (a 30hp bump over the already rapid Giulia Quadrifoglio), achieved primarily via a remapped ECU, redesigned con rods and a free-flow Akrapovic titanium exhaust. The power hike is offset by an aerodynamic kit that adds up to 300 kilograms of downforce, while stiffer springs and dampers, and revised suspension geometry deliver sharper responses and higher cornering thresholds.
Befitting their performance capabilities, the GTA and GTAm have a bodybuilder stance as their pumped guards are filled by widened wheel tracks (by 50 millimetres at the rear and 25mm at the front). Stuffed within the wheel arches are 20-inch rims shod with chunky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres and housed within these are massive Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes.
Crucially, the GTAm trims more than 100kg of girth vis-a-vis the Quadrifoglio, thanks to a lightweight carbon-fibre bonnet, front bumpers and fenders. Also fabricated from carbon fibre are the rear wheel arches, rear diffuser and all the aerodynamic addenda. The GTAm takes it a step further than the GTA by using polycarbonate rear and side windows in lieu of glass.
Peer into the cabin and you’ll find Sabelt carbon-fibre-shell seats, Alcantara trim everywhere and a composite rear door panel. In addition, the GTAm ditches the rear seats, has door pull-straps instead of handles and adds a roll cage and six-point harnesses to make it genuinely track-worthy.
The GTAm’s cabin is generally a nice place to be, but there’s a disappointing ordinariness to the instruments and switchgear for a car with such exorbitant pricing.
Molehills out of mountains
It looks ferocious, yet the bewinged Alfa fires up unobtrusively and trundles out of the Balocco proving ground – nestled in the northern Italian countryside – in civilised fashion. Out on real-world roads, ride quality is compliant and noise levels aren’t excessive.
The real fun begins as a winding mountain road looms ahead. Flick the drive selector into Dynamic mode and the GTAm attacks with the same vigour as a rottweiler that's latched on to a juicy piece of meat. The steering, although a bit light for my liking, responds with crispness and immediacy. There's so much grip from the Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres that you need a racetrack to fully exploit its limits of adhesion.
Roaring race mode
The 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 is already a jewel in the Giulia Quadrifoglio, but with 30 extra horses and that crackling Akrapovic centre-mount exhaust, it's positively spine-tingling. The eight-speed auto is also pleasingly decisive and quick-shifting.
The track session at the Alfa Romeo test track at Balocco merely adds an exclamation point to what was already learnt out on the road loop. Even in Race mode, which completely deactivates the ESP electronic safety net, the ballistic GTAm is so predictable you can indulge in power-sliding hooliganism with relative ease.
Verdict? The GTAm’s stratospheric pricing – almost double that of a BMW M3 Competition – is a sticking point, but it’s so intoxicating that you’d still reach for the chequebook if you had the wherewithal. It’s easily Alfa Romeo’s finest offering to date.