Alfa Romeo is preparing to present a showcar at in Geneva that offers a radically different solution in terms of size, packaging, weight and power. Set to be based around KTM's Dallara-engineered X-Bow two-seater extreme sports car.

Alfa Romeo is preparing to present a showcar at the Geneva motor show that offers a radically different solution in terms of size, packaging, weight and power. Set to be based around the Dallara-engineered KTM X-Bow two-seater sports car, it will present a potential glimpse of where Alfa Romeo’s management perceives the future being with smaller, more efficient cars that slot into the wider brand strategy, as opposed to its most recent headline-grabbing ‘halo’ project, the 8C Competizione.

While the 8C Competizione undoubtedly provided a strong ‘halo’ effect for the brand, the project was far from profitable, and pitched itself well outside Alfa Romeo’s usual cost territory. As such the Geneva-bound project will use a mildly uprated version of the highly-regarded Fiat Powertrain 1750 TBi turbocharged four-cylinder engine. To be dubbed the 4C GTA, it revives one of the brand’s most famous designations, which was last used to denote high-performance versions of the 147 and 156. The concept thus pays clear homage to history, as well as retaining a recognisable association with the 8C Competizione. However, the 4C GTA is not believed to be destined for production – although the concept will be fully functional, it is intended more as a technological and styling showcase, and pointer to the future.

With a basic X-Bow already costing more than 52,000 euros from the factory (excluding taxes), trying to re-engineer the car to a point where it could be economically viable is an unlikely proposition, so essentially the Dallara-engineered carbonfibre and aluminum monocoque remains unchanged. Instead, with project costs not having to closely reflect production viability, Dallara has developed new carbonfibre bodywork with reported input from Alfa Romeo Centro Stile, fully enclosing the cockpit and bringing a more traditional sports car design language to the X-Bow, which dispenses with all non-essential bodywork in the pursuit of maximum weight saving.

Dallara, which developed the X-Bow for Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM, has re-engineered the distinctive machine under the new skin to incorporate the 1750 TBi turbo engine which, currently in its highest power specification (in the Giulietta QV), produces 235 HP. The production X-Bow – ironically, in light of VW’s pursuit of the brand – uses Audi’s turbocharged direct-injection 1,984cc TFSI engine, a unit that would form the mainstay of any Alfa Romeo range if VW Group is successful in prising the 100-year-old brand out of Fiat’s grasp. The TFSI unit produces 240 HP and 310 Nm of torque with a 0-100 km/h time of 3.9 seconds. In the guise of the 4C GTA, power will rise only slightly to 250 HP. However exhilarating performance is guaranteed by the light weight of the X-Bow, although reports suggest it would swell by around 60 kg, thanks mainly to the new enclosed bodywork.

With negotiations between Fiat Group and VW Group currently stalling, the 4C GTA showcar offers an interesting pointer to a future that Alfa Romeo could still enjoy under the ownership of the Fiat Group despite the absence of planning for new models and a slimmed-down range that now comprises just three models, one of which – the Giulietta – is thus far hitting all its sales targets, with almost 40,000 units delivered during 2010, but the others of which – the MiTo and 159 – are fading quickly. Fiat’s announcement that it plans to build a future SUV to be branded jointly by Alfa Romeo and Jeep at the Mirafiori plant in Turin lent some substance to the belief that Alfa Romeo may be handed a lifeline by CEO Sergio Marchionne. However, the wild targets mooted at the same time subsequently shot away some of that credibility. Generating some much needed publicity from the 4C GTA for Alfa Romeo at the Geneva Motor Show, the world’s most important annual automotive showcase, could help shore up the value of the brand in negotiations, although Fiat has hinted in recent days that the 4C’s debut at this event is by no means certain.

© 2011 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed