FACTfile - Alfa 147GTA Selespeed

147 GTA gets paddle shift

Alfa Romeo have just introduced a Selespeed version of their extra hot hatch the 147 GTA - giving drivers the F1 paddle shift option shared by other high performance cars such as the F versions of the Ferrari 360 and the Lamborghini Gallardo e-gear.

Here is Alfa's run-down of the new version:

Alfa Romeo is attempting the impossible: improving the acclaimed Alfa Romeo 147 GTA, the 184 kW powerhouse that has become the benchmark in its class for performance, driving excitement, style and even value for money. But, with the launch of the Selespeed version of the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA, Alfa Romeo is on very strong ground. The Formula One-derived Selespeed sequential manual gearbox is already a big hit for Alfa Romeo, accounting for around 80 per cent of all Alfa Romeo 147 hatches, 156 sports saloons, and 156 Sportwagons sold in Australia.

The reasons for the success of Selespeed are easy to see. While it offers the convenience and ease of use of a self shifting mode akin to a conventional automatic gearbox, the Selespeed-equipped car remains, at its heart, a manual car. There is no torque converter blunting performance, no reduction the number of gears or any weight penalty.

So the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA Selespeed not only has the same number of gears - six - as the manual, they are the same ratios and, with no weight penalty, performance remains the same, the effortless lunge towards 100 kmh takes the same 6.3 seconds as in the manual and the top speed, where the law permits, is also the same at 246 kmh. Equally, economy and exhaust emissions are the same with, again, no penalty.

But the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA Selespeed is much more than just convenience around town, more even then the vicarious pleasure of knowing that gears are being changed with the same technology as in a Ferrari Formula One car. The - much envied - driver of an Alfa Romeo 147 GTA Selespeed has the choice of selecting gears either via flick of the gear stick or by using the paddles positioned just behind the wheel. This second gear selection method enhances safety because it means that the driver can concentrate on the driving and change gears "manually" without taking his hands from the steering wheel, an action that is both distracting and unbalances control of the steering.

It also means a speed of gear change that cannot be matched by manual gearbox, with changes taking place in as little as 0.4 of second. Take into account the time moving a hand to and from the steering wheel and it is clear that gear changing is taking place at a remarkable rate. And if all of this wasn't enough of a pleasure, the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA Selespeed, with its perfect blips on the throttle during down changes further enhances the remarkable soundtrack from the race-track bred Alfa Romeo 3.2 litre V6 that accompanies every drive in the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA. Those blips also contribute to safety, as they mean perfect matching of engine and road speed in every down shift, maintaining stability and enabling the chassis to work at its absolute best.

So how does it work?
As already mentioned, the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA Selespeed has exactly the same clutch and gearbox as the manual car. But sitting on top of the gearbox are three electro-hydraulic actuator units, one operating the clutch and two changing the gears. These are controlled by a computer that takes its information from the accelerator pedal and a host of technical information pick-up points throughout the car, as well as the driver-operated controls.

Thus, the Selespeed system knows whether the driver is driving at a leisurely pace or with the enthusiasm always engendered by the GTA and adapts its gearchanging style to suit, from smooth and slick to neck-snapping performance at all costs. At the press of a button, city mode may be selected in which case the Selespeed system takes over all gear changing responsibilities, but with no loss of performance and at any time the driver can take over control via the paddles or the gear stick.

The system has a number of safety systems that make it safer than even most automatic gearboxes. For example, open a door to get out of the car without taking it out of gear and the Selespeed system will slip into neutral. Driving is as easy as selecting a gear and pressing the accelerator pedal, which also tells the computer when to engage the clutch. The only visible changes to the 147 GTA for its transition to the 147 GTA Selespeed are the addition of paddles on the steering wheel, a new gear stick and the addition of the city mode button. Compared to the previous versions of the Selespeed system, which are all on the five speed gearbox used in the 156 and 147 Twin Spark, the main changes are to the software and the actuators on the gearbox. This is, obviously, to account for the extra gear, but also, because the six speed gearbox is a different heavy duty gearbox developed specifically to accompany Alfa Romeo's V6 engine, the software is able to be more aggressive with its shift pattern, an ideal combination for the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA's character.

Every other aspect of the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA remains the same. The aggressive exterior appearance with deeper, broader guards, bumpers and door sills, the aerodynamic splitter front and rear and the vestigial rear wing above the rear window mean there is no mistaking the performance intent of the 147 GTA. This theme is continued inside with the classic high back seats that are a feature of every classic Italian performance car and an interior with styling, textures and even night time illumination that makes every journey an event.

Equipment levels bring new meaning to the word comprehensive, with the expected equipment of items such as power windows and locks, remote release rear hatch, 17 inch alloys with low profile tyres joined by items such as cruise control - even a 147 GTA has to cruise on the freeway sometimes - and those impeccable sports seats. Considering the style, the performance, the Formula One derived technology and the driving excitement delivered in spades, the price of the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA Selespeed is remarkable: a recommended retail price of $63,990.

"The Alfa Romeo 147 GTA Selespeed offers a remarkable and unique combination of ease of use, shattering performance, style, features and comfort," says Kevin Wall, General Manager for Alfa Romeo in Australia. "In short, there can be little doubt that not only will the 147 GTA Selespeed grow the sales of the fastest Alfa Romeo, it will also account for the majority of sales."

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