Work your way through the endless news conferences that marked the opening day of the Geneva Motor Show and you likely heard some of the same breathless adjectives used over and over again, “revolutionary” being one of the most common. Surprisingly, it wasn’t part of the vocabulary at a stand where it likely best applied.
Even among the jaded journalists packing Geneva’s PALExpo conference center there was a noticeable gasp when Maserati rolled out its new Alfieri concept vehicle. The striking yet subtle sculpting of the 2+2 hatchback is, for many observers, one of the highlights of a strong show.
There had been rumors circulating for days that the Italian maker might reveal a car that had come to be described as a “Jaguar F-Type-fighter.” While Maserati officials contend the two play in somewhat different market segments, a production version of the Alfieri would come as close as anything on the market to matching the sinfully sensuous shape of the soon-to-launch Jaguar F-Type Coupe.
And so, even with a significant number of details left to be revealed – indeed, many basic questions are yet to be resolved by Maserati – one of the most frequently heard questions as the first day’s media preview wound on was: Will they build it?
“Hopefully, within 24 months,” a clearly pleased Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO Sergio Marchionne told TheDetroitBureau.com.
Perhaps fitting for a carmaker just celebrating its 100th anniversary, the Maserati Alfieri has deep ties to the company’s history, the concept’s very name honoring the founder of the Italian brand. There are plenty of small but significant historical cues to the design itself, most notably to the A6 GTS of 1954, suggested Lorenzo Ramaciotti, FCA’s global design chief pointed out.
But this is no retro automobile. It is the epitome of where the Maserati brand has been coming from with new models like the Ghibli and second-generation Quattroporte – and where it hopes to go in the future.
It’s important to note the sports car won’t replace the bigger Gran Turismo – which is set to get a redesign in the very near future. This is a short wheelbase 2+2 hatchback with wide shoulders and a solidly planted appearance. The impact of the wind tunnel is obvious, starting with the updated grille, with its central trident logo and new fins.
The sculpting is striking yet unlike some aggressively over-the-top designs we’ve been seeing lately, subtlety is the key. A distinctive detail is the slight kickdown in the shoulder line of the front windows. There are a series of blue lines that reflect the signature Maserati color appearing in such places as the trumpet exhaust pipes and even in the spoke-like wheels.
Expect a “super-lightweight chassis” promised Harald Wester, the Maserati CEO, which might hint of aluminum or something even more exotic.
As to powertrain? A Maserati source, asking not to be identified, suggests that the Alfieri Concept comes equipped with a new V-8 developed with ally Ferrari that would be perhaps the most powerful engine now in the Maserati line-up.
For his part, Wester told TheDetroitBureau.com that the maker is studying whether to go with “a V-6 only or a V-6 and V-8.” And it is looking at options that include both rear and all-wheel-drive. A convertible might also be developed to complement the Alfieri Concept coupe.
Those are just some of many unanswered questions, though several Maserati officials confirmed that the underlying platform is largely ready to go. But there are still plenty of questions left to be resolved. The sexy beast still has to undergo both street and track testing and, Wester stressed, his team has yet to lock down a profitable business plan – something Marchionne is going to go over with an electron microscope.
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The challenge is that global sales of sports cars in this segment are “small,” Wester lamented, perhaps a total of 60,000 annually worldwide, even by the broadest definition taking in everything from the Chevrolet Corvette to the Porsche 911, as well as the Jaguar F-Type Coupe and Convertible siblings.
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Price? Almost certainly to push six figures, perhaps $110,000 or slightly more for a “base” model.
In other words, an awful lot to think about, and a lot of things that might scuttle plans for a less stunning vehicle.
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Asked about Marchionne’s proposed timetable, Wester laughed, suggesting his boss “usually doesn’t give us this much time.” There’s a lot of work left to be done before the Maserati chief is ready to put out his own schedule for a production Alfieri, but he quickly adds that, “We will work our asses off to get it done.”