GM's Alpha Platform: What We Know
GMI has been quietly gathering information on GM’s next RWD architecture.
June 1, 2010
By: Nick Saporito
UPDATE: It seems that after posting our Alpha article yesterday, we stirred the pot a little as we have some more Alpha details. According to our sources in recent weeks GM has made more decisions on the powertrains of the Alpha products. The ATS will have a V6 engine option (in addition to the four-cylinders). The better news is that the upcoming twin-turbo V6 we broke news on will be found in the Alpha+ Cadillac CTS.
The Alpha time line has also been refined, see below.
Alpha. If you’re reading GMI you are probably already aware of what that Greek designation is infamous with in the world of General Motors. Alpha is GM’s next substantial rear-wheel drive vehicle architecture. There have been copious amounts of rumors; some even reported by “mainstream” media that we can confidently say were factually incorrect. Over the last few months GMI has been working with sources at all levels to obtain the most detailed information we could possibly report about Alpha. We feel we have accomplished just that.
Let’s clear up the most substantial of misinformation. Technically there are two iterations of the Alpha platform. There is “Alpha” and “Alpha+.” Alpha is the variation of the platform that is going to underpin the upcoming Cadillac ATS. As has been reported in the past, this car is internally referred to as the “BMW fighter” and will be extremely close to the BMW 3-Series in size.
Alpha+ is already in development for the next-generation Cadillac CTS. Alpha+ is both longer and wider than the ATS’s Alpha. The exact size of the platform is not yet known, however we expect it to fall close to BMW’s 5-Series as the CTS continues its drive up-market.
The third vehicle slated for Alpha is the sixth-generation Camaro. It was only recently approved for Alpha use by GM’s executive committee. At this point very little is known about the car due to the fact that development is in its infancy.
Other models from various GM brands (including Buick) are looking at Alpha to identify possible uses, though none have been approved for production at this time. GM product plans are set in stone through 2014, so any additional models are certain to be 2015 or later launches.
Contrary to popular belief, Alpha is not yet considered a “global” architecture. A vast majority of the development is taking place in North America, with GM Europe having a little involvement in some of the testing. In order for Alpha to become a “global” architecture, manufacturing of Alpha vehicles would have to take place on more than one continent.
Sources working on the Alpha program have stated that all Alpha cars will have four-cylinder engines as the standard fare. With the ever-increasing power output by modern four-cylinder engines and the impending CAFÉ legislation, it is no surprise that four-cylinders will find their way into the Alpha products.
Expect the ATS and CTS to both offer at least one four-cylinder engine for North America and perhaps additional options for export models. We’re told to expect GM’s familiar 2.0L Turbo to show up as one of the engine choices. The CTS is also confirmed to have a V6 engine option as well and at this time it appears as though it will not be a turbocharged mill.
V8 fans need not worry. Both V-Series iterations of the ATS and CTS will sport Generation V Small Block’s. As with all Gen V V8’s, the V car’s will have direct-injection, Active Fuel Management and variable valve timing.
Engines for the next Camaro are not yet finalized; however we’re hearing chatter that it too will have four, six and eight cylinder engines.
Expect six-speed transmissions to be the standard on the Alpha products; however that may not be the only selection. Sources informed GMI last week that GM executives have agreed to explore the feasibility of an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission for Alpha products. New manual transmissions will also be offered, replacing the current Asin unit in the Cadillac CTS.
A reoccurring theme we have been getting from our sources is that Alpha products will not be short on technology. Not only is the platform itself expected to be technologically advanced, but we’ve also heard Alpha products will have a “state of the art” infotainment system.
The new infotainment system is allegedly intended to rival Ford’s upcoming myFord Touch system, which features a capacitive touch screen and LCD panels in the gauge cluster. GM’s Alpha vehicles will also have large screen displays in the gauge cluster that will work in conjunction with the car’s infotainment system.
Alpha Time line
More On Alpha
GMI's Renderings of the ATS, Based on Feedback from Bob Lutz