The Giulia bangs through the eight gears with the force of all of the ferocious European stallions under the hood.
There’s a new kid in the neighbourhood, and she comes bearing treats. As part of Alfa Romeo’s full-fledged return to the North American market, Canada is part of the initial countries to see the launch of the Giulia sedan. Going head to head with some key players such as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class (reviewed here) and the BMW 3-series, the Italians have some tough competition ahead of them. Tested here is the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, the top dog of the Giulia lineup, and also the fastest car Alfa Romeo currently offers on this side of the pond.
Not only is it all-new, but man, this Giulia is a pretty thing. It has a fascia that’s instantly recognized as something Italian, with the Alfa Romeo logo tastefully mounted to the top of the grille. The side profile is stunning too, with flared fenders on the Quadrifoglio model and carbon fiber bits everywhere. A 19” staggered wheel setup is present, a reminder of the car’s rear-drive nature, and the rear is finished off with a carbon fiber lip spoiler atop the trunk and quad exhaust tips.
The Giulia’s front fenders have a four-leaf clover badge, which is a throwback going back to Enzo Ferrari’s friend Ugo Sivocci, the two of whom were on the first ever Alfa Romeo racing team. After a bad luck stint racing, Sivocci decided to add a four-leaf clover to his car, the “Quadrifoglio”, which seemed to immediately change his luck for the better. The sportiest trim levels of Alfa Romeo vehicles now have this clover affixed as a testament to Sivocci and the historic racing pedigree of the Alfa Romeo brand.
Back to the Giulia, the top-trim Quadrifoglio is an Italian beast of the finest variety. The engine is a 2.9L twin-turbocharged six-cylinder derived from Ferrari’s F154 V8, which powers the California T and the 488GTB. Pushing 505 horsepower at 6,500RPM and 443 lb-ft. of torque at just 2,500RPM, this thing is quick. This puts it right in line with the BMW M3 (reviewed here), Cadillac ATS-V, and the Mercedes-AMG C 63 (reviewed here). The Giulia can only be had with a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic in Canada, though a six-speed manual is available in other markets.
Power delivery on this car is extremely good, and though there’s considerable turbo lag off the line, as soon as boost kicks in, the Giulia bangs through the eight gears with the force of all 505 ferocious Italian stallions. Alfa claims the car will hit 60mph from a standstill in just 3.8 seconds and hit a top speed of 307 km/h. With the Alfa Romeo signature DNA selector in “Dynamic” or “Race” settings, the car is in its sharpest mode, and has the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel. The 2.9L twin-turbo mill hustles right to redline eagerly, with no hesitation whatsoever. Ride quality is adjustable with the adaptive damper system, and is extremely firm in its sportiest setting, ideal for track use.
The Giulia has the best steering in the segment, with very quick ratios and sharp turn-in. It feels way crisper than a Maserati, and is more satisfying to throw through the corners than the M3. The only thing that gets anywhere close to it in steering satisfaction is the Cadillac ATS-V (reviewed here), but the Quadrifoglio has far better feel and analog response. I know this phrase is overused to a point of becoming cliché, but when pushing the car through some curvy roads, it feels born and bred Italian. In Quadrifoglio form, the Giulia is rear-drive only, and that only adds to its dramatic appeal and eager behaviour.
The thing about this car is that it has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. Unless the Alfa Romeo “DNA” selector is set to “Race”, which is activated by twisting it clockwise past the resistance point and holding it there, there isn’t all that much drama or fuss. The exhaust is a little bit louder in “Dynamic”, but doesn’t open up the baffles fully unless it’s in full “Race” mode. This mode also simultaneously turns all of the assists off, including traction and stability control – this can prove to be questionable for the average driver. The Giulia is eager to kick its rear end out with the slightest push, especially in the wet, so “Race” mode should be used only with caution in the right conditions (hint: in a track setting).
In the more normal settings, the Giulia is a tamer animal, while still a ton of fun. The steering is still just as athletic, and the chassis itself exhibits the perfect amount of balance. It sounds good, though no evil roar from the exhausts, and still is responsive enough. Unless the sportier modes are engaged, the car feels like it’s at the same level as the 340i (reviewed here) or C 43, not their more powerful counterparts. It’s a quiet and comfortable daily driver with a firmer suspension setup, and does a darned good job of it.
The interior of the Giulia is where the Italian quirks continue – things aren’t as obvious as they would be in a rival from Audi or BMW. Fit and finish is quite good (almost surprisingly so for an Italian vehicle), with no visible panel gaps anywhere. The performance leather and Alcantara seats do a great job holding your body in a comfortable position regardless of driving environment. Head and leg room in the front seats is perfectly fine, though rear accommodations are tight for taller folks. The steering wheel is beautiful to look at, but the rim itself is a little bit too thin and looks visibly slender. The engine start/stop button is located on the left side of the steering wheel – neat.
Infotainment is courtesy of an 8.8” non-touch display that is controlled via a rotary dial and some clearly marked buttons. This system is a variation of Uconnect, but is far less intuitive to use. The screen itself is a bit too small (it’s a wide-angle display that looks a lot smaller than the actual dashboard real estate would have you believe) and doesn’t offer the latest tech like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. As expected, it can also be difficult to navigate and isn’t very intuitive to use. It’s a vast improvement over the aftermarket single-din setup in the 4C (reviewed here) but can be convoluted.
The base Giulia starts at $48,995, though stepping up to the Quadrifoglio will cost $87,995. Optional equipment on our test vehicle includes Trofeo White Tricoat paint, a Climate Package, Driver Assist Dynamic Launch Package (lane departure warning, forward collision warning, automatic high beam control), Harman/Kardon audio system, carbon fibre/Alcantara steering wheel, 19” dark Tecnico wheels, and a Cargo Convenience Package. The total sticker is $97,340 as tested, which comes in right alongside the top-trim BMW M3 Competition Package. This may seem like a significant amount, and it is, but vehicles in this performance sedan segment are getting more and more expensive – this one is just playing by the standards previously set.
Alfa Romeo rates the Giulia Quadrifoglio at 13.8L/100km city and 9.6L/100km highway. This brings it to a combined estimate of 11.9L/100km. Our test was conducted on 94-octane ultra-premium fuel, though the car will accept 91-octane premium or better. Over roughly 500km of driving with some noted spirited twisty back road runs, the average sat at 12.7L/100km. This isn’t poor by any means, and we observed combined consumption of 12.5L/100km over similar driving with the M3 Competition Package.
The 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is the less plain choice in its segment, and is by far the most interesting choice. Everyone has an M3 or a C 63, and the Audi RS5 only has two doors. Perhaps Alfa Romeo’s reliability will be questionable in the long run, but it’s the most involving and passionate car to drive in this price point. It offers a personality unlike anything it competes with, and stunning looks that attract attention everywhere the car goes.