Hard to beat at ten tenths.
In the world of compact sport sedans, Europe has led the way for many years, and products such as the BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C 63 come to mind when talking about full-send four doors. Italy definitely doesn’t want to be left out of this equation, and this week’s 2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio takes a deeper dive into the latest and greatest fire-breather from The Boot. The Giulia makes a striking first impression right off the bat, eschewing a more muted German style in favour of a little more Italian flair. The characteristic Alfa trefoil grille and more emotion-evoking body lines are the type to walk into the room and announce: “I’m a four-leaf clover and I’m here to party.”
Starting at a base price of $93,640 including destination charges, the Giulia prices itself right alongside the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S sedan. Options on the test car included a $2,500 Trofeo White Tri-Coat paint job, $500 19-inch dark 5-hole aluminum wheels, $350 for blacked out Nero Edizione badging, $450 for a cargo net/tie-downs and premium alarm system, $2,345 for the Active Driver Assist Package (autonomous safety package including adaptive cruise, lane keeping assist), $500 for rear heated seats, and last but not least, $8,250 for Brembo carbon-ceramic high performance brakes. This brings the as-tested total to $108,535, which is also right within earshot of the C63 S.
With bang for the buck more or less the same amongst its peers, there are a few other differentiators that might make you want the Alfa over others. The Quadrifoglio’s only engine is a twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 engine, which bears some similarity in design to the V8 seen in various modern Ferraris. With a redline of 7,400RPM, peak output is 505 horsepower at 6,500RPM, paired with 443 lb-ft. of torque between 2,500 and 5,500RPM. Since they’re not twin-scroll turbochargers, a bit turbo lag is present, but it’s fairly well controlled. Once the engine gets on boil, it pulls sweetly and urgently right up to redline, although the 90-degree “vee” configuration makes for a bit of a flatulent exhaust note.
For the purists, sadly, a manual transmission is not available. The only choice is the ZF 8HP eight-speed automatic, which is also BMW’s, Fiat Chrysler’s, and Jaguar Land Rover’s token longitudinal gearbox. In Giulia Quadrifoglio tune, shifts are crisp and satisfying under high load, and the ratios are spaced perfectly for enthusiastic driving. Beautiful metal paddle shifters showcase the typical Italian car aesthetic, and are also fixed to the column as opposed to behind the steering wheel – you’ll always know where either paddle is at all times, no matter your steering position.
Rated fuel economy for the Quadrifoglio comes in at 13.5L/100KM in the city, and 9.5L/100KM on the highway. Of course, if you’re into using the turbo six as much as you should be, real world results will be noticeably worse. In a week of driving that favoured highway driving more than urban, observed economy came in at 12.5L/100KM. Premium fuel of at least 91 octane is required, and tank capacity is on the small side at 58 litres.
As for handling and driving dynamics, the Giulia is really a tale of two to three personalities. In sedate driving in the default Normal or Advanced Efficiency modes, there is very little engine note to be heard, and everything on the powertrain happens seamlessly in the background. Steering effort is reduced, and the dampers are on their softest, which keeps ride on the acceptable side of firm. In these plain-Jane settings, the Quadrifoglio is mostly devoid of any personality whatsoever, and the powertrain is quiet enough to be more like an electric vehicle than anything. In addition, the transmission calibration isn’t as good as other ZF 8HP cars, with lazy, slow shifts that almost impede on forward progress.
Flipping the rotary switch over to Dynamic, on the other hand, puts the car where it should be by default. Exhaust noise gets louder but with minimal drone, the dampers get firmer (but can be set back to soft if you wish), and the steering gets heavier. Even so, there is still a bit of a lack of polish in easy-going daily driving. If you want to enjoy this thing, it only starts to get fun beyond seven tenths.
Beyond Dynamic mode, there’s one final setting – Race. In this configuration, Alfa Romeo lets you know that you’re on your own by forcing traction and stability control off. The dampers go to their stiffest setting, and this is where things get really wild. The more the Alfa gets pushed, the more it asks for – the lightning quick steering ratio makes for equally quick turn-in response, and when approaching very high the limit of (60 treadwear rating!) tire adhesion, an ear-to-ear grin is all but guaranteed. The amount of road feel through to the steering wheel could use improvement, but it’s hard to think of a sedan with better overall control – telepathic might be the word to use here.
When the time comes to slow the Giulia Quadrifoglio down, the Brembo brakes do an admirable job. The optional carbon ceramic brakes are likely more for heat and fade tolerance than for braking distance, but they sure do look good behind the 19-inch wheels. At low speeds, the unique rotor material and/or the cross-drilled construction results in some growling when coming to a stop. The braking system is also of the brake-by-wire variety, and as such, low-speed braking maneuvers leave a lot to be desired in terms of smoothness and linearity. Like the rest of the Alfa’s behaviour, it does better when pushed to its limit as opposed to running around in the city.
Inside, the 2020 Giulia brings to the table an elegant design that’s not too monochrome or drab. Material quality is generally good, but don’t offer the most wow factor for a compact luxury sedan. The copious amounts of carbon fibre, as well as green and white stitching and Italian flag near the shifter are more the claim to fame here, and the attention to these details seem to matter more than the overall fit and finish. While the bolstering is decent for cornering, front seat comfort isn’t particularly good for longer drives, which adds more to the fact that this is a car that’s best only when driven at its limit.
For infotainment, everything is new for this year, and the hybrid touch-screen and rotary dial setup works considerably better than the system it replaces. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard equipment, and the learning curve isn’t particularly steep at all. Audio quality out of the Harman/Kardon sound system is moderately good, but doesn’t pack as much punch as its German peers. As an overall package, BMW’s iDrive and Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment systems offer more polish and better (optional) audio quality.
As a whole, the 2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio approaches the European sports sedan in a bit of a different way. It could easily be argued that the Alfa is the most sublime when driven at its maximum capability, but when taking it easy, it tends to struggle a bit. Gaping body panel gaps and overall fit and finish aren’t hot spots, and as a result, the competition feels a bit more premium. However, if one was to present these findings to the Italians, their response will be: “Who cares? Why is this a problem? Get out of here and go drive the car how it is meant to be driven”. We’ll gladly oblige.