Alfa Romeo has hit the reset button on its range with the medium Giulia sedan. After an extended period of lukewarm cars that often fell short of the brand’s passionate heritage the new Alfa Romeo is back and aiming itself directly at German competitors.
In the case of the Giulia that means (at long last) a new rear-wheel drive chassis and more exciting still a proper performance option, with the Giulia Quadrifoglio sporting very real credentials against icons like the BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C 63 S.
Vehicle Style: High-performance prestige medium sedan
Price: $143,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 375kW/600Nm 2.9 litre 6cyl turbo petrol | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.2 l/100km | Tested: 13.2 l/100km
It’s been a long time since Alfa Romeo had a medium sedan in its range, the last one - the 159, penned by Giugiaro - graced Australian new car showrooms in 2012, but that car wasn’t quite a ‘real’ Alfa, relying heavily on the Fiat Group’s alliance with General Motors at that time and lacking a degree of Alfa-ness that purists demanded.
The Giulia is a very different car. From its all-new rear wheel drive ‘Giorgio’ platform, through to the twin-turbo V6 developed exclusively for the Giulia Quadrifoglio by Ferrari. Pedigrees don’t come much more prestigious than that.
Overseas models can be ordered with a good old-fashioned manual transmission or all wheel drive, but for Australia the Giulia range is simpler, with rear wheel drive and an eight-speed auto the only drivetrain combo.
The flagship Quadrifoglio is, to be blunt, insane. The noise is utterly brutal, and the performance with 375kW and 600Nm is just as ferocious, allowing 0-100 km/h sprints in a claimed 3.9 seconds.
As for style, the Giulia couldn’t be more Italian. Perfectly tailored trim in all the right places with a subtle musculature that denotes prestige and performance, with a form that follows function with an array of vents, louvres, and active aerodynamics that signal an uncompromising approach to performance.
- Standard Equipment: Leather and Alcantara seat trim, front sports seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition (push-button start), automatic lights and wipers, carbon fibre interior trim, adaptive cruise control, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.8-inch colour display, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Aux input 2xUSB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite navigation, 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio
- Options Fitted: Sparco carbon fibre seats $7150, Carbon ceramic brakes $13,000, Yellow brake calipers $910, Leather/Alcantara/carbon steering wheel $650
- Cargo Volume: 480 litres fixed (no folding rear seat)
At this point it is worth mentioning that Alfa Romeo is a part of the Fiat Chrysler group, and that could present a problem. The company does good practical interiors, but not always great premium ones - take a look at the clunky touchscreen implementation of Maserati models for proof.
That’s thankfully not the case for the Giulia though, with a thoroughly modern dashboard design that integrates quality materials while also blending in the 8.8-inch display that handles infotainment functions. Afla has ditched a touchscreen, opting instead for an Audi-esque console controller that works pretty well.
The Audi influence is also evident in the instrument cluster, and were it not for the Alfa Romeo script in the tacho, and a small four-leaf clover in the speedo the very business-like gauge set would look right at home in an Audi A4.
Of course being a sports sedan means plenty of sports touches; the seats and steering wheel get a unique treatment, but for maximum effect the leather, Alcantara, and carbon fibre steering wheel and carbon-shell Sparco front seats (as fitted to this vehicle) are must-haves.
Be aware though that opting for the Sparco seats means adjustment is minimal, and manual, with the exception of electric seat height. They are impossibly gorgeous to look at though with massive expanses of satin-finished carbon on display at the sides and back, and offer proper track-spec levels of grippiness.
But it's there that the Giulia runs out of premium performance appeal.
The door trims are flat and basic. Your average Ford Mondeo offers a nicer door dressing, with narrow armrests covered in an unappealing squishy covering, no door pulls, and tiny door pockets that serve no real practical purpose.
Alfa has also missed out on small details too - a lack of foam on the back of the passenger seatbelt buckle sees it rattle against the B-pillar whenever that seat is unoccupied, and the outboard air vents move and rotate with all the tactile precision of screwing the lid on a coke bottle.
The biggest issue though, and hardly acceptable in a $50,000 vehicle let alone once costing in excess of $140,000, was the number of trim rattles. The left hand rear door of this test car rattled freely, and the dash, console, rear seat, and passenger footwell all presented passing rattles depending on the ambient temperature and road conditions.
US auto industry publication, Wards, may have just given the Giulia a top-ten design gong, but with glaring quality issues and some low-rent finishes its baffling as to why.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.9 litre 90-degree Bi-Turbo V6, 375kW @ 6500rpm - 600Nm @ 2500-5000rpm
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with paddle shift, torque-vectoring rear wheel drive
- Suspension: Double wishbone front, multilink independent rear, adaptive dampers
- Brakes: Vented discs, 360mm front/350mm rear, four-piston calipers (standard) Carbon ceramic vented discs, 390mm front/360mm rear six piston front/four-piston rear calipers (as fitted)
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering
There is good news. Very good news. Fall to your knees and weep in the streets good news, in fact.
You’ll pick it the minute you push the Giulia Quadrifoglio’s steering-wheel mounted starter button and the 2.9-litre bi-turbo V6 grunts itself awake. There’s the soul of an angry sports car trapped inside the Giulia, it rocks and snorts at idle, alerting everyone around it to the fact.
With a four-mode DNA Pro drive controller the Giulia Quadrifoglio offers a choice of Dynamic, Natural, or Advanced Efficiency modes - or for the clinically insane there a Race mode that frees up stability control, unlocks a torque overboost function and holds the exhaust valves wide-open all the time, but more on that later.
The engine, a 90-degree 2.9-litre V6 designed by Ferrari, is a monster. With 375kW of power at 6500rpm and 600Nm of torque between 2500 and 5000rpm the Alfa V6 compares favorably with the 375kW/700Nm 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 in the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S while outgunning the 331kW550Nm 3.0-litre twin turbo M3 Competition.
The experience is unlike those german sedans though - where both deliver solid torque from just off idle and have to loosen the reins on their traction systems in stages through first gear to cap unwanted wheelspin. Instead, the Quadrifoglio is simply sedate all the way through first gear to the point of almost feeling pedestrian.
Out of first and into second though and the Giulia comes alive, hyperactive in fact, as the engine unleashes its full potential and the sticky Pirelli PZero rear tyres scrabble for grip. The Quadrifoglio bites hard, turning the scenery to a warp-speed blur, and roaring through the quad exhaust tips from around 3000rpm.
And, unlike so many modern cars, its above that mid-way rev range that the Quadrifoglio enjoys spending the most time. Happy to rev freely and openly, crackling with rifle-fire enthusiasm with each energetic upshift instead of being hobbled to a life of sub 2000rpm drudgery.
All of that fury is available in Dynamic mode, driven in Natural or Advanced Efficiency the Giulia settles into a respectable citizen, but because the Quadrifoglio keeps the selected drive mode every time the car is restarted there’s no need to ever have to visit the ‘friendly’ modes if you don’t want to.
Race, as the name suggests is perfect for track time, and changes everything again - more thrust, more noise, and a suggestion from the instrument cluster that it be best enjoyed whilst manually shifting (itself a pure joy through the gorgeous column-mounted shift paddles).
Stability control takes a back seat to testicular fortitude - exactly the way a high-performance car should - allowing on-throttle adjustability, and a very real chance that if you’re too enthusiastic the Giulia will issue you with a sweaty-palmed reprimand, though not before communicating volumes about steering and lateral grip through balanced suspension and super-direct (just two turns lock-to-lock) steering.
Adjustable dampers form part of the standard equipment list, though in the car’s more sedate settings the ride comfort almost becomes floaty - a boon for inner city dawdling but not always right at highway speeds. Tighter control is just a spin of the dial away though, bringing the ride firmly under control.
Optional carbon ceramic brakes are also an interesting choice on a road car. Without any heat in the rotors the brakes need a heavy foot to reel the Giulia in, but once up to operating temperature the Quadrifoglio stops like a champion and should be able to shrug off the rigours of track use with ease.
It’s got purebred written all over it - and rightfully so - but for all of the impressive performance hardware the Giulia Quadrifoglio also manages to masquerade as a decent executive express, toned town and subtle enough to deal with city commuting, but never more than a prod of the throttle away from being massive fun.
ANCAP Rating: The Alfa Romeo Giulia has yet to tested by ANCAP
Safety Features: Standard safety equipment includes eight airbags, multi-mode electronic stability and traction control, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, tyre pressure monitoring, forward collision mitigation with autonomous emergency braking.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: Service intervals occur every 12 months or 15,000km (whichever comes first) however Alfa romeo is yet to offer a capped price servicing program and service prices may vary. Check with your local dealer for details.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Right now there’s just two cars to battle the Giulia. Lexus doesn’t build a scorching sedan anymore, Audi is between RS 4 models at the moment, and Jaguar is yet to reveal what it has up its sleeve.
But the Mercedes-AMG C 63 is a manic and wonderfully crafted package, while the BMW M3 still delivers the precision and accuracy that put the original on the map, making them both enticing targets for Alfa to aim for.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Alfa Romeo needed to get this car’s performance credentials absolutely right, which is not an easy thing to do when the underpinnings need to be shared with more prosaic models, but there’s no doubt the Giulia QV is every bit the equal of benchmark cars like the M3 or C 63.
The problem is, the Giulia Quadrifoglio might be a little too uncompromising as some of the interior details fall short in comparison to the German opposition, and the relentlessly sporting handling might not always please part-time vehicle enthusiasts.
But for Alfa Romeo fans (and there’s sure to be more of them once word spreads around) the fire-breathing Giulia is sure to reignite passion for a brand that has spent far too long delivering sub-par, ho-hum cars.
This is precisely the car Alfa needed to deliver.
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