- Masterclass in handling
- Visually pleasing
- It's an Alfa Romeo
- Wheel arch scrub
- It's an Alfa Romeo
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is a chance for the Italian manufacturer to return to former glory, but can the 503bhp Quadrifoglio model stand up to the Germans and is it the baby Ferrari we have all been hoping for?
Alfa Romeos get a lot of flak. Mainly for reliability, admittedly, but also because some of their most recent cars have been so utterly dull to drive they could induce some sort of permanent sleep.
Even so, the Italian badge means so much to so many petrolheads and the pain of recent creations – ignoring the utterly brilliant 4C and 4C Spider – has done little to diminish the love. If anything, a bit of mean has kept us suitably keen.
So when the Giulia Quadrifoglio drove into view, complete with more than 500bhp and a cute Italian body, we had to mentally prepare ourselves for the worst. The heart can only take so much pain and on paper it sounded perfect.
Was this another screw-up, we asked ourselves, or has Alfa returned to the glory days? We stepped into the Giulia Quadrifoglio to find out – and brought a four-leaf clover with us for luck.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio review: What is it?
The Giulia is the Italian answer to executive saloons, a market where the Germans dominate. It has four doors, reasonable boot space, a comfortable interior and a choice of petrol and diesel engines – nothing wrong here.
When the four-leaf clover badge is present, the Giulia becomes a 503bhp Quadrifoglio super saloon. A BMW M, Mercedes-AMG, Jaguar R / S and Audi S rival built upon a rear-wheel drive platform predominantly made of aluminium.
Expensive carbon fibre has been used for the bonnet, roof, front splitter, rear spoiler and a few other bits to keep the weight down, resulting in a kerb weight of 1,524kg. The unladen weight of the M4 is 1,612kg with the automatic gearbox, just to put that into context.
You could say the looks are more akin to that of its German rivals, but aerodynamics, practicality and various other factors mean the freedom of design is limited. In any case, we think it has enough Italian elegance and flair to make it stand out.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio review: What about the engine?
At the heart of this particular Italian operation is a rather special engine. Alfa plays down the Ferrari comparison, but the all-aluminium 2.9-litre Bi-Turbo V6 shares a lot of DNA with the 3.9-litre V8 in the California T and comes from the same F154 engine family.
The horsepower is noticeably higher than that of the M4 GTS and the 440lb/ft (600Nm) of torque from 2,500rpm means turbo lag is almost non-existent. If anything, it is the eight-speed ZF automatic (no six-speed manual is available in the UK) that slows down proceedings if you ignore the paddles.
When we say slow down, this is still a monumentally fast car. Blink and you are facing jail time fast, especially when you start using the more aggressive driving modes.
0-62mph takes 3.9 seconds and the top speed is a 9mph shy of 200mph – there is no electrical killjoy to limit the top-end. Not only that, Alfa claims it lapped the Nurburgring 12 seconds faster than the M4. In racing terms, that is a gap measured in years.
Even better, though, is how exciting the car is at all speeds. The quad-exit exhaust system makes the M3, M4 and C63 AMG sound dull, with only Jaguar really challenging in this area. It produces a harsh, purposeful bark that sounds more supercar than sports car.
As for the steering, the carbon fibre and alcantara steering wheel provides a comfortable, stylish gateway to steering nirvana. It's delicate, precise, communicative and incredibly light – a million miles from the muted feel of the M4.
The chassis balance is another marvel that allows you to chuck it around and feel like you are in control. In Race mode the potential to kill yourself is high as that engine is brutal, but the level of fear it creates is compensated with a sense that it can be tamed – no matter your skill level.
If anything, you need a track to really see what it can do. Imagine Usain Bolt running the 100 metres in dungarees – that is how much the safety systems kick in to keep you facing the right way.
Around town and it is civilised enough to soak up most bumps without giving you back pain. The firmer settings are nowhere near that of the 4C and 4C Spider, in case you were wondering. The Quadrifoglio can actually do the mundane town drive very well.
It can be hard to convey the sense of excitement the Giulia creates without ending up using various hyperbolic statements and waving your hands around a lot. But for good reason because nothing else in the super saloon arena gets close to being as engaging.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio review: Any bad stuff?
Around town, a combination of the sensitve accelerator pedal, sticky parking brake and strong creep speed can make the odd manoeuvre more intimidating than it needs to be and the banging of the passenger seatbelt into the carbon fibre Sparco seats is a very Italian quirk.
Then there is the scrubbing of the wheels within the arches at full lock, which can't be great for the tyres, and the off-centre numberplate may be upsetting for those who crave symmetry. Some may also wish it was a bit less German-looking.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio review: What about the interior?
The fear things would all unravel in the interior was strong, but Alfa has surpassed our expectations. There is more than a whiff of Ferrari in there, with the elegant coloured stitching and carbon fibre giving it an unexpected level of class and purpose.
Even the build quality is as good as the Germans and we would go as far as saying it is more aesthetically pleasing than the M3, maybe even the C 63. The steering wheel, for example, with its shiny red start button and carbon fibre inserts, looks as good as it feels in the hand.
What the cabin feels like is a huge step forward for Alfa build quality. But it also manages to make the car feel more special than its rivals – an indication of how potent the car will be before it even moves.
The infotainment system is great, too, although it is somewhat behind that of BMW in terms of functionality. But the user-interface is intuitive and by no means looks dated, as some in-car systems do. It can also do a split-view, which is useful.
Head room and leg room is generous, something made possible by having the longest wheelbase in its class. Even with a six-footer in the front, those in the back will be comfortable.
Unless they play basketball, of course, or are sitting in the middle seat, which loses a lot of leg room to the bits needed to make the car rear-wheel drive.
Boot space is 480 litres, the same as the 3 Series BMW and C-Class Mercedes, so you can do a fairly big shopping trip and the wide loading area makes it relatively easy to bung bulky items in.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio review: What about Race mode?
The race mode turns an already lively car into a baby Ferrari. Every sensation is heightened, made more immediate. It goes from a car capable of scything through corners to one capable of going through them with the precision of a ballet dancer. Or very sideways like an idiot.
A combination of the fact the Giulia is the lightest in its class and has such delicate steering make it so controllable and really emphasise the sheer brute force of that marvellous engine.
If you have ever wondered how hard electric safety systems work to keep you alive, drive the Quadrifoglio because it really makes it clear just how much the laws of physics try to ruin your day.
On the subject of safety, the Giulia is one the safest cars money can buy if the Euro NCAP test is anything to go by, scoring an impressive 98 per cent for an adult occupant and 81 per cent for a child occupant.
As standard, all Giulias come with an over-zealous forward collision warning (least you know it's working), lane-departure warning and autonomous emergency braking for when you fail to brake in time. Blind spot warning, cross-traffic alert and a reversing camera are optional goodies.
Obviously a 503bhp saloon with all power sent to the rear wheels is going to be less safe than the slower diesel and petrol offerings, but at least the brakes are very effective and the pedal avoids being snappy. You do need to press hard to stop completely, mind, making a smooth stop needlessly difficult.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio review: Fuel economy?
One of the driving modes of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio deactivates three cylinders of the car entirely, reducing the effectiveness of the engine and therefore making it less thirsty but also dramatically slower.
Alfa claims 34.4mpg. We will update with our average at the end of the loan period to see how it does in real-world driving situations. As for CO2, the rating is 189g/km so it is cleaner and more fuel efficient (in theory) than the M3 and M4 but only by a couple of miles per gallon.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio review: Value for money?
Starting from £61,400, the Giulia Quadrifoglio is rather serious money. Yet if you start comparing specs, a different picture emerges. It has considerably more horsepower than the M3 so it justifies the £3,000 price difference adequately.
The AMG C 63, meanwhile, has more torque (V8 power for the win), but it has noticeably fewer ponies under the hood in standard trim (£62,180) and about the same when slapped with the S badge (£68,930).
For a Ferrari-engined super-saloon with relatively few faults, the Giulia Quadrifoglio is actually a bargain. Plus it is backed up by a three-year warranty, the first two years of which offer unlimited mileage and the last of which is capped at 100,000 miles. After that, you are on your own.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio review: Should I buy one, then?
There are a few quirks to contend with, plus the reliability is unproven and we only have estimates to go on when it comes to depreciation, but the list of negatives is surprisingly short for an Alfa. Could it be you get all the character without the downsides? We want to avoid jinxing it as best we can.
Honestly though, we can see this car holding value rather well because it is infintely cooler than any of the Germans and just so deliciously brilliant. A family saloon with the spirit of a Ferrari for a fraction of the price and infinitely more practicality – that is £61,000 very well spent.
The thing is, most of you will read this review and still buy the BMW M3 or M4. Who can blame you – they are tried and tested machines of significant ability. So is the old class-leading, V8-toting Mercedes-AMG C 63.
But if you pick anything other than the Giulia Quadrifoglio, you never really wanted the best sporty saloon money can buy becase, as luck would have it, this is it.
- 2.9-litre Bi-Turbo V6 petrol
- 503bhp (510PS)
- 443lb/ft (600Nm)
- 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds (top speed 191mph)
- 189g/km of CO2
- 34.4mpg (combined)
- From £61,300