Guess what? For the first time in ages someone has come up to me and offered an unsolicited compliment about a motor I’ve had out on test. The chap who stopped me in the street had a simple message. “Beautiful” was the line, and he smiled. If Alfa Romeo exists to do anything it is to be beautiful and put a smile on someone’s face.
Mine too. It was great fun to drive, this fastest version of the new Giulia with just a little danger in the mix. This feels a hefty and powerful car, and it is. The “Quadrofoglio” is the performance version of the new Alfa Romeo Giulia, up against the BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. It’s a little less-well-mannered than they are, and they are, to be fair, passionate fiery machines themselves, belying any cold German stereotypes, but the Alfa is certainly class competitive.
It is a long time indeed that anything from Italy – and this Alfa is made there – was able to do that. Quadrifoglio, by the way, just means Cloverleaf in Italian, that being the traditional badge for a fast Alfa – their drivers used to paint a lucky four-leaf clover on their cars, and there it is still today. Heritage, eh?
Now they’re living up to their heritage too. For the first time in decades Alfa has stopped producing revised versions of front-wheel drive Fiats (not in itself a bad thing, you understand, just not quite authentic), and started to build cars again in the traditional manner of a sports saloon manufacturer, as Alfa once upon a time did – with the engine mounted lengthways rather than sideways, and with the drive coming from the rear wheels. Such a set-up is of course the one still favoured by Mercedes-Benz and BMW (though increasingly confined to their larger products nowadays), and lends a car a fine weight distribution.
In the case of the Giulia, Alfa claim a remarkable 50/50 distribution of mass between the front and back halves. This twin-turbo V6 Giulia, developed with input from fellow Fiat group engineers at Ferrari, and with some features in common with the stalemate Maserati Ghibli, is the most powerful Alfa ever, and a welcome return to some traditional values.
They’ve paid attention to the suspension too, with a classy double wishbone set-up at the front, plus lots of high-end materials such as carbon fibre for the bonnet, roof, rear spoiler and body kit, and aluminium wings and doors. That also helps keep the weight down and the performance up.
So that’s one box ticked. Another is sheer out-and-out performance. The claimed 3.9 seconds to get to 60mph is the sort of territory confined to supercars only a few years ago, still is in fact, and that speaks, or perhaps growls in this case, for itself. In real life the back wheels skid around a bit sometimes, but mostly it’s able to plant its formidable horsepower on the tarmac reasonably efficiency and with the right kind of drama, and noise. Tick. It also stops efficiently, the huge brake discs you can see though the even more gigantic alloys doing an excellent job of drama-free retardation (with added electronic assistance in an emergency).
When you’re parking, though, the brakes do need a much heavier effort on the pedal, so something to look out for in your first acquaintance with the Giulia. On the downside, the “paddle” gear shift controls either side of the steering wheel make reaching the stalks for the wipers and indicators a bit tricky. Also, the dial used to control the sat nav and other functions seems to have been lifted from some of Alfa’s German competition, and it works no better in an Alfa than it does there. Sorry to be so mundane.
Is the Giulia desirable? Is it beautiful? Here I think the box gets ticked, too, primarily because of the treatment the stylists have given to the front. Drawing upon the very best of those slightly heavy slightly macho machines from the 1950s, Alfa has re-interpreted what they call their “Trilobe” grille arrangement. Some of the honeycomb ventilation vents don’t seem to be actually functional, but I think I can forgive them this stylistic excess. The cabin is understated in restrained contrast to the exterior and follows the Rolls-Royce lead in offering drivers a pleasantly slim steering wheel.
I confess that many years ago, after I’d slogged my way through a degree, I thought that I’d like an Alfa. It is so long ago that that meant an Alfasud, a rusty but loveable small saloon from the pre-cat pre-ABS, pre-diesel, pre-ECU, pre-airbags era.
In the intervening years there have been plenty of excuses for not becoming one of the Alfisti – that appalling reputation for corrosion, general unreliability, uncaring dealers, ruinous depreciation. Now much of that has gone and Alfa are building competitive models. Now I find I cannot afford the best Alfa in decades, the Giulia Quadrofoglio. I tell you, that’s wiped the smile right off my face.
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