ALFA ROMEO IS like a toddler’s drawings. They’re messy, imperfect, and woefully terrible in almost every sense; yet we unconditionally cherish them and stick them on the fridge door or the office wall for all to admire. We love them, and show them off, despite their many faults.
And naturally, when they try their hardest and come up with something that’s genuinely good, we swell with pride for them. And they have. It’s a masterpiece, and it’s called the Giulia Quadrifoglio.
It marks the beginning of a new chapter for Alfa Romeo, a chapter which promises to see them finally grow up and start producing cars that are actually good, not just loveable. It will see them finally break out of their own little world and commence a battle with the automotive giants of Germany in an earnest attempt to beat them at their own game. And where better to start than at the performance sedan front?
This long-awaited turning over of a new leaf was initially supposed to have materialised over six years ago, but the CEO of Fiat Group, Sergio Marchionne, pulled the pin on the premature plans when he came to grips with just what a tall task it was going to be. This ultra-competitive segment had been the German preserve for decades, and for little Alfa to make any significant inroads, their first-time venture would need to closely mirror the polished competence of its rivals.
So in 2013, Marchionne tried again. He marshalled together his own exclusive team of top engineers from the wider FG, including two ex-Ferrari staff, and showed them the Mercedes-AMG C63 S, BMW M3, and Audi RS4. He told them to go and do likewise.
So they did. Or did they? Playing on the Germans’ natural obsession with numbers, formulas, and line graphs on torque curves, Alfa’s skunkworks knew that nothing would make them quiver in their black leather boots more effectively than a barrage of figures which would instantly and unequivocally rocket the Giulia Quadrifoglio to the top of the class.
For this, it would need to make around 375 kW. It does. It would need to do 0-100 km/h in under 4 seconds. It does. It would need to weigh a maximum of 1,750 kg. It… doesn’t. It weighs under 1,600 kg. And in a further malicious show of stance, it laps Germany’s own Nürburgring circuit even faster than the locals at 7 minutes, 39 seconds. The gauntlet has, yes, been thrown down, but not before Alfa has gratuitously slapped the Germans in the face with it.
So while the Quadrifoglio betters the figures its competitors can show for themselves, Marchionne was also keen to ensure that it remains intrinsically Italian and continues to reflect the sparkling character connoted by its moniker. It was to do what the others were doing, but do it differently. And more ‘Alfa-ly’.
And it starts on the inside. The Giulia Quadrifoglio was first and foremost to be all about the driver, so a layout, feel, and position of controls which heightens emotive involvement was crucial. Granted, buttons and dials will no doubt fall off before those of an Audi would, but it the meantime, it’s surprisingly eye-pleasing and intelligible.
The Giulia was also to be easy to drive, which admittedly is not remotely a previous Alfa hallmark. The thinking was that it’s a bit hard to form an attachment to a car which repeatedly tries to kill you. I wonder why they didn’t think of that earlier.
The simple, yet sinister exterior styling is also classically, unmistakeably Alfa, as is the name. They could have followed their rivals’ nomenclature and called it after a postal code or a hospital ward, but they didn’t. ‘Giulia’ is a nostalgic nod to its 1960s forebear, while the colourful, if utterly unspellable ‘Quadrifoglio’ appendage means ‘four-leafed clover’. Which might sound a bit like Marchionne mixed it up with his favourite office pot plant, but Alfa claims that it pays homage to Ugo Sivocci, their former racing driver in the ‘20s. Sivocci allegedly painted a four-leaf clover symbol on his Targa Florio race car in the belief that it would guarantee victory. It did, so now all of Alfa’s future performance variants will wear this supposedly lucky charm.
Perhaps it’s more than just superstition, however, as Sivocci was later killed in an accident at Alfa’s track in Balocco. The car he was driving did not have the clover symbol on it.
Strange then that Alfa also offers more mainstream models without the botanical talisman on their flanks. The message from all this seems to be: if you prefer a 2.0-litre turbo petrol or a 2.2-litre turbo diesel over the 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6, you will have a crash and be killed.
In truth, you’re insane. It’s not all that clear from the name, but motorsport has infiltrated every aspect of the Quadrifoglio’s development. The 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 engine is Ferrari-derived. There’s an active carbon-fibre splitter on the front skirt for producing downforce and improving handling at high speeds. There’s a ‘Race’ drive mode, just like the one in Alfa’s hard-core speedster, the 4C. And also similar to the 4C, it weighs virtually nothing, thanks to the extensive use of ultra-light, high-strength components, including a carbon-fibre driveshaft, bonnet, roof, and more. All this not only makes it Alfa's most powerful production car ever, but nimble and athletic dynamics is assured by a best-in-class power-to-weight ratio and a near-perfectly balanced 50/50 weight distribution.
What it is, in essence, is an Italian supercar with four doors and a boot. Yes, it’s probably not as precise an instrument as the Germans are, and it probably won’t last as long, but its ubiquitous devotion to performance and personality leaves the others soundly wanting. And for the little bambino of the automotive industry to have developed unprecedented figures, fun, flair, and feel, and all in less than 36 months, the Giulia Quadrifoglio is a phenomenal effort. With phenomenal results. Heads might buy the C63, M3, or RS4. Heads and hearts will buy this.
(Picture credit: netcarshow.com)