Here's the Italian super-saloon that's designed to beat the Germans
Alfa Romeo was once a notoriously unreliable car maker. Despite this, petrol heads still buy them, which is partly thanks to three TV presenters telling us that a true petrol head must own one. So what's all the fuss about?
We were invited by Glyn Hopkin Group to test the Giulia Quadrifoglio.
Watch our video review here:
The return of the rear wheel drive Alfa
It's been some 25 years since Alfa Romeo has made a car with rear wheel drive. Since then, those looking for some tail-happy sliding action were forced to go to the German giants for the likes of the BMW M3 and the Mercedes-AMG C63, both of which are incredibly fast and very practical. Unfortunately for them, Alfa Romeo has received a cash injection which has given them the chance to start making exciting, more driver-focused cars once again.
So what's good about the Giulia Quadrifoglio?
1. The engine
The beating heart of the Giulia is a Ferrari-designed twin-turbocharged 2.9 L V6 that produces 510 ps and gives the car a 0-60 time of just 3.9 seconds. This is marginally quicker than the German rivals, but where the Alfa really wins is that it has an unrestricted top speed of 191 MPH, which blows the M3 and the C63 out of the water as they're both limited to 155 MPH. In a game of automotive top trumps, this is important.
The meaty, Italian powertrain sounds beautiful. The start-up sound resonates a playful yet fruitful rumble inside the cabin, however when cruising along at a sensible pace it's almost silent. The Quadrifoglio is a car that can change from James Bond to Jason Bourne at the flip of a switch. Downshifting with the flappy-paddle gearbox is beautifully snappy and gives off some rather addictive exhaust pops and gargles when you flick away at the gorgeous levers.
2. The super-sexy Italian design
There's no arguing that the Giulia Quadrifoglio is one of the best looking saloons currently on the market. From its small design ques, such as the Quadrifoglio (four leaf clover) on either side of the car, to the functional bonnet and wheel arch vents that help keep the engine and brakes cool, to the carbon fibre active front splitter that moves up and down to gather down-force. The Giulia even has a carbon fibre bonnet and roof, but Alfa has subtly painted over them so that it doesn't look too over the top.
3. The way it drives
The car feels like a featherweight, this is partly down to the surprisingly light steering, which was a shock when we first drove it, but more realistically down to the fact that it's made up of aluminium and carbon fibre. The car weighs around 1500 KG which for its size and class is impressive. The Giulia is built with an all-aluminium engine, a carbon fibre prop shaft and a 50/50 weight ratio which helps to ensure a seriously fun and lightweight drive.
4. It's an Alfa
There's something special about the Giulia Quadrifoglio. The driver feels connected to the car at all times and in all driving conditions. This is further reinforced by a comfortable ride and a subtle yet sporty cabin that helps further-strengthen that driver-car relationship.
However, the Giulia Quadrifoglio does have some flaws:
1. The gearbox at low speeds
The 8-speed automatic gearbox is a joy to use whilst driving about at normal road speeds, but when it comes to driving in start-stop traffic, it car feels like it's about to stall. The engine vibrates and rattles, almost as if you can feel it trying to figure out what gear it needs to be in. An easy way around this would be to use the flappy-paddle gearbox at low speeds to operate the first and second gears manually. Despite this, once out of painful creeping traffic, the gear changes are smooth, instant and properly satisfying.
2. The wheels
The front wheels scrub and twitch when they are turning on full lock at low speeds. The noise is unnerving and quite loud inside the cabin. First time drivers will think that they've hit something (as we did) but it's just a characteristic of the tyres which takes some getting used to. That being said, the Giulia's wheels are big-sexy and unless you change to a thicker set of tyres, you'll have to accept the noise. Another bad point we found was that the wheels make quite a bit of noise on the motorway whilst cruising at speed, but let’s be honest, you're not buying this car for motorway trips.
3. Flimsy boot lid
The Giulia's boot lid is about as light as a sheet of paper, which is good when it comes to keeping the kilograms down, but not so good when it comes to closing the thing. The boot requires more force than usual to close, otherwise it just bounces back up. On the other hand, one thing we did like about the boot was that it has remote opening via the car key fob which is quite handy.
But is it enough to make the Germans surrender?
All in all the Giulia Quadrifoglio is a seriously fun saloon. Not only does it out-sprint the M3 and the AMG-C63 with its staggering top speed, it's a refreshing addition to what is a small-niche in the car market. Some might even say that it's the class-leader.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio starts at £59,804.
Many thanks for Glyn Hopkin Alfa Romeo in St Albans.