I recently had the chance to drive a new Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, which absolutely dominates its primary rival, the BMW M3, if your sole consideration for a car’s excellence is the number of letters in its name. It also wins on number of syllables. In fact, “Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio” may have more syllables than anything in any language in human history, unless of course you’re German, in which case it’s probably no harder to say than your word for “stapler.”
I’m making fun of the car’s name because it’s just about the only thing I can find to make fun of.
Let me back up. I drove the Giulia Quadrifoglio this weekend courtesy of a viewer named Claudia, who’s located near Washington, D.C. and recently started a YouTube channel to document her experiences with the car. The total sticker price on Claudia’s Giulia came to $79,500 before taxes and fees. This is an enormous amount of money for an Alfa Romeo.
Actually, it’s an enormous amount of money for any car. But it’s an especially enormous amount of money for an Alfa Romeo, because they don’t exactly have a proven track record here in the United States. One reason is that Alfa Romeo abandoned our market nearly 25 years ago because they couldn’t meet changing regulations, and they’ve only been back twice since then — with low-production sports cars both times. Now they want to compete with BMW and Mercedes. But it’s also a lot of money for an Alfa Romeo because Alfa has a dubious reputation for dependability, uncertain quality and a spotty dealer network. With all that in mind, you’re supposed to lay down eighty grand for this thing?
Interestingly, the Giulia Quadrifoglio actually seems like a pretty good deal on paper. It’s the 505-horsepower flagship model of the Giulia lineup, — and it has more power than the base-level BMW M3 (425 hp) and Mercedes C63 AMG (469 hp). It also does zero to 60 in 3.8 seconds, it’ll hit 191 miles per hour, and it’s the fastest sedan with a trunk — ever — around the Nurburgring.
But still. It’s an Alfa.
So I went into this whole thing with my eyes wide open to the fact that I would probably consider the Giulia Quadrifoglio to be a weird, quirky, strange Italian car with weird, quirky, strange Italian-car quirks, and I would likely find it to be roughly 75 percent as good as the BMW M3 — an excellent effort from Alfa Romeo, no doubt, but not on the same level as the Germans; a car purchased by people who want something different from the masses who always buy the same boring ol’ M3s and C63 AMGs.
I started to realize I was wrong when I showed up to film a video with the car and I asked the owner to show me the quirks. There weren’t any, I was told. This is what always happens: The owner says there aren’t any quirks, I find dozens of quirks, then the owner laughs and says “Oh yeah, I forgot about those!” Well, not this time. It turns out the Giulia’s interior is well-designed and logically laid out. I kept looking for a stupid button or an idiotic control, as I expected from an Italian car, and it just wasn’t there.
I also noticed the Giulia wasn’t really cutting corners on interior quality, either. The cabin was filled with stitched leather, alcantara and carbon fiber. Virtually all the buttons felt high-quality, and all the switches felt sturdy and well-made. In fact, the entire cabin seemed — dare I say — exactly what I’d expect to encounter in an $80,000 car.
In other words: I was sitting in an Italian car… with decent build quality… and logical controls. This is the Chicago Cubs World Series victory of the automotive world.
So then I took the Giulia out on the road, where I was still expecting this car to give up something to the BMW M3, because how could it possibly compete with the Germans — who have been building cars like this since I was eating paste — considering most of Alfa’s recent efforts have been rebadged versions of front-wheel-drive FIAT hatchbacks?
Once again, I was wrong. The Giulia drives amazingly.
I noticed three especially interesting things about the Giulia’s driving experience. One is, quite simply, the performance. Acceleration is massive, especially from a stop but even when you’re already going 40 miles per hour and you drop the throttle. More impressive is the handling; the Giulia has virtually no body roll, which is nice, and it’s easy to toss around, which is also nice, but the best part is the steering — it’s sports-car precise, and it sends the Giulia in whatever direction you want it to go just as well as the steering in any modern 2-door sports car I’ve recently driven.
The second thing I noticed about the Giulia was its sound. You’d think that a car going up against V8-powered rivals with a V6 — and a small V6 at that, displacing just 2.9 liters — would lack something in the sound department, but it doesn’t. It’s still glorious. It still burbles delightfully on downshifts. It still sounds like the exotic sports car Giulia owners surely know they can’t have, considering they’ve chosen a vehicle with a trunk and back seats.
But the most interesting thing I noticed about the Giulia was its adaptability. Switching the car from “Dynamic” mode to “Advanced Efficiency” mode to “RACE” mode changed its character more than in any other vehicle I’ve ever driven with changeable drive modes — to the point where I was almost surprised I was driving the same car. If you want a docile, luxurious highway cruiser, “Advanced Efficiency” will do that for you. If you want to forget you have back seats and drive something with exotic-car-rivaling performance, switch it into “RACE” mode. You’ll instantly hear more exhaust noise, and you’ll feel the tighter suspension, better handling, quicker shifts and improved throttle response. It’s amazing how effective this system really is.
In the end, I adored the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio — and not just because it’s beautiful or because it’s “different” from the traditional players in this segment. I adored it because it’s truly a fantastic car. And if you’re interested in buying a high-performance luxury sedan like the BMW M3 or Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, your shopping list is now one name longer.
Also published on Medium.