Alfa rises again with Giulia Quadrifoglio
The incredible rise of the SUV has led to many things, one of which is the situation where you can actually choose between a performance car and a performance SUV based on the same platform, with the same engines.
This is the situation Alfa Romeo fans will be facing in New Zealand very shortly with the arrival of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio SUV.
The Stelvio, you will remember, sits on the same platform as the Giulia sedan and also shares its engines across the range. That means that the Quadrifoglio packs the same mighty 375kW/600Nm twin-turbo V6 engine as the Giulia Quadrifoglio. But with the added wrinkle ofAWDin the SUV version.
If you were a melodramatic sort, it would be possible to see this choice as some kind of epic allegory – a mythical battle for the soul of the motorist. High-riding practicality mixed with searing performance and the compelling traction of AWD, versus sleek and sexy traditional proportions blended with the visceral purity ofRWDhandling, less weight and the resultant big skids that can ensue.
Or it could just be a toss up between extra luggage space and the fact that the Giulia just looks so damn sexy. Which is more likely to be the case, really.
Whichever way you want to see it, the Stelvio is not far away, but the Giulia is here now. So just how high has the Giulia Quadrifoglio set the bar for the forthcoming performance version of the Stelvio? Pretty damn high. At $134,990 the Quadrifoglio ain’t cheap for an Alfa, but it is a bargain in comparison with the cars it is directly aimed at – mainly the $162,550BMWM3, the $166,790 Mercedes-AMG C 63S and the $149,900 Audi RS4. But does the Quadrifoglio have what it takes to actually measure up to such hallowed names? Oh yeah, it does.
For a start, it looks sensational. It is utterly and distinctively an Alfa and completely gorgeous. Its taut, aggressive and sexy lines are wonderfully evocative of Alfas of old and yet also very modern.
People stop and stare. They give you the thumbs up. They smile. You don’t get that in an M3.
On the inside it is almost as striking. The beautifully designed interior is of a massively high quality and nothing feels like it is going to fall off. While this may seem like an unfairly low bar to set in terms of quality, honestly ‘‘it doesn’t feel like it is going to fall off’’ isn’t something you have really been able to say when you touch a switch, stalk or lid an Alfa over the last few decades.
It’s not all perfect, however, as the infotainment system lets down the experience badly by being thoroughly awful to use. It is frustratingly slow, clunky and utterly unintuitive and it also adds low-tech insult to poor ergonomic injury by not having a touchscreen and no phone mirroring.
But with a car like the Giulia Quadrifoglio, it is what is under the bonnet and how it goes around a corner that really count, and it is an absolute beast here.
The twin-turbo V6 is fantastically powerful and flexible, and is also capable of a surprising degree of civilised behaviour as well. The idle is brilliantly lumpy and grumpy, yet the engine happily tootles around at low revs before becoming an insanely belligerent roaring thing when provoked by a stab on the throttle.
The Quadrifoglio also possesses what is possibly one of the best automatic transmissions available today, particularly in a performance car, with super fast, remarkably refined shifts.
Even in full Race mode (that disables the traction and stability controls entirely, so beware) the ride is more than acceptable, while the handling is just so damn good it is addictive.
Unfortunately it is this very mode that also leads to one of my biggest gripes with the Quadrifoglio (other than that annoyingly dumb infotainment system). When in either of the other two modes (Normal and Dynamic) you only get full exhaust noise when you give it full throttle, meaning that, while you get that fantastically angry roar anywhere you nail the throttle, you miss out on the beautifully sonorous grumble at idle and threatening bellow on lesser throttle inputs unless you are in Race mode.
Which, as you would have read earlier, means you don’t have any traction or stability control. While this lack of electronic nannies is great fun in its place, that place really isn’t in everyday motoring, particularly in the wet.
So, yeah, I’m complaining about a slightly c . . . infotainment system (that actually sounds great) and the fact that you can’t get the full exhaust noise in the sensible modes.
That’s right, the Giulia Quadrifoglio really is so good that that is literally all that bothers me about it.
Giulia leading Alfa Romeo revival – and taking it to the German competition.