Alfa rises again with Gi­u­lia Quadri­foglio

Hauraki Herald - - MOTORING - DAMIEN O’CAR­ROLL

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.

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