Alfa’s second coming – Have we done this before?
Italian brand is reborn . . . again. We hit the road in the Giulia Veloce and Quadrifoglio. David Linklater reports.
It’s tempting to say that the Giulia is Alfa’s second coming: the car that finally takes it out of the doldrums and sideways down an exciting road ahead.
After all, it’s the first reardrive Alfa sedan for 30 years. It’s also on a platform that will provide the base for a bunch of future models, including next year’s Stelvio SUV.
But it might be more accurate to say the Giulia is Alfa’s umpteenth coming. How many times have we been here before? When it launched the GTV coupe and Spider in 1993 for example, they were proclaimed as the maker’s return to sporting form. But they didn’t quite fire.
Same goes for the 156 sedan in 1997 and then the 147 in 2000. And then the 159 in 2005 and the Brera in 2006.
Then Alfa Romeo went down a very mainstream track with the MiTo (2008) and Giulietta (2010) hatchbacks. Then things went very, very quiet.
Anyway, point is: it’d be a very brave person to claim that Alfa Romeo is back (insert exclamation mark if you like) with the Giulia.
But it’d also be a very honest person to say the Giulia is a fantastic new car, in a segment that’s arguably getting a bit sameagain.
We’ve just spent a day driving both new Giulia models: the $79,990 Veloce and $134,990 Quadrifoglio.
Most only have eyes for the Quadrifoglio, and that’s as it should be. Priority was given to the flagship model during development, Alfa rightly reasoning that the best way to be cool again was to beat the German establishment at its own game.
The Quadrifoglio is Alfa’s answer to theBMWM3 and Mercedes-AMG C 63 S. It boasts a 375kW/600Nm 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission that propel it to 100kmh in a staggering 3.9 seconds.
There are lightweight materials everywhere: aluminium for the front guards, doors and suspension components, and carbon fibre for the bonnet, roof, spoilers and driveshaft.
There are also gubbins galore, including an active front splitter and something called Chassis Domain Control that ensures the stability control, adaptive suspension, brake-by-wire system and torque vectoring are all working together.
And . . . who cares? The most impressive thing about the Quadrifoglio is that none of these technologies really make their presence felt when you’re pressing on.
Sure, they’re all working hard to keep you out of that hedge, but from behind the wheel this Q-car just feels like it’s dancing in tune with the rhythm of the road. You get the benefit of that new-tech, but it feels excitingly old-school.
You don’t get the bellowing exhaust of anAMG(although there is a wicked crackle) or the precise cornering feel of aBMW M-car, but the Quadrifoglio is faster than either (not to mention at least $24k cheaper) and in terms of a driver’s machine it’s every bit as rewarding.
The steering has just two turns lock-to-lock, but it doesn’t feel nervous. The electronics don’t overwhelm the chassis’ ability to remind you which end is doing the driving. It’s so, so much fun.
The qualification for all this enthusiasm is that it was a typically wet Auckland winter day for our drive and we traversed some slippery country roads. Not the ideal environment for a super-sedan – and yet it’s a measure of confidence in the car that you could still explore its considerable abilities in such conditions.
The Quadrifoglio has Alfa’s familiar DNA drive-mode selector, with a couple of extras. In the A-for-advanced efficiency mode, it can shut down three cylinders to improve economy (Combined 8.2 litres per 100km). Didn’t try that.
It also has a Race mode, which we didn’t try either in such slippery conditions. But yes, it’s screaming out for a track day. Note the $12k ceramic brake and $7k Sparco carbon-fibre racing seat options.
That day will come for us, promises Fiat Chrysler NZ. It’s in writing now (see previous sentence), so they have to.
What of the Veloce then? It’s a very different car and much a slower one . . . although not slow per se. Its 206kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo still gets it to 100kmh in 5.7 seconds (Combined economy 6.1 litres). It’s the entry-level car for NZ but a mid-range one globally, so you still get the four-pot engine in its highest state of tune, a body kit – although not the Quadrifoglio kit – and lots of luxury extras.
It’s a very accomplished and fluid car on the road, but don’t come expecting a miniQuadrofoglio. That’s not the idea of the Veloce, which is as much about luxury as sporting flavour.
That highlights the main reservation about Giulia: the interior is neat and nicely laidout, but it’s a little downbeat in the Veloce, which misses out on a lot of of the sporty detailing of the Quadrifoglio. Although some biscuit-coloured leather in one example we drove did lift the ambience.
Both cars have a suite of active safety systems, including Forward Collision Warning, autonomous braking (with pedestrian recognition), active cruise control, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.
So Giulia is bang up to date, but don’t expect pseudoautomated technology like steering assistance. Alfa Romeo isn’t ready for that yet.
In the red corner... oh, never mind. Cheaper, less frantic Veloce (left) still looks the part next to super-fast Quadrifoglio.