ALFA ROMEO GIULIA QUADRIFOGLIO
The greatest of the Giulias has all the Alfa armaments it needs to make any petrolhead feel like a Roman ruler in the sports saloon arena.
AAM I driving a flashy Ferrari? Random Italian children at the autostrada Autogrill are excited to see the car. Bolognese boyracers in assorted Fiats and Seats slow down suddenly or speed up enthusiastically to check out the car. Curious old men seated outside trattorias turn their heads to gawk at the car.
I’m not driving a flashy Ferrari. I’m driving an Alfa Romeo saloon with a “Ferrari-inspired” motor (to quote from the press release).
The inspiration in question has manifested in the form of a twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6, a mechanical masterpiece that generates 510bhp and 600Nm, all sent to the rear axle of the Giulia Quadrifoglio (“Cloverleaf” in Italian).
With a power-to-weight ratio of over 300bhp per tonne, the GQ is one chop-chop cloverleaf, hitting 100km/h from a standstill in 3.9 seconds and cracking the 300km/h mark. I don’t know how many seconds it takes to dash from 100km/h to 200km/h, but I know it takes my breath away.
It’s way faster than the last rapid Alfa I drove, the 4C junior supercar. It’s almost as fast as the Ferrari blast from the past (I never drove) with a 2.9-litre engine and twin IHI turbos, just like the GQ – the F40.
The GQ is a quick decelerator, too – 100km/h to a stop in 32 metres, according to Alfa Romeo.
Thankfully, it also decelerates quickly enough on the autostrada to avoid rear-ending a pesky Fiat 500 that does an Indy 500 on me by cutting into the fast lane taken by the frigging fast Alfa.
The hard braking is less heart-stopping than expected, with only the tick-tocking of the automatically activated hazard lights to indicate the seriousness of the slowdown.
The brake pedal feels well-modulated underfoot, the sizeable disc brakes bite nicely and the whole structure remains steady, with nothing leaning like the Tower of Pisa. But the GQ is no Venice gondola ride for the road tripper. There’s noticeable noise
from the low-profile Pirelli rubber, plus wind turbulence from the side mirrors, front pillars and rear windows that starts at around 100km/h, becoming more turbulent with every 20km/h increment.
Thank goodness there’s a rousing Italian opera housed in the engine room. The GQ V6 is a responsive device, reacting promptly to throttle inputs and revving immediately from grumbling-in-background to rumbling-in-foreground.
The V6 is expressive, too, clearly conveying its intent to the driver at every point of the excellent performance. The soundtrack produced by the six cylinders and four exhaust pipes is more forceful than tuneful, so it’s closer to Maserati than Pavarotti, but there’s operatic drama to be enjoyed at the far end of the “Giri x 1000” tachometer.
The red gradation starts at 6600rpm, but the needle sweeps beyond that and only calls it a day at about 7300rpm where the slick rev limiter resides.
Transferring the power to the rear wheels (the GQ’s 19-inch rims look best to me with the “five-leaf clover” design) is an 8-speed automatic gearbox.
It shifts less sweetly than today’s BMW 8-speeder and Benz 9-speeder when tooling around town, but picks up the pace in sync with the driver’s performance demands and accelerator pedal angle.
For DIY shifting, there’s a pair of gigantic, metallic paddles (left one to downshift, right one to upshift) and a plasticky gearlever (forwards to downshift, backwards to upshift).
Tapping those paddles is more satisfying than pushing/ pulling the lever, but they sometimes get in the way when I’m reaching for the stalks. Need to drop a gear here and now? Done! Want to kick-down two or three gears at one go? Go!
The automatic goes ballistic in Race mode which is, well, the raciest option offered by the GQ’s behaviour modifier called Alfa DNA Pro. The system, operated by a knob on the centre console beside the driver, modifies the behaviour of the engine, transmission, suspension, steering, brakes and torquevectoring rear differential. The system also changes the instrument display to match the mode. For instance, Race
mode shows video game-ish graphics including a lateral-g monitor, while Natural shows an eco-coded colour picture of our planet and an unreadable fuel economy graph.
Selecting Race mode also brings up an in-dash message, “Best RACE experience with shifter in manual”. If you follow the recommendation, there’ll be a dramatic “Shift” prompter to remind you to upshift.
Atop the selector is a button with a damper symbol, which tweaks the damping force separately (to Soft or Mid) and hence slips an adjustable velvet glove on the iron fist of the racy suspension. The system has three more modes in addition to Race – Dynamic, Natural, Advanced Efficiency (Alfa’s “DNA”, in other words). The “A” is a petrolsaving mode able to deactivate one bank of cylinders. My favourite mode in the GQ is Dynamic. It gives the car an eagerness to get a move on, without being impetuous. And it accentuates the already
obvious sportiness of the car, without making the chassis go crazy or turning the autobox into a power-crazed autocrat.
Incidentally, Dynamic mode doesn’t disable the traction control, stability control, Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Brake. Race mode disables all these by default, probably because the real racing driver prefers to scurry away unaided.
Frankly, the Race mode is a bit much for me, especially when I’m connecting the big dots on the GPS map of Italy between Milan, Maranello and Florence – a 1300km route in my case, including major detours.
The well-balanced Natural mode works best for longdistance driving, below and occasionally above the posted speed limits, yet it remains ready to provide maximum momentum at a moment’s notice.
Activating the GQ’s Race mode is like inviting the Ferrari F1 drivers into my Alfa test car – Sebastian Vettel telling me to drive flat out no matter what, Kimi Raikkonen leaving me alone because I know what I’m doing, and Antonio Giovinazzi speaking with his hands like a typical Italian.
Speaking of hands, the GQ’s steering wheel is an Alfa work of art. It’s a wonderfully artistic combination of black leather, blacker Alcantara, grey carbon fibre inserts and red stitches, with neatly integrated switches which include a red ignition button.
The material I grasp depends on where my hands hold the wheel – mostly leather at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions, mostly fabric at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions, mostly carbon at the 8 and 4 o’clock positions. My hands feel so happy. And they stay happy while twirling the thing. Because the steering is perfectly weighted, properly calibrated and appropriately animated (never agitated) in every scenario – parking, pottering, cruising, cornering, rushing.
The steering is also accurate, enabling me to point the prow and plant the tenacious front tyres precisely where I want them.
This Alfa handles exactly like how it looks – steadfast and purposeful. With a firm resolve it grips the tarmac, zips along and rips through corners. The entirety of the driving machine synchronises with the driver as it powers ahead and roars away.
It’s time for the Alfa to take a break and this failed Romeo to enjoy a caffe mocha, so let me evaluate the interior aspects of the car.
The front seats are superbly supportive, the rear seats are spacious for two adults and the 480-litre boot is roomy. The rear air-con vents are the same as those at the sides of the dashboard and have a similarly effective throughput.
Everything in the cabin – controls, colours, materials, lids, bits and pieces – works well and feels well-made, but the plastics are more FiatChrysler than Ferrari-Maserati.
Not impressive either are the doorbins (too small), front seatback nets (not very useful), sat-nav input (sluggish) and the trip computer’s range calculator (uncertain).
I am certain, in conclusion, that the Giulia Quadrifoglio has all the Alfa armaments it needs to make any petrolhead feel like a Roman ruler in the sports saloon arena. Gladiator Maximus, I salute you!
THE SOUNDTRACK PRODUCED BY THE SIX CYLINDERS AND FOUR EXHAUST PIPES IS CLOSER TO MASERATI THAN PAVAROTTI.
This cockpit is even more fantastic with the optional Sparco carbon-shell front seats. This gorgeous Italian supermodel is dripping with carbon fibre – bonnet, roof, front splitter, rear spoiler, side skirts and even the brakes (carbonceramic option).
The GQ’s virile V6 is stronger than a triple shot of espresso early in the morning and can gulp high-octane fuel like a coffee junkie.