ALFA ROMANCE AND GODZILLA – THE SEQUEL
WHEN YOU ASK people to name premium mid-size sedans you get the usual Mercedes, BMW or Audi, with some throwing in Jaguar or Lexus and a few even spouting Volvo.
But very, very few would have the words Alfa and Romeo sitting on the tip of their tongue. However, that could well change.
The first rear-wheel drive Alfa to emerge in 25 years, lauded with the Giulia badge, re-introduced after four decades, shows how serious Alfa Romeo is. They claim this all-new Giorgio designed Italian engineered and produced sedan is the renaissance of the 107-year old brand.
When Alfas were the rage in the 60s and 70s the sporty four-door Giulia sedan, launched in 1962, was one of its biggest sellers. A Giulia even won the inaugural Sandown Six-Hour touring car race in 1964.
In more recent times Alfa Romeo has coughed up nothing more than mundane offerings.
However the new Giulia is anything but mundane; what’s more it is a genuine challenger to its more expensive German rivals the Mercedes C200 and BMW 320i.
It is achingly gorgeous from every angle and one of those very few cars that you can’t help constantly looking at, like the Aston Martin DB11 I drove last year.
And there is plenty of substance to back up its alluring style.
For starters, in the base model seen here
there’s a snappy all-aluminium, four-cylinder, direct injected, twin-scroll turbocharged 2.0-litre providing 147 kW and 330Nm, with spades of mid-range torque and like Alfas of old it produces a pleasingly raspy exhaust note.
It’s bolted to a sweet shifting eight-speed ZF auto gearbox with enough cogs to keep it in the meat of the torque band and ready for action. It can be driven manually with the gear lever or by (one of my very few gripes), ridiculously oversized shift paddles. They get in the way when you try to use the indicator or wipers and they don’t move when you turn the wheel.
After getting set up – adjusting steering, seat, mirrors, pairing phone and music – I pushed the starter button on the leather-wrapped, steering wheel, listened to the engine burble for a moment, and eased out of the carpark.
The thing that got me the first time I turned into a corner was how sensitive and direct the Giulia’s steering is. Its seamlessness combined with a wonderfully balanced chassis means the Giulia is best driven by fingertips with gentle inputs, wheter you are firing through sweepers or flinging it through switchbacks. It hugs apexes tighter than a mum hugs a newborn, with excellent body control. If you mash the throttle on exit the tail dances in a very controllable way. The brakes are super strong but also senstitive and grab quickly like the steering, requiring a little getting used to. These qualities remind me of an open wheel race car, not a sedan, but the Giulia is better for them. Playing a brilliant supporting role are Pirelli’s finest P Zero directional hoops that provide phenominal grip.
Twiddling the DNA drive-mode selector lets you pick one of the pre-set modes or you can create your own. Being a red Alfa it seemed appropriate to have it in ‘Dynamic’ and savour its 50/50 weight balance and to hell with the ride quality. But instead of a rock-hard spine-bashing result it was firm but pliant, coping effortlessly with our crap roads.
Then I gave ‘Comfort’ a go and was delighted that the Giulia kept its livelier throttle and gearshift responses and beefier steering, yet softened the ride appreciably. Brilliant.
Like the outside, the classy interior boasts
ABOVE Brakes include autonomous emergency actuation.RIGHT Elegant Italians exhibit a timeless eraspanning beauty.