Price: $143,900 + $11,687 ORC
Engine: 2.9L V6 bi-turbo petrol
Safety: Eight airbags, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot system, tyre monitor.
Alfa Romeo is a marque steeped in history, one that’s underpinned by Italian design flair and driver engagement. Regrettably, emotional qualities for its enthusiasts suffered significantly in recent years as Alfa focused on volume-sharing platforms, trading on the name rather than what made that name great. The inference that Alfa had returned to its roots has been made seemingly with every new model launch for decades, but at last there are genuine reasons for enthusiasts to embrace Alfa’s all-new Giulia.
For starters the 2017 Giulia four-door sports sedan is designed, engineered and built in Italy. It employs an all-new rear-wheel-drive platform with perfect 50/50 weight distribution, thanks to significant weight savings from aluminium doors, bonnet and alloy suspension parts, together with composite front guards.
Giulia provides a choice of four engines – all of them turbo and all aluminium – that underpin the excellent power-to-weight ratios as well as meeting the latest Euro 6 emission standards. All engines are mated to an advanced eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifts and drive their rear wheels via a carbon-fibre drive shaft.
Fully kitted out
Impressively, there’s no stripped-out price leader in the range. From $59,895 plus on-road costs, the entry-level Giulia gets full leather trim, satellite navigation, powered driver’s seat, bi-xenon headlights and 18-inch turbine alloy wheels. It’s powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 147kW and 330Nm, the latter on tap from 1750rpm, and delivers an official fuel figure of 6.0L/100km.
The Giulia Super, from $64,195, is available with either the 147kW petrol engine or a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel, which has 132kW, 450Nm and a fuel figure of 4.2L/100km. The equipment upgrade includes premium leather for the dash, upper door and armrests, timber veneer, heated and eight-way powered front seats, active cruise control with stop/go, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic detection. Options include a dual-pane panoramic sunroof for $2200, and a Veloce pack with active suspension, 19-inch alloys and privacy glass for $3000.
Those looking for more sporting prowess will be drawn to the Giulia Veloce. Sporting a higher-performance version of the 2.0-litre petrol engine, tuned for 206kW and 400Nm, it substantially enhances the Giulia’s dynamic qualities. Acceleration times are significantly sharper, while adding just 0.1L/100km to its official fuel figure. Real-world fuel consumption will undoubtedly be a bit higher for this engaging driver’s car. The Veloce from $71,895 also comes standard with an aerodynamically styled body kit, unique 19-inch alloys and upgraded brakes, sports seats with power bolsters, alloy pedals and premium audio.
All Giulia models have a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Giulia the hero
Of course, every prestige manufacturer wants a hero model and for the new Giulia it’s our test car, the emotively badged Quadrifoglio or QV – an Alfa performance sub-brand born in 1932 when Ugo Sivocci won the Targa Florio in a car painted with his lucky charm, a green four-leaf clover in a white diamond. Aimed squarely at the top-end enthusiast, its CV includes claiming the Nurburgring lap record for a four-door production sedan. It has features such as Race mode in the selectable driveline settings for track days, Brembo high-performance six-piston front brake callipers, active front aero splitter and reams of high-strength, lightweight carbon-fibre components including roof and bonnet to build the picture of a serious sports saloon.
Engines have always been Alfa’s strong point, and while the 2.0-litre Veloce fulfils that criteria admirably, the QV’s 2.9-litre 375kW bi-turbo Ferrari-inspired V6 takes it mouth- wateringly closer to its lofty Italian cousin. Priced from $143,900, the QV won’t be on everyone’s shopping list but performance-wise and dynamically it’s up there with equivalently priced German machinery.
Edge for the enthusiasts
There is an edgy element to this car that enthusiasts will love, such as the rapid-fire paddle-actuated gear shifts, the deep throb from the dual-mode exhaust, the removal of all electronic assistance that accompanies dialling up Race mode, and even the slight engine stumble at idle reminiscent of a race-tuned camshaft. Our performance figures, recorded with two occupants and a full tank, clearly show how responsive and dynamic it is, but equally impressive is braking which measured just 19.1 metres from 80km/h. While the official fuel figure is an appealing 8.2L/100km, we were never near that, averaging 12.2L/100km.
The QV also has selectable chassis control and active suspension to manage its handling and ride quality, although the set-up always remains tightly controlled and a little unsuited to poor back roads. This can cause it to be somewhat fidgety at times and yet at speed on a typically good country road the quick steering, positive turn-in and massive cornering grip recapture the flowing rhythm and silky dynamics of its forebears.
A sharp interior
Of course anyone buying a four-door sedan will still have a modicum of practicality in mind. Up front you settle easily into heated leather seats with eight-way power adjustment, four-way lumbar adjustment, seat cushion extender and driver position memory. The cabin presentation overall is sharply styled, engaging and better finished than previous Alfas, although you do spot the odd cheap plastic fitting. Exposed carbon-fibre interior panels may be purposeful but also look right in a vehicle like this. A start button on the steering wheel and lights that turn with the steering are nice modern touches, while the sculptured steering wheel and twin instrument biennials are modern interpretations of classic 1970s styling. Premium appointments include a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound theatre and 8.8-inch multimedia screen housing the entertainment system, satellite navigation and climate control.
The QV’s rear seat is shaped for two occupants only and for adults provides acceptable head and leg room. There’s a fixed rear firewall and parcel shelf incorporating child seat anchorage points which enhances body stiffness for better tuning of the handling, but it reduces the load-carrying flexibility and convenience of a split-fold rear seat. The boot is practical, with neat square walls providing a convenient and useable amount of luggage space. It comes equipped with a tyre sealant and inflator kit in lieu of any spare wheel, in part because the 19-inch wheels are different front to rear.
Most European sports sedans have morphed into highly competent but somewhat insulated machines for well-heeled businesspeople. This new Alfa brings back the theatre and colourful interaction with the machine on which the marque was built. While the Veloce is the Giulia that most aficionados will opt for, the Quadrifoglio is the legitimate hero car Alfa desperately needed.