A friend of mine asked me to be involved with a tour he wanted to run, called Fuel Faction DUE, in which he would drive around Italy from Turin to Sardinia with a few friends in a few cars – much of that trip is available to view on our playlist on youtube.
As part of that trip he was able to arrange for me to lead the tour in an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio; a 500hp, rear wheel drive Alfa Romeo saloon very much in the style of the BMW M3 and Mercedes AMG C63 and very much competing with those two cars (amongst others!). Here are my thoughts from that trip and my experiences with that car.
My first impression of the car, in stunning white paint (despite the grey weather and the rain!), was that it’s purposeful and muscular but also discrete at the same time. It definitely looks the part:
There are some lovely details on the car including the gorgeous 19″ wheels, the quad exhausts and rear diffuser, the bonnet vents, and the aggressive bodykit – which highlight the muscularity of the car without making it look like a “Halfords Special”.
This particular example is also fitted with the optional carbon ceramic brakes, and they look good and work great!
The inside of the car is certainly comfortable for four adults (if not five), and is on a par with anything else in the class. Good head- and leg-room front and rear, a decent sized boot (with a compressor and gunk – no spare here), and great visibility all around (barring the slightly thick A-pillars which all cars seem to have these days).
Whilst the dashboard is unique, there are elements which I very much liked (the instrument binnacle shape, and the clarity of the instruments) and elements which I was less keen on, for example the integration of the infotainment system into the dashboard which had so much promise and yet somehow comes off looking a bit “cheap”. The graphics (sadly not shown below) are just a bit “last decade”.
What certainly don’t look or feel cheap though are the front seats, a pair of stunning carbon-backed Sparco adjustable buckets which grip you in all the right places and are comfortable and supportive for mile after mile.
The steering wheel is chunky without feeling fat, the fit and finish is very good (if not quite up to the standards of the established Germans), and the gearknob gives away something about this car which we in the UK sadly won’t be able to order; a manual gearbox. More on that later…
So, once the car was stickered up for the tour i had an opportunity to test those massive Pirelli Corsas on the airport run to pick up one of the tour participants who was flying in that day.
First admission; I didn’t spend much time getting to know the DNA control (Dynamic, Normal, All-weather). Despite the proliferation of water falling out of the sky and languishing on the streets, i flicked the drive selector straight into “Race” mode. This turns off the traction control and anti-collision systems and tells you as much on the dashboard. I’d rather feel what the car does without any nannying aids to gauge the ability of the chassis in isolation. Myriad sins can be conveniently masked with clever electronics…
Admittedly 500hp through the rear wheels, when said wheels are shod with cold Pirelli P-Zero Corsas, isn’t necessarily going to show the chassis in the best light, but there was no need to worry… I was completely unable to put any power down at all. Even the slightest tickle on the throttle pedal demonstrated the potency of the twin-turbocharged 2.9 litre V6 nestling under that svelte bonnet. Never fear, the Pirellis redeemed themselves in the dry over the following days.
Tooling through the Alps, down to Venice, through Tuscany, and over to Sardinia, I had ample opportunity to fully exploit the chassis (in race mode and with dry and warmed tyres). In my humble opinion, it’s a cracker.
From the communication through the wheel and the seat, to the squirm under power, to the fluidity with which it tackles twisty mountain roads, this car just shows how fun a humble four door compact saloon can be.
The steering rack itself is quick (2 turns lock-to-lock) and it would seem the engineers have been generous with the geometry too, endowing the car with a keen turn-in without feeling aggressive. The (adjustable) damping feels overly firm in Race for the roads we experienced, which in all fairness were a reasonable facsimile to the roads we have in the UK; some smooth, some bumpy, and some riddled with potholes and ripples and ridges. However, even in Race mode it’s a simple button push away to bring the dampers back to “soft”, and the resultant improvement in ride quality is very noticeable and welcome. It handles the rough with the smooth and allows the rear tyres to better follow the tarmac in those less-than-ideal situations. I’d argue that the firm damper setting is really only suitable for the track, and that the softer damper setting is brilliant for 99% of road situations irrespective of whether you’re simply trundling to work on a Wednesday morning or going for a blast on a Sunday at dawn.
Whilst I would love to wax lyrical about the potency of the engine in this car, I was sadly lumbered with the Check Engine Light on several occasions. Thankfully a member of our party was able to clear the error codes (time and again, thank you Claus!) and re-ignite the fire. I’m told that this particular vehicle is not indicative of a current production series model, but I’d love to try such a car (Alfa Romeo UK, what do you say?).
When the engine was in full health it was a masterpiece. Combining a relatively small capacity (2.9l) V6 with twin turbochargers I expected the delivery to feel really “boosty”, but in all honesty it combined that feeling with being “cammy” like so many great engines from the 80’s and 90’s. What this translates to is an engine which is easy to drive gently as it’s so docile at the bottom end of the rev range, but when you poke the bear it wakes up with a growl! The engine note builds with the power, and by 4000 rpm it’s very much alive. By 5000 rpm the energy drinks are kicking in, and it continues in that vein all the way to 6500 rpm at which point the central display on the dashboard informs you that it’s time to SHIFT. Should you choose to ignore that advice, the power will continue completely unabated to somewhere just past 7000 rpm – at which point it hits the limiter hard (even in 3rd and 4th gear!). This engine really likes the upper rev range.
Sadly the gearbox wasn’t so clever. 1st gear felt overly short and 2nd gear overly long, but from there on the gears were fairly closely stacked. Unfortunately the shift into 2nd was recalcitrant at best, downright obstructive at worst, and the forward gates for 3rd and 5th weren’t particularly well-defined either. Thankfully this isn’t something that should worry UK buyers as Alfa Romeo in their infinite wisdom have decided to offer this car in the UK with the ZF 8 speed auto only. That’s a gearbox I’m very familiar with from a variety of other incarnations, and I suspect it will provide a much better experience when attached to this excellent engine and chassis than the manual gearbox can offer.
TL:DR We can’t have the manual. No great loss.
The seats, as already mentioned, are wonderful. Supportive and comfortable in equal measure, and they look good. The dash layout is unique, and whilst it may not be to everyone’s taste it does provide a character which so many modern cars are sadly lacking, and for that I have to compliment Alfa. The mixture of leather and alcantara, along with splashes of carbon fibre, give the interior the sporty look and feel which it so richly deserves… and the first time you fire up the engine that’s confirmed.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio won’t be for everyone. There are bound to be many people who prefer the Audi, BMW, or Mercedes way of doing things. The simplicity, the efficiency, the familiarity.
But there will always be an audience who crave something with character, with style, and with passion, and in that regard I think Alfa Romeo have produced a genuine alternative to the established sports saloon market.
Would I buy one? Well, I’d definitely drive a UK version before committing any cash to anything else. It’s that good.