Depending on how charitable you’re feeling, Alfa Romeo hasn’t made a great car in thirty, forty years. Not that that’s diminished passion for the brand. If anything the Italian company has been running only on the hopes and wishes of diehard Alfisti everywhere because it’s certainly not rebadged Fiats that have been fueling things along.
That speaks highly of the brand, that’s rooted in racing glory and some of the most knee-achingly beautiful cars ever created. That glorious history, going back to 1910, was enough to keep us sane with pipe dreams all these recent, gloomy years.
Every time Alfa Romeo promised they’ve got their act together and will be launching some or other new redemptive car, we end up bitterly disappointed with that sweet, familiar pain again. “They’ll get it right next time…” The consolations are well practiced.
But there won’t be any this time. I can’t pull out the failsafe clichés. This all-new Giulia is… a truly great Alfa Romeo.
The brand’s surprising renaissance is, of course, being led by a crossover because that’s all anyone’s buying these days, however, that’s only just rolling out of Alfa’s Cassino factory about an hour south of Rome. That Stelvio SUV is named after one of the most treacherous Alpine roads in Europe that corkscrews its way between Italy and Switzerland via some 50 hairpins. They’re not being shy, then.
At least until even more crossovers join the line-up (Alfa’s never done any before), the Stelvio will singlehandedly carry the brand forward on its hunched shoulders. Enthusiasts, however, will have eyes only for the Giulia, in Quadrifoglio (quad-ree-pho-lyo) trim with four-leaf clovers on the flanks and big pipes out the back, and Ferrari power under your right foot.
Oh my… this engine should come with a prescription. The throttle response is addictive and the specially tuned harmonics never get tired. Alfa pretty much took a Ferrari V8 and lobbed a couple of cylinders off to end up with a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 that does all kinds of justice to the ghosts of Giuseppe Busso’s legendary 1970’s V6. The sound and the shove are spot on, aggressive and dicey. You can easily picture it shouting and waving its arms about for no reason. It’s probably just asking the time – properly Italian.
You could say the same about the interior – it’s not up to German standards. But here I can bank the charity card and let this one slide. The rest of the car is too good to drive, better than BMW’s M3, more characterful than any AMG saloon…
The car’s all-new architecture is rich in high-strength steel, but located in strategic areas where it doesn’t mess up weight balance and centre of gravity, so crucial for handling and dynamics. The mass is distributed evenly over the front and rear axle, 50:50, and with a quoted figure of 1,524kg it’s one of the lightest premium sports saloons you can buy.
Trick electronics provide easy driving and out on a serious blast, you have a limited-slip differential and a quick steering rack for company. Even so, the brakes are more impressive, able to take unreasonable amounts of abuse on the race track for what’s basically a family car. They’re carbon ceramic items not unlike you get on a Ferrari and they make the experience all the better, instilling confidence in the driver. And you need that, with rear drive and over 510 horsepower and 600Nm of torque.
The headline Quadrifoglio model will top out at a ridiculous 307 km/h and accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in less than four seconds. And those four seconds are enough to forget the last 40 years.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
- 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbocharged engine;
- 510 horsepower and 600Nm of torque;
- 0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds;
- Top speed of 307 km/h;
- Approximately $75,000
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