Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio — New sports sedan benchmark

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The very fetching Italian Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is the new king of compact sports sedans moving ahead of the Germans consisting of traditional "driver's car" sedans from BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz. Sacrilege to the BMW 3-Series fanatics, to be sure, but we came away after two weeks behind the wheel thinking we had found a car that dethroned the Ultimate Driving Machine.

We knew an old editor years ago who might have said, "those are mighty strong words, son. You got something to back them up?" Yes, as a matter of fact, we do and it includes extraordinary performance and handling, gorgeous exterior styling, and just simply a great big wow factor.

Photo by MotorwayAmerica

You expect some sex appeal from a high-performance car designed and built in Italy and the Giulia delivers. A big attention-getter is the traditional three-sided shield grille with Alfa Romeo badge sitting up front.  It's as much a part of Alfa's heritage as the BMW "twin kidney" grille. Stretching back from the headlights, you can see a four-leaf clover badge on the fenders indicating that the Giulia in question is the Quadrifoglio trim, which is Italian for four-leaf clover.

The Quadrifoglio gets gorgeous19-inch wheels; the hood, roof and rear spoiler are done in carbon fiber to save weight; and a standard active aero carbon-fiber air splitter adorns the lower front bumper to improve downforce at high speed. The aerodynamic add-ons and aggressive trim make it look downright mean. Get one in black with standard red brake calipers (black or yellow calipers are optional) and it looks menacing.

Stepping out of such a head-turning vehicle imparts a feeling of pride. But the Giulia Quadrifoglio's real beauty — and its strength — lies beneath the skin.

The heart and soul of the Quadrifoglio edition is its engine. The smooth-revving 2.9-liter turbocharged V-6 packs a punch with its 505 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with large paddle shifters. Alfa Romeo says the combination is good for 3.8-second 0-to-60 runs. A couple of major auto magazines have it between 3.5 and 3.6 seconds. But let's not quibble over a couple tenths of a second.

This Italian beast is fast, beating the BMW M3, Mercedes AMG C63 and Cadillac ATS-V in head-to-head tests in both the sprint and the longer quarter-mile run (11.9 seconds @ 121 mph). And Alfa says the Giulia has a top speed of 191 mph, but how many people are going to test that claim? Not only is the engine a potent force, it has a menacing deep, snarly bellow that will get your adrenalin flowing.

There are four selectable modes — Eco, Natural, Dynamic and Race. We admit we didn't try the Eco setting — it seemed out of place in this car. Natural delivers a smoother, more refined experience without subtracting any performance. Race is just as it indicates — for the track. Dynamic is the sweet spot for normal street driving. A
nd the good thing is that the car stays in Dynamic when restarted, no default back to the "natural" setting like so many sports sedans.

Outstanding handling and cornering are traits that were smile-inducing. The Giulia ate up our winding back-road test track and was seemingly asking, is this all you'
ve got? This thanks in part to a well-tuned suspension that works in harmony with the engine and transmission, extremely sticky Pirelli tires, and a nearly perfect weight balance. The steering felt responsive with good feedback, and even though the steering is ultra-quick it never felt twitchy.

Inside, the layout is such that all controls are within easy reach and the rotary dial infotainment system is intuitive. The seats in our test car were nicely bolstered — not too confining for bigger bodies. The leather surfaces, carbon trim and carbon steering wheel are of high quality creating a true luxury atmosphere. Rear passengers might find tight leg room, but that's trait of compact sports sedans. Trunk space is on the small side and the rear seatbacks do not fold down in the Quadrifoglio. In the just arriving standard Giulia the seats fold down in a 40/20/40 split.

You will pay for all his Italian goodness. The Quadrifoglio comes in one price — $73,595 including a $1,595 destination charge. Options are desirable, but expensive. For instance our test car came with tri-coat exterior paint for $2,200, a $1,500 drive assistance dynamic package that includes adaptive cruise control with full-stop, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning; and Harman Kardon premium audio for $900, and more bringing the bottom line to $79,195.

Base price: $73,595; as driven, $79,195
Engine: 2.9-liter turbocharged V6
Horsepower: 505 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 443 foot-pounds @ 2,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 111 inches
Length: 182.6 inches
Curb weight: 3,822 pounds
Turning circle: NA
Luggage capacity: 13 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 15.3 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 17 city, 24 highway, 20 combined
0-60: 3.6 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: BMW M3, Mercedes AMG C63 S, Cadillac ATS V

The Good
• Potent turbocharged engine
• Outstanding driving car
• Stylish exterior
• Well-appointed interior

The Bad
• Rear seatbacks do not fold down

The Ugly
• Manual transmission not available