Review of: 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia 4dr Sdn Quadrifoglio RWD
2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio: Long name, but worth every breath
By Dan Heyman
Sep. 18, 2017
It was a bold move by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), parent company of Alfa Romeo, to bring the Giulia to North America. While Alfa’s return to our market technically happened in the ’14 model year after just under two decades of absence, the car that signalled the brand’s return – the 4C – was a very niche model, set to compete in a niche segment with the likes of Lotus and Porsche.
The Giulia, on the other hand, competes in a much more mainstream segment, meaning stiffer competition due to the sheer number of vehicles available here—from the Lexus IS Series to the Mercedes-Benz C-Class—as well as a customer base that’s often fiercely aligned with a specific brand. It’s also a vehicle segment that has given way on the sales front recently to luxury crossovers, and Alfa also has one of those on the way. It’s a surprise, then, that this car came first—so what has Alfa done to stick it to the establishment? To find out, we sampled the Quadrifoglio version, to be known as “The Fast One” (it’s easier to spell and read that way, yes, but there’s a lot more to it than that) from here on out.
Pros & Cons
- + Attention-getting styling
- + Acceleration
- + Great exhaust note
- - Price
- - Rear seat space
- - Overzealous stability control
Well, the first answer to that question is quite obvious once you look at it. There is nothing—NOTHING—in this segment that can hold a candle to the Giulia in the exterior styling department, not if you want your car to look unique. The proud Alfa grille crowned with that gorgeous multicolour emblem, the fantastic rims shrouding red brake calipers (a The Fast One exclusive), quad exhaust openings sprouting from an underbody diffuser, subtle carbon-fiber trunk lid spoiler: it’s got the details, the stance and the presence to have it stand out no matter the lighting. And that’s our test car and its white colour; if a red one of these were to catch your eye, you’d have a hard time prying your glance away, I guarantee it.
It looks European. It looks chic. It looks muscular and ready to take on all comers.
After taking in the wonders of the Gliulia’s exterior sheet metal, I thought for sure I’d experience a letdown once I looked inside. After all, how do you craft an interior space to mimic that exquisite exterior?
The short answer is smart detailing. From the way the Alfa Romeo emblem on the wheel is finished in silver to how Alfa’s proprietary infotainment hub is blended smoothly with the dash around it, the interior space exudes quality and class. I’m especially a fan of the magnificent flat-bottomed steering wheel; it’s chunky, leather-wrapped and on our car gets a nice carbon inlay. Some may call that too busy, but I’m all for it: you can always opt out if you wish. I also love the way the sickle-shaped paddle shifters look, though I’m not as much of a fan of the way they’re attached to the steering column as opposed to the wheel, like pretty everyone else does it. They’re large enough that they can be reached while the wheel’s turned, but it’s an unnecessary stretch to do so. Alfa may tell you that you should get all your shifting done before you begin to turn the wheel, and while that may be true, it doesn’t change the fact that even race cars have their paddles mounted to the wheel simply because it makes them easier to reach.
I’m also less enamoured with the interior space, especially when it comes to the back seats. It’s quite crammed back there and the Giulia is outclassed by the 3 Series and C-Class in this department, though it seems Alfa has managed to squeeze in a little more trunk space thanks to the smaller rear seating area. Gotta love the super-supportive, Alcantara/leather front seats, though. They’ll lock you firmly in place, allowing for a better grip on the wheel (and the situation) as you begin to tackle some twistier stuff.
We mentioned Alfa’s proprietary system before and while it looks great, I do find myself missing FCA’s other infotainment system, UConnect. It’s simply one of the best in the biz, and it’s too bad we don’t have it here. Alfa’s version looks slick enough, but requires a lot of spinning of the console-mounted wheel, as there are no redundant buttons for your infotainment controls. It takes a little while to get used to navigating the various menus, too.
The various drive modes on offer from the DNA system are also selectable via a control wheel, ranging from Race to Advanced Efficiency. The D and N modes modify the brakes, steering, throttle and suspension, while Advanced Efficiency and Race have a few extra tricks up their sleeves. Efficiency allows two of the six cylinders to be shut off while cruising, while Race fully deactivates the traction control. It’s recommended for track use only, but it’s the only way to modify your traction control; it’s either all on or all off, unlike other systems which allow for varying degrees of electronic intervention. That will likely be a sticking point for some potential buyers.
This car offered one of the more enthralling drives I’ve had in recent memory. Spend some time burning up and down your favorite b-road in one of these Italian thoroughbred beauties, and I’m confident you’ll quickly understand just what I’m on about.
For starters, it has Ferrari power. Yes, you read that right: you could say that The Fast One’s engine is basically the same as the twin-turbo V8 found in the Ferrari California T and 488 GTB, just with two cylinders lopped off. It’s enough to send 505 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels, more on both fronts than the BMW M3 and more horsepower than the Mercedes-AMG C 63, which pips The Fast One by about 30 lb-ft. It’s made in spectacular fashion, too, with fantastic pop-pop-popping through the quad-outlet exhaust as you bang through the 8-speed twin-clutch auto box (assuming you can adequately reach those paddles, of course). It’s like it took some exhaust note lessons from its Abarth 500 cousin, and did a better job of it.
It’s not just smoke and mirrors, either; this thing is fast and especially in either D or Race, it will scorch down the tarmac so quickly you’d swear it was AWD, when RWD is your only option. The Fast One’s standard super-sticky Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires have to be thanked here.
Looking in the engine bay, while it may have had two cylinders lopped off, it looks as though two more could actually fit in there, so far back sits the engine. The bulk of its mass lies behind the front axle, effectively turning the front-engine/RWD Giulia into a front-mid engine RWD rocket.
In practice, bringing as much mass as possible to the middle of the chassis means better weight distribution, and better responsiveness because of it. Feel how the nose immediately tucks in as soon as you twitch the wheel left or right, then the chassis snaps right back into place as you transition the other way, shifting the mass in the opposite direction but always keeping it in check. If I had one complaint, it would be that as direct as the steering is, I found myself having a little trouble determining how much grip the front tires had. A little more steering feel would be nice, but I’ve talked to some colleagues and they felt nothing like that. Maybe I’m just crazy.
Either way, there’s no doubt that this is a sports sedan meant for drivers, at it rewards those who are willing to push it with responsiveness, power and glorious sound. That sound is unmatched by any of the competition, including a Mercedes V8.
All that fantastic performance doesn’t come cheap, however. With a base MSRP of $87,995, it is more expensive than both the M3 and C63, eclipsing the former by ten large. Our car, with that great wheel ($600), Harman/Kardon premium sound ($1,200), white tricoat paint (white paint! $2,500) and more brought our tester up to $97,340 after A/C tax and delivery. That means it is really going to have to impress on test drives. Which it will do, but there’s little question in my mind that Alfa is going to be hearing a lot of “But the BMW costs…”
Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s brash. Yes, it’s a squeeze to get in the back seats. But you know what? I love it. For too long we’ve seen manufacturers take the safe road—even with their performance models— when it comes to styling, the need for AWD over RWD, or what have you. The Giulia, and especially The Fast One, commits none of these crimes. Instead, it taps into the glorious racing and performance history of Alfa Romeo and delivers an engrossing drive, looking oh-so-spectacular while it’s at it. There aren’t enough cars like it out there, and that’s a bummer.
Now, when will I start seeing these on the used market?