Car reviews - Alfa Romeo - Giulia - Quadrifoglio
Alfa Romeo models
Blistering performance, sharp handling, supple ride, lovely dash, addictive noise, superb instruments
Room for improvement
No manual option, steering a tad too light, over-sensitive brakes, styling lacks preceding Alfa 159’s timelessness
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23 Feb 2017
TAKING on the BMW M3, you’ll either end up as toast or the toast of the town.
Can the Alfa Romeo 952-series Giulia QV actually do it?Earlier this month, we blasted one at Sydney’s Eastern Creek, and came away convinced that the 375kW/600Nm bi-turbo V6 rear driver with Ferrari knowhow is fit for the super sports sedan fight club – at least around a race track. Honed around the challenging Nurburgring, the Italian siren seduced us with indelible ease.
What we couldn’t ascertain, of course, was how well the M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63 rival behaves away from the circuit.
To find out, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia assembled a number of QVs in Port Macquarie, with the aim for us to drive up the snaking Mount Seaview road and back with conviction and – it must be said – scepticism. A long time coming, we could finally truly test the flagship Giulia mettle, in an environment that could make or break anybody’s reputation.
We’ve been waiting a long time for this. Not only did your correspondent learn to drive in the Giulia’s distant 105-Series 1750 Berlina and later Alfetta 1.8 ancestors, an ‘80s Alfasud Super now lives in the carport. This Alfa Romeo has obstacles both real and rose-coloured to overcome.
Stylistically, the QV is certainly menacing, masculine, and muscular in the slightly vulgar manner any M3 marauder must be nowadays, so it is also the least visually alluring Giulia. Much of the basic design’s purity is lost among the scoops, spoilers, extractors, slits, pipes and diffusers blighting the car’s intrinsic beauty.
Thankfully, there’s way more subtlety inside, with only the brilliantly body hugging sports seats, swathes of lush Alcantara/leather upholstery, cliché carbon-fibre trim, and Ferrari-esque wheel-spoke starter goitre giving the go-faster game away. Take all that away, and what you’re left with is a pleasingly pretty yet functional dash, melding traditionally analogue elegance with contemporary electronic elements. To striking effect.
Handsome materials, Teutonic precision and thoughtful ergonomics. Can we be talking about an Alfa? The rear offers a fair amount of room as well, backed up by a well-sculptured cushion and central air vents, but there isn’t the sense of focused detailing back there as in up front. Note that – unlike other Giulias – the QV’s backrest won’t fold. All in the name of rigidity, apparently. So let’s see if this thing’s hard enough then out on Aussie roads.
Pushing that starter button envelopes the cabin with the 2.9-litre twin-turbo’s rich baritone rumble, though in Normal mode, the orchestration won’t distract anyoneCommendably for the Italians, considering how much oomph is available, the QV’s step off too is unexpectedly civilised, even with the right foot planted and the speedo swinging as freely as the tacho needle. Frustratingly, no manual is offered so all that effortless ease is partly due to ZF’s supernaturally slick eight-speed auto (complete with paddle shifters the size of Klingon shields).
Keep an eye on the lovely instrumentation, though, because the blown V6 is raring to roar along with ferocious acceleration, meaning that the Alfa’s level of coolness, calmness and control can mask the car’s true velocity. The readout’s middle digit might be a ‘7’ and not a ‘1’ as the driver intended.
We’re talking warp-speed performance with speed-cloaking serenity here. All this is no surprise, of course, because with a zero to 100km/h claim of 3.9 seconds, a 307km/h Alfa is never going to be off the pace.
What might come as an unexpected shock however is the sharp, tactile, measured, and precise steering’s ever-so-slight lightness.
From the very first change of direction, the Giulia’s eagerness to commit into the turn is nothing short of life-affirming, drawing a line in the sand as to what this car’s dynamic priorities are as surely and instantly as the chassis follows the keen driver’s desires.
Commandingly lithe, the QV is virtually laser-like in its handling crispness, backed up by incredibly controlled roadholding agility.
You can really steer with the seat of your pants, flexing a buttock muscle here or a thigh muscle there to help swing that rear end through. How much so depends on whether the DNA mode controller is in the smooth Normal, loose Dynamic, or tail-right-out loutish Race settings.
Whichever the setting, that double wishbone rear helps carve though fast, tight corners with thrilling linearity. If the driver wants fine controlled oversteer, the Alfa will oblige. Certainly on the dry roads we encountered, there’s addictively ballistic dynamic balance to be explored, exploited, and enjoyed. Bravo. Alfa has at last figured out a key essence of an M or AMG for the QV.
So back to that steering lightness then. In this context, a little more helm heft would not go astray. As would less bitey brakes, too. At times, the driver must consciously moderate pedal travel to avoid jerkiness.
Not that either traits are ever deal breakers, because the giant-slaying Giulia’s most impressive feat after its ability to reel in the horizon and your favourite ribbon of winding roads with equal and utter insouciance is a supple ride.
Yep, at least over our NSW rural roads, the bumps, humps, jagged edges and section joins encountered were sometimes heard but not really ever felt in any bad way. Coarser bitumen did create some tyre drone, but otherwise, the standard adaptive dampers earned their keep in keeping occupant comfort intact.
After a couple of hours of driving the QV hard and fast, we feel that this Giulia is something very special. Which makes the lack of a manual gearbox option all the more disappointing.
Regardless, the Italians are back with a properly fast and furious – and yet also incredibly athletic and refined – anecdote to the German hegemony. That’s brilliant news for car enthusiasts and brand loyalists alike.
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