Rare is the sports sedan, or any car, that makes you giggle when you tromp on its gas pedal. Rare too is a car that makes your friends envious.
Corvettes have become too common, Jaguars too mainstream, BMWs too numerous. No, for something special you want an Italian sports car, preferably in red and preferably with a sexy sounding name. You want something not everyone of a certain economic standing has.
Today, that car is an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. That’s Giulia, as in the woman’s name, Julia. And the Quadrifoglio? Well, that means four-leaf clover, which is emblazoned on the car’s front quarter panels. More on that in a bit.
Alfa Romeo embodies Italian car history, especially its racing history. It’s who Enzo Ferrari worked for, or with, before Ferrari became Ferrari. Despite its long history the Italian make pulled out of the U.S. market in 1995 and only recently, along with its parent, Fiat, has come back.
Giulia is the car it needs to regain a foothold in the American market and from a performance standpoint it is an absolute home run. Or in the sporting vernacular of its homeland, GOOOOOOOAL!
With any sports car, or sports sedan, one must start with the power plant. Alfa snags a 2.9-liter bi-turbo V6 created by Ferrari and it is magnifico! It’s strong and sings like one of the Three Tenors, a thing of beauty.
Not only does it pump out an amazing 505 horsepower and 443 ft.-lbs. of torque, but it burbles and pops, in at least two of the Alfa’s four drive modes. It doesn’t grumble like a V8, it sounds more refined, more, well, sexy. This isn’t slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am. This is ecstasy.
Thrilling sounds aside, the powerful V6 will push the rear-drive Quadrifoglio up to highway speeds in a blink. Triple digits come quickly and smoothly, oh, so smoothly, via a quick reacting 8-speed automatic transmission. You can shift it manually on the console-mounted shift lever or via the tall shift paddles behind the steering wheel. Cool thing about either one is that as you downshift during a slowdown the system burps the throttle and gives a big exhaust crackle. Oh yeah!
But there are several muscle machines out there that’ll give you auditory orgasms, yet Giulia offers more, it handles like a race car. Steering is firm and responsive with no wheel play, even in what the rest of us would call Eco mode. But Alfa is so much more into this car thing. Its drive modes are called DNA, as in Dynamic, Natural and Advanced Efficiency; the later meaning Eco. The Quadrifoglio adds a fourth too, Race.
With Race the handling and suspension are firmed to racetrack levels and I can say it works for certain after a Spring hot lap at Road America in a Giulia.
Ah, but the penalty is the race-car firm ride in all four settings. Everyone aboard will feel the bumps, the tar strips, etc. in the Alfa, yet I never found it tiring, maybe because it was just so darned much fun to drive.
Naturally all the safety features are here, the anti-locks, the traction control, the stability control and giant disc brakes, here featuring colorful yellow calipers with Alfa Romeo emblazoned on them in black. That adds $500 to the cost and includes fancy 5-star wheels too.
Inside, the Giulia feels like you’re wearing an expensive leather glove. Snug and precise and yet so stylish that it almost makes you blush.
Seats are a fitted black leather and suede with white and green stitching, which carries over to the dash and harkens back to that green and white four-leaf clover emblem on the car’s side. There’s real carbon fiber dash and console trim and then a bright red Start button on the steering wheel’s hub.
That took some getting used to, but the handsome leather and carbon fiber Quadrifoglio steering wheel seems worth its $400 asking price.
These seats cradle the driver and front passenger and two adult riders in back were surprised by both the leg and headroom along with the rear seat’s comfort. The back-seat riders though were less wild about the center console air ducts that did not seem to cool the rear seat too well on a hot summer day’s drive to Chicago. Not that I needed it, but the front seats and steering wheel also are heated in the Quadrifoglio. Sadly, they are not cooled.
Still, no one was tired from the ride.
Giulia’s dash is beautifully laid out including a gloss black screen mid dash that includes the split nav/radio screen. It’s 8.8 inches, but seemed smaller and tended to reflect on sunny days. Tuning the radio was no easy task while driving. Even my much younger, tech-savvy co-workers who rode in the car declared tuning near impossible and gave up after a few minutes of trying. And they weren’t even driving. My advice, don’t tune and drive at the same time.
Naturally the Alfa packed plenty of tech into the Giulia. From an amusement standpoint there’s a Harman Kardon premium audio system for $900, but the $1,200 driver assistance dynamics launch package included forward collision warning, lane departure warning and automatic high beam headlights. It also adds a carbon fiber active aero front splitter to make the more aerodynamic at speed.
Gas mileage is mediocre, but performance cars usually don’t excel in this category. Giulia has an EPA rating of 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. I got 19.5 mpg with a heavy foot, but including the road trip to Chicago, so about 75% highway driving. A bit of that was typical Chicago stop and go though and the Alfa has stop-start technology that turned the engine off anytime the car came to a complete stop, even on the freeway.
Cargo space is modest too at 12.0 cubic feet and the Alfa’s trunk opening is on the small side. But it appears that a set of golf clubs would fit in the trunk easily enough.
For those of us on a more limited budget the base Giulia starts at a more earth-bound price of $38,990, including delivery and adding all-wheel-drive adds another $2,000. A mid-level Ti trim starts at $40,990 and AWD again adds $2 grand.
The base model features a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 that makes a healthy 280 horsepower and earns a 24 mpg city and 33 mpg highway EPA rating.
Yet Giulia is a beautiful car, with carbon fiber rear spoiler and body side cladding. It looks special. The only downside of the test car’s exterior was its Vesuvio gray metallic paint job, a $600 option. It looked just fine, but it wasn’t red, and Italian sports cars demand to be seen in red!
Final Note: A lot of folks ask why there’s a four-leaf clover (quadrifoglio) on the car’s front fender. It’s an interesting tale dating back to 1923 when racer Ugo Sivocci put the clover on his car for luck and won the famous Targo Florio race later that year. But, as luck would have it – or not – his car arrived too late for his team to add the clover before the Italian Grand Prix practice began. Sivocci died in a practice run. Lucky Giulia owners though will have the clover to protect them.
FAST STATS: 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio RWD
Hits: Fast, smooth, beautiful, with race car handling, not a bad combo. Includes 4 drive modes including Race, super comfy race seats, heated seats and steering wheel, and an exhaust note that installs a permanent grin on the driver’s face.
Misses: Ride is race-car firm on all settings, radio tuning is a joke, even for young digital savvy sorts. Seats aren’t cooled.
Made in: Cassino, Italy
Engine: 2.9-liter, bi-turbo V6, 505 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 3,600-3,800 lbs.
Length: 182.8 in.
Wheelbase: 111.0 in.
Cargo: 12.0 cu.ft.
MPG: 17/24 (EPA)
MPG: 19.5 (tested)
Base Price: $72,000
Invoice: $68,695 (includes delivery)
Vesuvio gray metallic paint, $600
Driver assistance dynamics launch package 24P (forward collision warning, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, infrared windshield, black seats w/red stitching, carbon fiver active aero front splitter), $1,200
Harman Kardon premium audio, $900
Quadrifoglio carbon fiber steering wheel, $400
19-inch bright 5-hole wheels w/yellow brake calipers, $500
Test Vehicle: $77,195
Sources: Alfa Romeo, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage