As comebacks go, Alfa Romeo’s long-overdue return to the super saloon category is something of a triumph. By CEO Harald Wester’s own admission, this Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is a make or break car for the Italian marque, which, despite the odd flourish, has largely been trading on past glories for the last few decades.
You only need to take a look at the stats to see that this time Alfa means business. In 503 BHP Quadrifoglio form the Giulia will crack 0-62 mph in 3.9 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 192 mph. Not long ago that would have been supercar territory.
The heart of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6, which is officially an all-new design, despite being heavily influenced by work done at sister brands Ferrari and Maserati. Aside from the 4C, this is the first time that one of Alfa’s flagship cars has featured a turbocharged engine, but thankfully the news is good. Very good, in fact. Push the starter button (mounted on the steering wheel in a nod to its Ferrari cousins) and it settles into a suitably potent burble; floor the accelerator and it snarls before letting off a stream of pops and bangs on overrun.
The noise in the cabin is a little more subdued, but there’s still a distinct V6 timbre and little audible clue to the presence of those twin turbochargers. The same could be said of the driving experience. Throttle response is as sharp as you’d ever really need and the engine pulls with such linearity that it comes as something of a shock when the rev limiter finally calls time – it feels like it could go on quite happily for another 1,500 rpm.
By that point it’s time to grab a new gear on the right hand paddle, sending another crackle of gunfire out the exhaust. The 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox will be the only transmission option in the UK and it fires off quick, crisp shifts in manual mode. On the way back down, each one is accompanied by a deliciously indulgent blip of the throttle.
There’s no question that the Giulia’s in-gear performance is pretty mighty. It’s both lighter and more powerful than the BMW M3, with a better power-to-weight ratio than its other major rival, the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. Perhaps due to the impressive linearity of the power delivery, though, it doesn’t feel quite as savage as you might expect from that supercar-baiting sub-4 second 0-62 mph time. The flipside is that the power is always manageable, even in wet or greasy conditions, where some turbocharged cars can feel quite spikey.
Our time in the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio was relatively brief and confined to Fiat’s Balocco test track, but that was enough to give us an idea of the chassis’ talent. Grip was abundant and the torque-vectoring differential did a good job of feeding all 510 hp to the chunky rear tyres. With the Alfa’s DNA switch set to Dynamic mode the car gently and subtly reins in any over exuberance, but in Race mode it reveals a far more playful side, carving out long lurid slides at will.
At just over two turns lock-to-lock, the Giulia has the quickest steering in its class. It also has a perfect 50:50 weight distribution, which helps it to change direction with real conviction. The front end is scalpel sharp, but in Quadrifoglio form it feels completely in-keeping with the rest of the car, slicing its way through the turns with impressive agility.
The Guilia feels at home on the track, thanks partly to impressive body control in Race mode and the optional carbon ceramic disc brakes. Granted, we didn’t have a chance to try the Quadrifoglio on the road, but switching the dampers into their softer setting on the track – and indeed sampling the base model on the neighbouring roads – suggests there should be a decent level of compliance.
We’ll have to wait a little longer to find out how much the Giulia will cost when it reaches our shores in the autumn. Alfa says it will be ‘competitive with Teutonic rivals’, so expect something close to the DCT-equipped M3’s £59,090 base price. We’re also promised best-in-class CO2 emissions and fuel economy (189 g/km and 34 mpg respectively).
More miles will be needed before we can deliver a definitive verdict on the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. The important thing for now is that it is indeed a contender, and a strong one at that. It may have taken some time, but finally Alfa Romeo is back.
By Chris Pickering.