DETROIT, Michigan — Alfa Romeo’s operatic return to U.S. shores – namely, with the carbon-tubbed 4C – was an overture of sexy Italian design and focused engineering. But the 4C is a quirky delight reserved for occasional flights of fancy. To really make its mark, Alfa would need a proper aria. A halo car with vibrant emotional range, but also competence and polish to keep the crowd on their feet and asking for an encore.
On paper, the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is worthy of the hype. Packing 505 hp from its Ferrari-derived 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6, the four-leafed four-door can bang off 0-60 mph runs in a dazzling 3.8 seconds. Flatten the go-pedal, let the eight-speed automatic swap cogs, and watch the needle brush against the 6,500-rpm redline until the world whisks by at a cool top speed of 191 mph.
Numbers, however, can be misleading. For a car that draws you in with such an expressive, tasteful Italian design, the driving experience needs to be equally stirring for your other senses. In this respect, Alfa delivers the goods. Between real-world driving in Metro Detroit and a wide-open racetrack on the area’s own M1 Concourse circuit, the Giulia had plenty of sports-car song to sing.
For starters, the bespoke engine is a feisty, ferocious thing. Response is immediate and momentum builds violently before torque hits its peak at 2,500 rpm, at which point both turbos howl with glee. Power and sound surge in concert like a rising tide. The wail of this beast alone would be enough to lure drivers away from the Cadillac ATS-V or BMW M4, although the delicious burble of the Mercedes-AMG C63’s V-8 has an allure all its own. The real appeal of the Giulia’s V-6, however, is its manic personality. Stab the throttle and let that upper-laced espresso course through your veins.
Switching the center rotary drive selector to the right and holding it there will dial in Race mode, deactivating traction and stability control and stiffening the suspension. (There’s no way to disable traction control alone, which will frustrate snowbelt customers hoping to drive the Giulia year-round with a set of winter wheels and tires.) Accelerating hard through M1’s main straightaway, the Giulia’s rear rubber chirps with every upshift. The $5,500 carbon-ceramic brakes — usually complete overkill on surface streets — delight in the heat and massive forces endured at the track.
Wild as it is, the Giulia is surprisingly controllable and fluid through some of M1’s tighter sections. You still need to be on high alert though. Hyper-quick steering and a rear end that loves nothing more than to test your reflexes (and blood pressure) requires close attention. Alfa’s attention to keeping weight down to just 3,749 pounds (courtesy of an all-aluminum engine as well as the driveshaft, active front splitter, hood, roof, and rocker moldings all made from carbon fiber) is noted. It’s close to the featherweight of its class — the M3 weighs 3,575 pounds (3,630 lbs with DCT), the ATS-V tips the scales at 3,812 pounds, and the beefcake AMG C63 S clocks in at 3,935 pounds.
The Quadrifoglio also earns high praise for its on-street behavior. “Nails the long-lost BMW ride and handling balance,” raves Detroit bureau chief Todd Lassa. “Enough compliance to make it comfortable yet still firm over highway expansion joints, and there’s no skating over mid-corner bumps on surface streets. With such a great engine and organic steering this precise, this has got to be the driver’s choice in the class.”
Inside, the low driving position is stellar. Same for pedal placement. Particularly well done is the optional ($400) carbon-fiber steering wheel, which is blessedly thin and generously sized compared to the too-small, too-thick helm in the M3. Visibility is just right. The back seat is reasonably capacious, and the trunk will work nicely for a set or two of golf bags. The worst thing to say about the interior is that from inside, you can’t enjoy the Giulia’s fantastically proportioned exterior.
There are some gripes too, however. The plastic switches and metallic trim pieces don’t feel as premium as the price point (or as those of the competition), the rear-view mirror doesn’t rotate enough to be useful for shorter drivers, and the sun visors are small and feel hollow. Additionally, while the center display appears rather large, the interface takes up a surprisingly small amount of real estate and appears under-developed.
All things considered, Alfa got this one right. The Giulia Quadrifoglio really does steal the show, and not just because it’s a novelty. There’s something special about this car. The Giulia is a joy to look at, a thrill to pound on the track, and surprisingly uncompromised on the street. It’ll give the Germans a real run for their money, and for that, we give it a standing ovation.
2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Specifications
|PRICE||$73,595/$87,445 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||2.9L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/505 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 443 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD sedan|
|EPA MILEAGE||17/24 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||182.6 x 73.7 x 56.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.8 sec|
|TOP SPEED||191 mph|