FIRST DRIVE: Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio — Italy at its finest

News, Test Drives | July 25th, 2017 by 55
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Many, many years ago, I was reading a Motor Trend magazine and stumbled upon an article that claimed Alfa Romeo would be making a return to the ‘States. The car was to be called the Giulietta and it was to be a fun looking, rear-wheel drive hatchback. I had never actually seen an Alfa Romeo in person before and I thought to myself, “I’m gonna get me one of those when they finally come out”.

Well, years and years went by and nothing. Alfa Romeo had seemingly betrayed me and the rest of the American enthusiast population who had been begging for a return of the famous Italian brand. Until now.

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When the Rosso Competizione Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio arrived at my door, a chill ran down my spine. “It’s finally here, at my door step and the key is mine for four days”, I thought to myself as I tried to hide my giddy excitement from the delivery man. “What’s up”, I said, trying to play it cool. But inside I wanted to jump around like a teenager after a first kiss. This was years and years of hoping and wishing I’d ever get to drive one and it was finally right in front of me and the man delivering it handed me the key and drove off. The Alfa and I were alone and I knew I could just get in and drive.

There’s a very good reason why “never meet your heroes” is an expression. Often times, we hype up our heroes or our desires in our head so much that meeting them or fulfilling them can often be underwhelming, next to our sky-high expectations. But just standing there, staring at the Giulia Quadrifoglio’s gorgeous curves, aggressive carbon fiber and stunning wheels. I knew I was already smitten and my hero wouldn’t disappoint.

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It is beautiful, the Giulia. Even in standard non-Quadrifoglio guise, it’s a gorgeous car. Its curves are voluptuous, its Rosso paint is so perfectly Italian and that classic Alfa grill flanked by two squinty headlights all combine to give it a soul, a passion that’s simply not found in any German car. Compared to the Alfa, the BMW M3 looks like a box with wheels. Compared to the Alfa, the Mercedes-AMG C63 S looks like a jelly bean with “V8” badges. And compared to the Alfa, Audi’s are barely noticeable. It’s stunning and intoxicating. And that’s before you even open the door.

Open the door and you’re greeted with an interior befitting an exotic supercar. Everything is covered in leather and Alcantara with contrast red stitching. All of the trim is carbon fiber and even the seatbacks are made of the stuff. It’s by far and away the most interesting looking cabin in its class. The steering wheel looks as if it could have a Prancing Horse on it and don’t even get me started on the paddles. The giant aluminum paddle shifters look like they came straight from Maranello and the tactile feel they have when you pull one is the stuff of mechanical dreams. There’s a satisfying metallic “click”, which feels robust, premium and exciting.

Though, admittedly, my hero took a bit of a reputation hit once I sat in the seat. While gorgeous, the seats are only comfortable momentarily. After about thirty minutes, my back started to ache and my legs were getting cramped. Maybe I’m just getting old but the Alfa’s seats have nothing on the thrones you get in anything with a Roundel or Three-Pointed Star.

They look great, though, and that’s really all that matters in an Italian car. Plus, Alfa did nail the seating position. Nice and low, but with a good view over the scuttle, and all of the controls are exactly where you’d want them. This isn’t your grandfather’s Alfa, where the steering wheel sawed off your testicles (if you happen to have those) and the pedals were actually in the lane next to you.

Without trying to sound too cliché, I do have to criticize its interior quality. Yes, this is the part where I point out some very typical Italian car stereotypes. The infotainment wheel felt like it was going to fall off at any given moment, as did the drive mode select wheel. The lever that adjusted the seatback felt like it was outsourced by Fisher Price and the interior hood latch may have been the cheapest feeling automotive control I’ve ever felt. I was actually apprehensive of popping the hood for fear of breaking the handle off. It was that flimsy.

Despite all of that, though, there’s something deeply satisfying about being in the Alfa. It’s so different from any car in its class. It’s so wonderfully Italian that I never really cared about some of its interior oddities. All that mattered was that I had an Alfa Romeo symbol on the steering wheel in my hands.

On that pretty steering wheel lies one of the only buttons in the cabin that works wonders — the starter button. Thumb the red starter and that glorious engine sparks to life. Under the hood lies a 2.9 liter twin-turbocharged 90-degree V6, also derived from Ferrari. While the engine isn’t actually a Ferrari California T engine like many claim, it is related, as they share a block and some components. On startup, it makes a lovely little growl and bark, then settles into a quiet burble. It’s an aggressive noise, if not the prettiest of noises. Though, that may just be my high expectations talking.

Once I set off for the first time, all of the complaints and worries I had of interior quality and ergonomics were forgiven.

That twin-turbo V6 makes 505 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, making it significantly more powerful than the BMW M3. In fact, even the absolute hottest BMW M4 GTS is a few ponies shy of the Alfa. While its competitors get fancy dual-clutch gearboxes, the Alfa pairs its twin-turbo V6 with an eight-speed ZF-sourced automatic. Continental European buyers get a six-speed manual option, but buyers in the UK and US lack the option for three pedals. Though, we’ve heard that its manual isn’t very good to use. So combine that face with the fact that the ZF eight-speed works brilliantly and there’s no malice towards Alfa over the lack of a manual. Plus, with the auto ‘box, you get to use those fantastic aluminum paddles.

The Giulia also has its own drive select modes, much like the BMW M3, except they aren’t labeled with the typical “Comfort, Sport and Sport+” labels that seemingly every other car in the class has. Instead, the modes are just identified by a “D”, “N” or “A” on a little rotary dial. Clever, right? DNA, get it? Cute.

Those letters stand for “Dynamic”, “Natural” and “Advanced Efficiency”, respectively. While that’s a bit confusing, because they aren’t labeled and the car doesn’t tell you what they do, it’s pretty easy to figure out. Dynamic is the sporty mode, Natural is the normal mode and Advanced Efficiency is, well, efficient. The latter of which can even shut down half its cylinders, for better economy. So it’s pretty simple and easy to learn.

There’s also a “Race” mode, which requires turning the drive select dial past “D” so far that it feels like it’s going to break. Every time I used race I genuinely thought I would accidentally break the little dial. Also, Race mode switches off every traction and stability control, which can be a bit unnerving in a 505 hp car.

Despite being odd, once you learn the drive modes, it’s easy to use and works quite well. It also has possibly the best drive mode button in any car in the segment. In the center of the DNA rotary dial lies a single button with a little coilover pictured on it. This is the button for the “Soft Damper Mode”, which puts the suspension in a softer setting, even if you’re in Dynamic or Race mode. In Natural or All Weather, the dampers are already in their softest setting.

The Giulia Quadrifoglio starts off in its default Natural mode and it became immediately apparent that the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio was a very different animal than I had originally anticipated. I had expected it to be a fire-spitting monster with more of an edge than its German competitors. However, it wasn’t that. Not at all. In fact, at normal speeds, it’s quiet and comfortable. With the windows up, there’s little to distinguish the Quadrifoglio variant from its standard Giulia sibling. That’s no bad thing, though.

One of my only complaints about the current-gen BMW M3 is that it doesn’t switch off well. It’s always an monster, straining at the leash, trying to kill you. The Alfa can switch off and become a calm, docile and, dare I say, luxurious sedan.

Its steering is light but very direct and weights up nicely through corners. It isn’t very communicative but it’s very accurate. While it may not be quite as razor sharp as the BMW M3 Competition Package’s, it’s damn close and makes up for it by being absolutely lovely. It’s a more enjoyable car to toss around than the M3. It’s just wonderful.

The ride is superb as well, with a wonderful blend of compliance and control. It rides better than any of its German competitors and sort of reminds me of a previous M3, the E46-generation. It’s quite lovely, actually.

Spin that dial to “D”, though and the Italian becomes a different shade of red. The exhaust opens up, the throttle gets sharper, the steering gets some weight and the ride stiffens up. It becomes the Giulia Quadrifoglio I thought it would be. It’s loud, it’s brash and it’s exciting. Oh, and it’s very, very fast.

I had tested the BMW M3 Competition Package only days before testing the Alfa, so I didn’t get to compare the two directly. But with just those few days in between, the Alfa feels faster. There’s quite a bit of lag under around 2,500 rpm, but once on boost that twin-turbo V6 becomes an absolute monster.

The surge is massive but surprisingly smooth. I had assumed that the 90-degree V6 would be coarse and rough compared to BMW’s butter-smooth I6 but it isn’t. It’s creamy and smooth, yet violently powerful. It hurls you forward with impressive ferocity, the growling exhaust rising as the revs do and then you pull the right paddle and get to do it all over again. It’s an intoxicating experience.

I’m a big fan of the BMW M3 Competition Package. I had always felt that, despite the C63 AMG being awesome and the Cadillac ATS-V being impressive, the M3 was still the king of being the best all-around performance sedan. Only the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio has begun to sway my mind.

During my time with the Alfa I learned many things about it, both good and bad. It can be quite annoying a lot of the time. Its infotainment system is maddening, many of the interior bits feel far less than premium and with only a few thousand miles on the clock, my tester already had quite a few squeaks and rattles. Yet I absolutely fell in love with it and though I’m trying really hard to avoid typical auto-journalist trope at the moment, I can’t.

There’s simply nothing with four doors that feels as special as the Giulia Quadrifoglio. It looks like a proper Italian sports car, with voluptuous curves, aggressive lines and carbon fiber everywhere. Its cabin looks like it’s housed inside a proper exotic sports car. There’s something special and exciting about just driving it. Every time I sat inside, it was an event and that can’t always be said about its German competition.

Now, the real question, would I buy the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio over the BMW M3 Competition Package? To be completely honest, probably not. Though, the Italian is started to sway me. During my brief time with the Alfa, though it never had any major issues, it just never felt as robust or dependable as the M3. BMW’s tech is also miles ahead of Alfa’s, which makes living with it far easier. Plus, BMW’s dealer network is far better and the M3, even with the Comp Pack, is cheaper.

The logical side of my brain would say that the BMW M3 Competition Package is still the way to go. It’s the smarter choice and still has enough performance and excitement to thrill. Yet, the passionate side of my brain would say that the Alfa is worth any minor issues that might arise. It’s that exciting, that thrilling and that special.

I’m not so sure which side of my brain would win that argument, if I was ever put in that situation. However, I don’t think it really matters. The important part of all of this is that Alfa Romeo is back. The famous Italian brand has made a genuine rear-wheel drive super sedan and it’s incredible. All of those years, waiting to finally drive my Alfa and I finally did it. The best part about it? It didn’t disappoint. In fact, it was better than I could have ever imagined.

Exterior Appeal - 10
Interior Quality - 7
Steering Feedback - 8
Performance - 10
Handling - 9
Specialness - 10
Price Point - 8


The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio may not be perfect, it may not be as well built as its competitors and its tech may be lacking. But nothing with four doors brings as much drama, excitement or joy as the Alfa.

55 responses to “FIRST DRIVE: Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio — Italy at its finest”

  1. Arunabh says:

    Germans can definitely learn a thing or 2 from this Alfa Romeo.

    Especially in the aesthetic part.

  2. morefiatmediocrity says:

    Alfa Giulia – engineered by Ferrari, finished and assembled by FIAT. It’s always going to be a short termer as many reviews refer to the typical flimsy FIAT build quality. Surprisingly it didn’t leave you stranded anywhere or in limp mode. You must go and buy a lottery ticket whilst your luck is still good.

    • GrabSon Wski says:

      Fiat actually doesn’t assemble anything, its not a person. Btw how many Bmw’s were recalled in recent years?
      46 thousands last month alone “because a door might open when the vehicle is underway” overall the numbers are in six digits and loads of different problems and thats quite terrible, but you only see Alfa’ small problems. Very typical German fan i must admit.

      • morefiatmediocrity says:

        Actually FIAT does assemble things as a manufacturer – you did notice I used the FIAT acronym not Fiat as a proper noun?
        Believe it or not, I’m an Alfisto who despises what FIAT ownership has done to the great marque. Under Marchionne, Alfa has been run down more than any other time in its history. He’s tried a belated effort to have Ferrari bring in proper engineering but as usual as soon as the FIAT side of things get involved it all goes to pot. Uncritical fanboyism for Alfa by ‘Alfisti’ such as yourself is what has led to its downfall, always accepting close enough is good enough, without pressuring it to go that small extra step to make it exceptional. In the end it’s the market place that decides winners and losers, and outside Italy, the Giulia is not winning enough customers.

        I don’t think any European car is reliable, they all trade on superior engineering. However, with the German marques at least the assembly is also top notch.

        • GrabSon Wski says:

          Hold on a second I only pointed out politely that other manufacturers breaks down as well and you call me some silly fanboy names? Dude you don’t know me? I would let it go as there is many kids out there in space, but when you actually blamed me for Alfa’s recent downfall I need to ask whether you had your morning medication?

          • morefiatmediocrity says:

            Champ, you’re the one that started by going off on some sort of incredulous rant that FIAT isn’t a person and doesn’t assemble anything. Once I read this, I figured your command of the English language was limited but I cut you some slack and pointed out the use of a proper noun and acronym to separate the issue for you. By the way, manufacturers have assembly lines where things are put together to certain specifications. Actually, on reflection, maybe you’re right and FIAT doesn’t have an assembly line, they have a ‘thrown together in any manner line’.
            Your feelings got hurt because I referred to you as an ‘Alfisti’ fanboy? Drink some concrete and harden up. You fling a limp as lettuce typical German fan slight and then get all mangled when some shade comes back your way. Now you fling the medication question – oh my, I better go and get some ice for the butt burn you’ve just inflicted on me – LOL.
            By the way, there aren’t any know instances of kids being in space – only the Robinson ones from Lost in Space. I think you mean cyberspace, consider this another gratuitous English language lesson – you’re welcome. Thank you for taking out the time to have a discussion, it’s been quite enjoyable.

          • GrabSon Wski says:

            Looks like you are one of those spoiled nerds, who would always try to find any aspect just to show some kind of superiority, and thats because in fact (or real life) you are just that guy even girls would make fun of…and there is a name for it…hold on…oh yea…a wanker.

          • MagnumOpus says:

            Keyboard warriors will war. The reality is this – Alfa misses the mark yet again, although they know exactly what is required in order to make the car competitive – cost-cutting wins. Emotion and passion get thrown around as though the car will sell on this alone while competitors (established, segment-leading sellers) offer a more comprehensive package. Alfa prices the car at the same level as those same competitors. Alfa fans jump in and proclaim the second-coming. Hardly anyone buys the car. The end.

          • GrabSon Wski says:

            Really? In U.S. last month Alfa Giulia (basically new brand there, most people don’t even know it) sold nearly half what Audi A4 (well established premium manufacturer) having much smaller dealership network and without an estate…i think thats not bad

  3. Distiller says:

    See, that’s the problem. When the time comes to sign the cheque the mind gets scared and says “better not; rather have that BMW; let’s not embark on the path of bottomless depreciation and endless maintenance issues”. Might be totally unfair but that’s what it is. Don’t think Alfa will be overall profitable in North America and consequently leave the market again in a few years.

    Lovely car though; also in its lesser incarnations.

    • David McMahon says:

      The only car I have found almost impossible to sell was my spotless, dealer approved BMW 320D and it was also the only car that I’ve ever had repeated serious trouble with. Claim Alfa are unreliable all you like but dont delude yourself into thinking that BMW are somehow like Lexus in terms of reliability.

  4. Cheslyn Owen says:

    I own a 3 series. love my car and I like the way BMW’s drive it really is the ultimate driving machine. So Im also BMW guy. So to say this is painful…. The Giulia is a monster and its a much better than any M3 today. Alfa looked at the bench mark in this segment and that was the current M3 and improved on it. They gave it enough power to see off any competitor and made it sound like Andrea Bocelli. Its hard not to like this car despite of its shortfalls. If it was my money at this point in time, I would buy the Giulia. However the F80 M3 CS might just close the gap on the Alfa. Competition is good and I hope BMW learn from this.

    • Kaisuke971 says:

      The CS won’t close the gap, that’s the competition package. The CS will straight up beat everything.

      • bmw driver says:

        ‘Beat’ how? It might not win internet e-penis measuring arguments, but as a completely besotted M2 owner, if this thing had been built better and had a decent infotainment system, there’s no way I’d even look at an M3. As I’ve criticised Alfa for, there was no need for a BS Nurburgring time. I’m waiting for Alfa to update the car (they’re desperate for the car to do well, so there’s a good chance they will) before putting in an order for a QV, in some kind of grigio, as a second car.

        • Kaisuke971 says:

          Beat in terms of performance of course, how else… Also the Alfa came out last year, they won’t update it till the LCI in like 3 years

          • bmw driver says:

            You have no idea do you? A majority of people who actually buy these cars don’t care about how many tenths it is or isn’t faster by. They want drama and specialness and brand cachet. The Giulia beats the M3 on all of those because the current M3/4 are the least special feeling M-cars of all time. I’ve spent 2 full days tracking M3/4s and ended both days without feeling like I needed to own one.

            Also almost every tester has experienced some sort of Giulia failure. The car was developed in just 2 years. They will refresh it asap to resolve these issues or lose customers. Simple as that.

          • Kaisuke971 says:

            It really looks like you’re arguing with yourself because my original comment was responding to another person that was talking about the appeal of these cars, but making it look like the Giulia is so much faster than the M3 while it’s actually not.

            Anyway the M3 seems to be the best selling car of the segment just based on the fact that it’s more present on the streets, so it’s not that bad isn’t it ?

            Also if FCA was ready to correct the fault of their cars they would’ve ditched everything and remake them from scratch a long time ago. They have an history of making shitty cars

          • Steven Knight says:

            M3, like all BMWs, have a very utilitarian interior… on par with top-tier VW Golfs such as the R. I have an M2 and, for the price, the interior bores me to death.

    • Terry Cowan says:

      If the drivetrain is at all Ferrari derived, how does that relate to a reliable daily driver/commuter. Their maintenance costs are notorious, 6 figure odometers unknown.

  5. Giom says:

    You almost lost me at “box with 4 wheels”, but because I kinda got to know you, I knew you were going somewhere, and your conclusion – I think – reflects what many of us also are thinking. I’ve never seen the Quad in person, but in photos alone, it seems pretty mundane. I’m sure my opinion will change when I see one in person.

    However, the only thing ‘wrong’ with the M4, is we’ve been seeing them for a couple years now and became quite familiar with the design. Maybe, if the two designs came out at the same time, the M4 would blow the Quad out of the water. Who knows… the next M3/M4 is on the horizon. I’m sure the balance will be restored.

    Great article, btw!

    • bmw driver says:

      Then you need to see a QV in real life. In white and grey it is mesmerising. The M4 is too big for a coupe, meaning as an M car the body isn’t flared and different enough. It’s like a bar of soap, like the 996 GT3 compared to the 997. The M3, thanks to its flared fenders, looks much more dramatic. The QV is like a sedan sized M2. Muscular and voluptuous and with a look of real purpose.

    • Thanks! The Alfa really is beautiful in person. There’s just a drama and style to it that’s completely lacking in all of its competitors. The M3, C63 and RS5 all look like they were designed function-first. You just know the Giulia was designed to be pretty first, functional second.

  6. ILKönz says:

    Wonderful to lease, nightmare to own

    • Alistair Taylor says:

      Nope. Had one nearly 2 years and had no real issues at all. Meanwhile, a neighbours M4 was in and out of the shop all the time…

  7. Michael says:

    He’s back!

    “Though, admittedly, my hero took a bit of a reputation hit once I sat in the seat. While gorgeous, the seats are only comfortable momentarily. After about thirty minutes, my back started to ache and my legs were getting cramped. Maybe I’m just getting old but the Alfa’s seats have nothing on the thrones you get in anything with a Roundel or Three-Pointed Star.”

    I’ll let that paragraph be my comment.

    • Steven Knight says:

      Get aftermarket Recaro seats for the QV and call it a day.

      • Alistair Taylor says:

        Just don’t spend the ludicrous price the optional Sparcos cost. Stick with the standard seats and order the comfort pack which gives you electrically adjustable side bolsters. Far, far more comfortable and you can decide how well supported you are instead of the single setting of the Sparcos.

  8. Steven Knight says:

    BMW is boring. Their interiors are utilitarian and uninspiring. And lots of recalls.

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