If you check out Car and Driver’s model page for the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, you’ll see the same terms thrown around year after year. “Exotic” is one, generally referring to the looks or sound. “Performance” shows up quite a bit, usually accompanied by “blistering” or another superlative. “Reliability” and “no manual transmission” make some guest appearances but let’s put a pin in that. The story will remain the same no matter who you ask. Anyone who’s lucky enough to have driven (or unlucky enough to own) a Quadrifoglio will basically tell you the same thing: it’s one of the best driver’s cars on the market right now. But it’s gonna break. More than once.

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A few outlets have already taken to comparing the new G80 M3 with the Quadrifoglio. Interestingly, most of the narrative hasn’t changed since the F80. The Alfa still delivers a superior driving experience, reliability issues be damned. It’s not often that the automotive press machine pans a newer car for an older one – specifically one as unreliable as the Alfa – so when the opportunity came up to drive a Quadrifoglio, I jumped on it.

F80 M3 vs. G80 M3 vs. Giulia Quadrifoglio – Design Comparison

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First up: it’s been a while since the F80 was the new kid on the block, so here’s a quick refresher. 425 hp and 406 lb-ft come on at 7300 and 1850 rpm, respectively. It’s got a fantastically cool carbon fiber strut brace up front, it’s got a differential in the back, and you can get a manual or a DCT. It’s a twin-turbo inline six that sounds like iPhones in a blender, and it rides a little stiff, but no one can accuse the F80 of not being an absolute blast to drive.

Then there’s the newest M3, the G80. Most everyone is up to speed on this buck-toothed barnstormer but if you’re not, here’s the quick and dirty. 503 hp (if it’s an automatic; the manual makes do with 473) and 479 lb-ft of torque, at 6250 and 2750 rpm, respectively. Notably it lacks the DCT of years past, changing the perception, and the character, of a car touting its focus on driver engagement. But otherwise, the M3 formula hasn’t changed too much here. It’s an excellent powertrain paired with well-engineered suspension that accomplishes what it sets out to do: be fast in a sure-footed way around even the most daunting of mountain roads – or racetracks.

So, that brings us to the Alfa. Immediately you can tell what makes this car different from the M3. While the F80 isn’t an offensive looking car, the Alfa is quite a looker. It’s got great proportions, and curves that only a room full of Italians could’ve dreamed up. Inside, you’re greeted by almost comically large, column-mounted paddle shifters framing a carbon fiber and leather steering wheel. While the plastic feels cheap, and the shifter feels cheap, and…well, every touchpoint other than the steering wheel feels cheap – it still looks fantastic inside. The (optional) Sparco leather and alcantara seats are bolstered well but aren’t overly aggressive – comparable to the non-Competition F80 M3’s seats.

On to the power

Delivery of the 505 hp and 443 lb-ft is very similar to the F80. Torque comes on low – 2500 rpm – but still more predictably than the S55-powered M3. The Alfa’s wider rear tires (285 vs. 265 on the M3) also work a little harder to put the power down. But it’s still an oversteer machine; mat the pedal and the car will happily wiggle its rear end all the way out. It sounds a bit better than either of the M3s, too – with slightly less obnoxious burbles. The G80 edges out both here, as the torque comes on latest and still pulls you all the way to 5500 rpm. It feels more naturally aspirated, and predictable – which is what you want when the going gets twisty.

And of course, there’s the business of driving the car. It isn’t news that the F80 steering isn’t the most communicative in the world. The problem is, I’m not sure the G80 remedies this. I still get only the vaguest impressions of road feel through the front tires; and I still feel like a computer is double-checking my inputs. The wheel is still too thick, and I think iDrive 7 gauges are a step backwards from the driver’s seat (why does the tach go the wrong way?). The Alfa has a good steering feel, clearly communicating road feel and giving a real sense of direction and control. Slightly wider front and rear track help give it a little extra sharpness, as well. And the gauges are clear – big, analog, and easy to read.

Better Driving Dynamics Or Reliability?

But as sweet as the Alfa is, in the back of my mind I’m wary of pushing the car. You see, they tend to break – often and expensively. And even if I was driving a good one, it’s a hard reputation to shake. Yet somehow, this only further draws me in; most of my most enjoyable driving experiences have been in cars not necessarily known for their reliability (read: E46 M3, 1M…). In some ways, that makes the Alfa embody its driver’s car reputation even more.

There is no doubt that the Alfa is the better driving car. But the F80 is a proven and reliable platform – and I think that ultimately makes it the better car. It’s got a “modern enough” feel and the cabin is much nicer to touch than the Alfa’s. The G80 is even more sterile feeling than the F80, and the increased tech presence makes it feel a little emotionless. Availability of a manual helps its cause here, but it doesn’t really pair all that well with the S58 engine. And though the G80 is clearly the best performer when it comes to instrumented tests, feel matters more than raw numbers. Which would you take?