Goodwood Test: 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Review
Unless you’ve had your fingers in your ears and your eyes shut for the last three years you should be familiar with the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. It’s a super saloon to rival the likes of the BMW M3, Mercedes-AMG E63 and Audi RS4. More than that, when it arrived it was the first seriously exciting Alfa Romeo we’d had in years and a welcome return to form after so many pretty but slightly dull front-wheel-drive hatchbacks and saloons. And now there’s a new version, refreshed for 2021 to make it more enjoyable to live with, but still with a twin-turbocharged V6 engine that feels like it’s running on jet fuel.
- The engine is the most exciting six-cylinder turbo around
- As handsome as an Alfa should be
- A joy to drive at both sensible and not-so-sensible speeds
We don't like
- Aggressive creep from the eight-speed automatic gearbox
- Lane-keep assist isn’t particularly clever
- Adaptive cruise control doesn’t always do what you want it to
There are few car companies that have such a solid reputation when it comes to building pretty cars, and further proof of that can be found in the Giulia Quadrifoglio. It’s muscular without being antisocial, well-proportioned and couldn’t be mistaken for anything other than an Alfa Romeo.
Compared to the standard Giulia the Quadrifoglio gets big wheels, quad exhausts, a pair of vents in the carbon-fibre bonnet and in the front bumper, a subtle boot lip and a whopping rear diffuser. This mid-life facelifted car gets some darker rear lights, a number of new paint options, a black, glossy finish to the Giulia badge, and if you’re willing to pay a little extra you can have a carbon front grille, roof and mirror caps. None of the updates have made the Quadrifoglio any less pretty, which is a very good thing indeed.
Performance and Handling
We’ll get on with the new tech in a moment, but first we have to talk about the powertrain. It is, in a word, superb. The 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V6 remains unchanged, with 510PS (374kW) and 600Nm (444lb ft) of torque, and is, to my mind, the most exciting six-cylinder turbo around. It’s better than many turbo V8s as well. There’s loads of torque, you’ve got power all the way to the 7,000rpm redline, and as you steam your way up through the rev range the noise is truly intoxicating. What’s more, you don’t have to be right up the limit to enjoy the engine, as even at slow speeds the exhaust is singing a happy, authentic tune.
There are four drive modes, as before, namely Advanced Efficient, Natural, Dynamic and Race, the former offering up the Quadrifoglio Lite (the engine’s response is dialled way back and the exhaust is quiet until the final 1,000rpm) and the latter turning off all the traction and stability controls to leave you properly on your own. In Race the exhaust valves are open from idle, too, which means you’ll be leaving the windows ajar and revving the engine out more than you really need to… You can even buy an Akrapovič titanium piped, carbon-tipped exhaust now for £3,250, too, although the standard soundtrack is delicious enough.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox is smooth in auto and, when you start using the paddles, responsive to your inputs and mighty fast on the way up and down through the gears. The creep as you set off, however, is often very aggressive, and you’ll sometimes feel the gearbox surge unnaturally if you use the paddles to shift with less than full throttle.
Braking performance comes from 360mm steel discs up front and 350mm disks at the rear, while bigger, thicker and lighter (17kg overall) carbon discs are available for an extra £5,500. Unless you’re going to be doing track days you won’t be left wanting if you opt for steel.
As for the chassis itself, the Giulia Quadrifoglio, despite its 510 horses, isn’t scary to drive with gusto. Yes, it’ll certainly dump an awful lot of adrenaline into your system, but when the rear tyres do let go there’s no mad struggle to get the car under control. What’s more the suspension flows with the road very well (the adaptive dampers mean you’ve got suppleness but also control at all times, and a harder edge when you really need it), there’s plenty of grip front the front end, and the steering is fast and light without making the car feel nervous.
What really worked in the old cabin has been left the way it was. The big aluminium paddles for the gearbox are the same, you can still get the same £3,250 carbon-backed Sparco seats, and the instruments are easy to read. What’s changed are the materials, the centre console layout and, as we’ll get onto in a moment, the tech. There’s more and better quality leather across the dash, for starters, as well as on the seats and doors, and the steering wheel has been given a new look, with more leather, the same amount of Alcantara and a bit less carbon. The centre console, meanwhile, really has changed, with space to change your phone wirelessly, a slot for the key, a relocated parking brake and slightly different switchgear. The changes are small but they’re handy.
Technology and Features
Let’s talk tech, because that’s where some real improvements have been made. Not only do you get wireless phone charging and a 7-inch screen in the instrument cluster that can display a little more information than before, but the 8.8-inch central screen and its interface has been given a complete overhaul. It’s touch screen for starters, although you can still use a wheel on the centre console if you prefer. But it can be used in much the same way the home screen on your phone can, with swipes left and right revealing widgets for the navigation, car settings, powertrain performance and temperatures, heating, radio and more, and vertical swipes revealing other levels to those functions and features. There are also features like My Assistant, which connects you to an Alfa call centre if you get into trouble, and My Remote, which allows you to control some of the car’s functions via your phone or even your watch.
New safety features have been added too, like traffic sign recognition, traffic lane assist and highway assist (both keep you in the centre of your lane in traffic, rather than just somewhere between the lines), and driver attention assist, which can tell when you’re getting a little dopey and are in need of a fine Italian espresso and a nap. It’s worth nothing that during my time with the car the lane keep assist tried to keep me in my lane even when I was indicating to move.
Lane-keep assist issues aside, for the most part all of the tech works and makes the Quadrifoglio that bit better to live with. Alfa hasn’t messed around with the looks either, nor has it tried to change the way it drives. The result is a facelift that has unequivocally worked. One of the best Alfa Romeos ever made? Of that there’s no doubt.
This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.
2.9-litre, twin-turbocharged V6
510PS (375kW) @ 6,500rpm
600Nm (400lb ft) @ 2,500rpm
Eight-speed ZF automatic, rear-wheel-drive
£67,195 (£72,055 as tested)
Reviewed by Seán Ward