Only Alfa Romeo engineers could comprehend the pressure, the weight of expectation resting on their shoulders as they prepared what many would consider to be its first ‘proper’ saloon in a generation. Proper, insofar as it had its engine at one end and its driven wheels at the other, the classic Alfa configuration that applied to all those old Giulias, Giuliettas and countless others on which the company’s once gleaming post-war reputation was built. Perhaps that’s why the new Giulia and its Quadrifoglio flagship tested here are so late to the market. As Alfa boss Harald Wester candidly admitted, this is a ‘make or break’ car for his company.
MAY 25th 2016
Review: Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio – 500bhp Italian Monster
Perhaps some of the delay was also down to perfecting the Quadrifoglio to give it the best shot of commanding credibility in one of the most terrifyingly capable corners of the market, one to which Alfa Romeo is a stranger. You don’t go walking on BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63 territory without doing your preparation very carefully, not if you have any sense at least.
Certainly the Quadrifoglio comes to the battlefield with the firepower it needed. It’s all new 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 produces 503bhp, the most ever deployed under the bonnet of an Alfa Romeo road car, more even than the 8C Competizione which, underneath its oh so beautiful skin was, in fact, pure Maserati. Alfa describes the engine as ‘Ferrari inspired’ which appears to mean two things: officially former Ferrari engineers worked on it, unofficially it’s part of a new family of engines Ferrari itself will reputedly be using in the widely predicted but not yet confirmed Dino. There is a manual gearbox but it won’t be coming to the UK a fact I lamented until I’d driven both. Truth is it’s not a great transmission, while the eight speed ZF auto British customers will get instead is simply superb.
The cabin is attractive, not as ergonomically well resolved as its German rivals but more characterful. Importantly the driving position is beyond reproach, all round visibility is excellent and the dials are clear.
Like every other journalist I was only allowed to drive the Quadrifoglio on Alfa’s smooth and featureless Balocco test track, so impressions of its ride and refinement need to wait until another day. What I can tell you is that it is not lacking in performance at all, even relative to its mighty rivals. Alfa claims a 0-62mph time of just 3.9 seconds and, so long as it has the traction to put the power down, I’d not doubt that figure. The engine sounds more good than great but it works so well with the autobox and its tight ratios that the slight lag and its reluctance to lose revs between the gears are completely concealed.
The chassis is better still, at least as far as its handling is concerned. For me the steering is just a little too quick off centre (it has the quickest rack in the class) but Alfa has worked hard with the suspension geometry to make sure this does not result in the car feeling aggressive and twitchy. On the contrary and in the difficult damp and wet conditions I encountered, the car felt superbly well balanced and as benign on the limit as you could reasonably expect.
Certainly there was a moment, coming out of a damp corner with the back of the car hunkered down under hard acceleration, the V6 howling and the rear tyres just starting to slip almost imperceptibly across the surface of the tarmac when I thought Alfa Romeo’s long wait in the wilderness was at an end. It is so far beyond the capabilities of any other Alfa saloon I have driven and so close to those with which it aspires to compete it seems certain not only to bring some much needed credibility in the market place, but also tears of joy to the eyes of the Alfisti who have waited not years but decades for this moment.
Will it succeed? Certainly it has promise. Alfa has to prove it can build it as durably as a BMW or Mercedes and there’s too much I still don’t know about what it is like to live with and drive on the open road to make a definitive verdict here. But I will tell you this: when I first saw the Giulia Quadrifoglio’s specification I thought at last here was a car with the on paper potential to put Alfa Romeo’s reputation back where it belongs. And having now driven it, there is nothing I have seen that does not continue to fit that narrative.
Priced from £57,000 (approx)
Deliveries start: September
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