Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.
Alfa’s Giulia is, minus that innocuous green leaf on its flank, a saloon for those who want something a little different from the usual 3 Series/A4/C-Class trio (although that group got a little more interesting with the arrival of the Jaguar XE and Volvo S60). However, the Quadrifoglio, or four-leaf clover, badge takes the car into a whole new realm: there be dragons.
The Giulia badge has been around since the Type 105 of the Sixties and Seventies, plus of course the whizz-bang Sprint Speciale (and Spider and Sprint) Giulietta of 1959 and the bigger Giulia SS of 1963. Add the heritage of the name to the barn-storming history of the Quadrifoglio badge, which made its appearance in 1923 during Ugo Sivocci’s victory at the Targa Florio, and there’s a lot for this hot saloon to live up to.
The Q badge gives you some styling: the usual carbon spoilers, sills and lips plus we had yellow brake calipers (£595, yes), 19-inch dark five-hole wheels (£695, yes), Sparco carbon fibre bucket seats (£3,250, no) and flat-bottomed carbon fibre steering wheel (£425, yes).
Inside, we had black leather seats with green and white stitching, a nice touch, plus a reversing camera, lane-departure warning system, huge aluminium gearshift paddles (just brilliant - stylish and helpful), blind-spot detection with cross-path warning which (it’s more useful than you’d think) and dual-zone climate control.
Key performance features include Alfa’s DNA drive mode selector with added Race Mode, active torque vectoring and synaptic dynamic control suspension (SDC).
The engine is, as with all Ferrari-derived engines, in a league of its own. The Quadrifoglio has the factory’s 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V6 and it is every bit as awesome as you might predict. It develops 510 horsepower and 600Nm (444lb ft) of torque but the figures don’t begin to tell the story of how on-song this engine is. Get the revs to 4,000rpm-ish and you’ll feel and hear it howl. It’s that lyrical blur of noise, exhilaration and emotion that simply leaves such mundane details as horsepower figures in the dust. The 0-62mph sprint is over in just 3.9 seconds and the top speed is 191mph. The real-world WLTP fuel consumption figure is 27mpg, which you’d be grateful for in a Ferrari.
The Q feels, and sounds, raw enough under acceleration for plenty of driver-focused thrills, but the suspension set-up means this is a refined and useable daily commuter, albeit with a couple of gruff edges (it thuds over ridged road surfaces, for example) which remind you, not unpleasantly, that this is a serious performance beast. The steering is a quality blend of sharp and forgiving.
I refer you to the heritage section. You’d have to be cold-blooded to not appreciate the serious motorsport customs and beliefs from which this car was bred. But unlike, say, something wearing an AMG or M badge, you also become a custodian of Italian culture – the roar of the village as the race cars whip through, the raised glasses, the warm earth, the mad cheering and waving. Anyone who has witnessed the Mille Miglia, or indeed the Targa Florio, will recognise the scene, and if the Giulia Quadrifoglio brings a small whiff of that passion to your daily commute, then go for it.