“Where is that car from,” asked the mam as I exited my favorite coffee shop? “Italy,” I say. He just sighs and stares. He gets it.
It’s been awhile since Alfa Romeo offered a seriously high-performance sport sedan in the United States, but the brand has a storied history that traces back to early 20th century race cars. In relatively recent memory, Alfa produced the Milano during the '80s and '90s, and the Pininfarina-designed 164 during the '90s. The Giulia Quadrifoglio makes a great reintroduction.
Sexy Italian Style
Bearing the racing team’s four-leaf clover on its front fenders, the top Alfa is bad-sexy. Let’s just say it. And, those 19-inch alloys really fill out the fenders. Check Alfa’s traditional plunging neckline grille, squinty headlamps, and planted stance. The front splitter and rear spoiler are obviously carbon fiber, but so too are the hood and roof. Lightens things up.
There’s plenty more carbon fiber on the dash, console, doors, and most artfully, as seatbacks. There’s also acres of stitched leather. The curved infotainment screen is as sleek as Murano glass, but is unfortunately controlled with a console joywheel that’s laced with confusion. There are no complaints about the 900 watts of Harman Kardon audio that saturates the cabin.
Less cherubic is the annoying lane departure warning that belts wah-wah alarms like you are trying to steal a lane and take it home. Adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, rear cross path detection, and blind spot warnings are much less obtrusive.
The Quad’s soul is a Ferrari-derived 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 engine that spirits 505 horsepower and 443 lb.-ft. of torque to the rear wheels. All of the power is shifted through an 8-speed automatic transmission and directed to the wheels through a carbon fiber driveshaft. Plant the pedal to see 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 191 mph. Fuel economy of 17/24-MPG city/highway seems relatively frugal.
Compared to competitors, the Giulia feels lighter, crisper, more ready to tango. The torque-vectoring rear differential rotates the car through corners, imbuing behavior akin to a mid-engine roadster. There’s a precision that encourages you to keep pressing your foot deeper into the carpet. That’s helped by Alfa’s D.N.A system that adjusts the throttle, steering, suspension, and transmission for Dynamic (Sport), Natural (Comfort), or Advanced Efficiency (Economy). Enormous Brembo brakes deploy the parachutes.
I just hit the highway for a long drive – plugged in music and thumped myself happy! In Natural mode, the suspension is firm, but mostly smooths pot-holed city streets. Dynamic mode embraces tracks, but shakes teeth on normal roads. Rib-hugging sport seats are all-day comfortable. Four people and their luggage fit as easily as in any other mid-size car. It’s a supercar that demands daily throttling.
Given formidable competition, I wondered if Alfa Romeo would receive a warm reception in America. It has, winning 2018 Motor Trend Car of the Year. Minor interior bits are of questionable quality, but this car feels like it’s more connected to your synapses. Wind it up, stomp it down, and kick back for joys you’ve never discovered. Just brace yourself for a base price of $73,700 or $89,895 as tested (a base Giulia costs just $38,195).
An Alternative Alfa With A Bigger Trunk
But, what if you don’t want or need the Giulia Quadrifoglio’s horsepower and performance? Perhaps having all-weather capability and copious storage space is more important, but you still want that tight, crisp Italian driving experience and sexy style. You may want to check out the Stelvio crossover that’s based on the Giulia’s architecture.
Stelvio shares the Giulia’s styling cues – like Alfa’s trademark grille with angry narrow headlamps. The side profile, graced with 19-inch five-hole alloy wheels and red brake calipers. Around back, sculpted curves, wide lamps, and huge twin chrome exhaust outlets leave a pleasing finish.
The Italian ethos continues inside where sculpted panels, black glass, and light wood could have been lifted from a Milan studio. The infotainment screen, controlled with a joywheel in the console, turns into curved black glass when off. Beautifully integrated, but still able to control navigation, Bluetooth, and Harman Kardon audio.
Five passengers and their luggage ride comfortably – made more so with heated front seats, heated steering wheel, dual zone automatic climate control, and dual pane sunroof. Cargo enters through a power hatch. Safety is amped by adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, blind spot detection, back-up camera, and parking sensors. The push-button starter rides on the steering wheel.
While not as potent as the Quadrifoglio, our model’s 2.0-liter direct-injected and turbocharged four-cylinder engine wands up 280 horsepower and 306 lb.-ft. of torque – routed to the standard all-wheel-drive system through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Stelvio runs 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds and reaches 144 mph. Fuel economy rates 22/28-MPG city/highway.
Clearly based on the Giulia, the suspension does a good job of soaking up rough pavement. A knob on the console adjusts Alfa’s DNA system, which changes the throttle sensitivity, shift points, steering feel, and brake action from Dynamic to Normal and Advanced fuel economy.
If you still crave the Giulia Quadrifoglio’s supercar power, you can get the Stelvio Quadrifoglio with the same powertrain. But, the smaller engine provides all the performance you really need. Expect to pay $52,840 as-tested.
Watch Casey’s video of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio; follow him on YouTube: @AutoCasey.
2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
- Five-passenger, rwd sedan
- Powertrain: 505hp 2.9-liter TT V6, 8-speed auto trans
- Suspension f/r: Elect. Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 19”/19” alloy
- Brakes f/r: Brembo disc/disc
- Must-have features: Zip, Balance
- 0-60 mph: 3.8s
- Top speed: 191 mph
- Fuel economy: 17/24 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Cassino, Italy
- Base/as-tested price: $73,700/89,895