Alfa Romeo is back in the United States! While one could argue they returned a few years ago with the fantastic, but flawed, 4C coupe and spider, the Giulia is the first mass-market car from the manufacturer in the U.S. in decades. Unlike some re-badged front-wheel drive Fiats that dominated Europe, the Giulia is a rear-wheel drive — and all-wheel drive — welcome that fans of Italian cars have been waiting for.
Over the course of this review we’re going to try to figure out if the car lives up to the hype. But we’ll also look more in-depth to the features, the pros, and the cons of buying an Italian sports sedan over the German and American competition.
Before we get into that, though, I’ll go ahead and say that none of that matters to someone who buys this car. It might be cliche to say that Italian cars have soul, but this Giulia does. It’s everything I expected from the Alfa Romeo experience, and like a victim of Stockholm Syndrome, I look past the flaws and fall in love with Giulia.
Almost every review you’ll read of the Giulia will be with rose-colored glasses. It’s a car that seduces the driver, flatters them, and makes them feel absolutely special. It’s something I haven’t felt in a sports sedan.
But since most of the reviews will declare the car awesome and call it a day, I figured I’d start by sharing with you some of the faults of the car. If you can live with these issues, then you can live with the Giulia. And living with the Giulia is exactly what I want to do.
First, let’s start with the alarm. While I’m sure it does an excellent job at securing the car from theft, it also goes off easier than many other systems. My neighbor was mowing the lawn, and it set the alarm off. It wasn’t because something hit the car either; it’s the vibration from the mower. Then, you climb in the car and it says “Theft Attempted” on the display and you freak out.
The infotainment works, but it’s hardly perfect. It’s frustrating because FCA has Uconnect, which is arguably one of the best infotainment systems on the planet. Even Maserati uses a — although quite antiquated — version of the system. But Alfa Romeo wanted to basically share nothing with other FCA brands.
To adjust the climate control, you turn the knob. But you have to turn it twice. The first turn tells the infotainment system that you’re interested in changing the temperature, and then the next turn adjusts the temperature. It’s basically the computer equivalent of two clicks when you should only need one.
Turning off the climate control doesn’t involve hitting an off button; you have to turn the fan control — which is often set on automatic for me — all the way down to off. Why can’t there be a dedicated button? I don’t know.
Lastly, with the climate control, there was one situation where I wanted to adjust the system while the infotainment was doing something else — showing me the backup camera I believe. It wouldn’t work until the infotainment completed that task.
Moving to the infotainment specifically, the system is quite slow. It’s slow to boot up when you start the car, and it’s slow to reconnect a paired phone to Bluetooth. At one point I overloaded the system trying to perform too many tasks, and the system hard rebooted while I was driving.
When you’re moving through your favorites with the steering wheel controls — you can change what those buttons adjust in the settings — the first time you hit the button it takes you back to the top of your list of favorites. So if you have 20 favorites, and you’re listening to the channel at favorite 12, if you press the next button it doesn’t take you to favorite 13, but rather back to favorite 1.
The navigation system functions fine, though the graphics could use an improvement and I’m unsure if it’s using real-time traffic data or not. I don’t believe it is.
Other small niggles is the fuel economy. While you can get 30 mpg on the highway — I did — you pay a pretty expensive turbo tax when you get on the boost. It’s easy to get into the teens for miles-per-gallon. Also, the miles-to-empty indicator never seemed to want to commit to a particular number, though a lot of that could be based on my driving and the driving mode selected.
Lastly, there’s the ingress and egress. The car is comfortable once you are in, but there’s a rather large area to climb over to get into the rear seats. This is a result of the wheel well being in the way. Up front, the gap for the front door isn’t as large as it is on other sedans. You get used to it really, really quick. But it’s still something unique to this car.
Now that we have all of that out of the way, I’m here to tell you that none of that matters. The quirks of the infotainment are just quirks, and the system is still easy to use. It’s something I was able to adapt to in very little time. The same also applies to the climate control.
Obviously there’s not much you can do about fuel economy, or the requirement for 91 octane or higher gasoline, but what you get in return is a 505 horsepower turbocharged V6 straight from Ferrari. Yes, that Ferrari.
Ferrari claims it’s not their engine, but it has the same bore, stroke, a V angle as the California T. It just has two-fewer cylinders.
The engine makes good power, but one thing you’ll quickly notice is that most of the oomph is up top. It’s a surprisingly peaky engine, and pulls all the way to the fuel cutoff — which many turbocharged engines don’t do.
The Quadrifoglio is rear-wheel drive only, and power is sent to those wheels through a ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic. Every single car I’ve driven with this transmission has been great, and it’s nearly as fast as the best dual-clutch transmissions without the drawbacks of a dual-clutch. In most cases, by the time you pull the column-mounted — as God intended — paddle you’re in the next gear.
The car should scoot to 60 miles-per-hour in about 3.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 191 mph. That’s… fast.
Though at speeds of less than like 70 miles-per-hour, the car doesn’t really feel that fast. Cruising along at the speed limit is a quiet affair, with tire noise and wind noise kept to a minimum. No, it’s not Rolls-Royce quiet, but it’s pretty quiet for a performance-oriented car. It also adds to the perception that you’re not going fast. You can quickly be in “go to jail” territory without really knowing it.
A limited-slip rear differential assists with cornering, as does super-fast steering. People have used to the word telepathic to describe the steering, and in a lot of ways that’s an accurate descriptor. What it impresses with is how direct the steering is without making the car feel jittery.
The DNA selector, with included RACE mode, controls the car’s setup. Sadly, there’s no individual button for stability control or for the active exhaust. That means if you are in Dynamic mode, you don’t get all the great noise from RACE mode, but you get the stability control. If you hit the selector into race, you lose stability control entirely. Individual controls here would be a welcome addition.
When in Dynamic mode, the dampers go to their “mid” setting, and you can press the suspension button on the selector to go into the soft damper setting. This is great if you want the performance of the dynamic but are on a bumpy road. In RACE the dampers go to their stiffest setting, and the suspension button allows you to select the mid or the full-stiff setting.
If the damper button isn’t lit up, you’re in the comfort setting. If it’s white, you’re in the mid setting. If it’s red, you’re in the race setting.
Thankfully, though the exhaust is active, Alfa Romeo hasn’t piped in fake engine noise into the cabin. When you get on it, all you hear is sweet, sweet Italian V6 action. It’s one of the best-sounding V6 engines I’ve heard. The supercharged V6 in the Jaguar F-Type S might be a bit better, but I’d need to compare the two side-by-side.
The interior feels delightfully Italian, and if you get it with a bright color — especially the red — it just exudes style. The inside of a Giulia is a nice place to be.
That niceness is carried over to the everyday. I’ve mentioned how quiet it is when you want it to be, but the active dampers and comfortable seats make it a great daily driver. Compared to something like the BMW M3, the Giulia Quadrifoglio wipes the floor with it in ride comfort.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio is one of the best sports sedans I’ve ever driven.
The Mercedes-Benz C63 is a fantastic car, and wins in the overall luxury category, but falls short in overall performance. The BMW M3 carries a lot of history with the badge, though not as much as the Alfa, but doesn’t have the ride quality or gorgeous interior.
The Cadillac ATS-V might dominate a race track, but the Giulia’s handling isn’t far behind.
In a lot of ways, the Giulia Quadrifoglio is the Goldilocks of the performance sedan; just right.
There are issues, I’ll admit. But some of these quirks are expected when you opt for an Italian car. A perfect Italian car would in many ways no longer be an Italian car. But it should be noted that, after browsing online, Alfa Romeo has been quick to resolve some of the bugs and issues that plagued early cars.
Plus, when you buy an Alfa Romeo you get… an Alfa Romeo. You’ll have a rare car with a storied history that goes back way beyond the competition. You’ll get noticed when you drive, and you’ll be recognized for having a taste for the finer things in life. Because it’s Italian. Mozzafiato.
Sure, the Giulia Quadrifoglio, as tested, was $77,195, but the VIN starts with the letter Z and it’s cheaper than a Ferrari for nearly the same experience. One could argue that’s quite a bargain.
This review first appeared on Future Motoring and is used with permission.