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First drive: Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Image by Alfa Romeo.

First drive: Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
From nought to M3 rival in a flash: the new Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio.

 



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Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

At the top of the Alfa Romeo Giulia tree is a model that has more than twice the horsepower of the next car down the range and said flagship is called the Quadrifoglio. With a twin-turbocharged V6 engine of epic output, a 191mph top speed and a sub-four-second 0-62mph time, this Italian saloon wades straight into battle with the BMW M3 and the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S - and it's not all about the headline statistics, as the Alfa has a sparkling chassis to go with its firepower.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
Pricing: expected to start around 57,000
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: 189g/km (VED Band J, 500 first 12 months, 270 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 34.5mpg
Top speed: 191mph
0-62mph: 3.9 seconds
Power: 510hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: 600Nm at 2,500rpm

What's this?

Alfa Romeo, no longer faffing about in the doldrums. Decades of underwhelming machinery and a dwindling brand identity have left this once-proud Italian firm on the brink, so Fiat Chrysler Automotive's (FCA) big boss man Sergio Marchionne has laid out the ultimatum of 400,000 global sales by 2018. Forgive us for stating the bleedin' obvious maths, but that's only two years away and to achieve such a miracle, Alfa's going to require some extremely strong product and a whole lot of punter goodwill.

Thankfully, Marchionne gave Alfa a 3.8 billion pot of cash and told the outfit to start again, ordering it to look back to its heritage of building sports saloons and hugely desirable cars. Therefore, eight models will be built on an all-new platform and all of them will be rear- or four-wheel drive. First up, though, is a BMW 3 Series-rivalling saloon called the Giulia - a nameplate from Alfa's 1960s and '70s glory years. The thing is, if you're going to rival the 3 Series, then you've got to match the BMW's range from top to bottom.

To that end, here's Alfa's take on how you do a compact supersaloon, otherwise known as an 'M3 rival'. The roughly 1,650kg Quadrifoglio gets even more carbon fibre in its construction than the regular Giulia, with the bonnet, roof, active aero front splitter, boot spoiler, rear diffuser and side skirt extensions all made of the stuff, plus a whole host of technological chassis aids: Torque Vectoring for the rear differential; DNA Pro drive select modes with an extra 'Race' setting for maximum noise and electronics-off track driving; active dampers with different rates of response; brakes that can haul it in from 62mph to a total halt in 32 metres; and Alfa's Chassis Domain Control (CDC), which basically controls all the electronics mentioned above to automatically keep the Giulia Quadrifoglio in the best fighting condition possible given the driving environment.

Inside are leather and Alcantara sports seats, the same fabulous large metal shift paddles on the steering column for the eight-speed ZF transmission as found in other Giulias, lots of carbon fibre trim and - when it comes to the UK - a speedometer that will need to read to at least 200mph. Because the Quadrifoglio, unfettered by any silly gentleman's agreement that might pertain to anything Teutonic, doesn't have to adhere to a speed limiter and is said to be capable of 191mph flat out. That makes it the fastest and most powerful Alfa Romeo yet built. Which is good timing for a brand that's trying to upset the German apfel kart, isn't it?

How does it drive?

Before getting behind the wheel of the Giulia Quadrifoglio (no longer called a Quadrifoglio Verde, so no QV abbreviation, although the same green cloverleaf can be seen on the Alfa's front wings that is found on the MiTo and Giulietta QVs of the 'old' era), it's fair to say that turning it into a multiple-exhaust-toting supersaloon has not harmed the looks of this elegant Italian four-door. Alfa is to be commended for striking just the right subtly aggressive aesthetic tone on the outside and while the interior is not quite up to class-leading standards, it remains highly appealing nonetheless in Quadrifoglio specification.

However, we've had plenty of handsome but dynamically duff Alfas in recent decades, so it's not what the hottest Giulia looks like but how it goes that matters. And things do not start well. We're only given access to this 510hp/600Nm beast on FCA's Balocco test track. With a 3.0-litre biturbo V6 (that has links to Ferrari) up front and drive going to the rear, what you don't want is duck-drowning levels of rain. And so, as we edge out onto a semi-flooded track, sitting in the passenger seat with an Alfa test driver behind the wheel, we're silently praying that Alfa's engineers have got the chassis right. Sadly, in Dynamic mode (so traction control engaged), what ensues is a nervy, fidgety, downright twitchy lap of the sodden track in which the Italian behind the wheel is grappling with understeer, then snap oversteer, then a loss of traction, then squirming under braking... oh lord, we could be witnessing the death throes of Alfa Romeo here.

Back in the garage after a wholly unimpressive display, we're told that unless the weather plays ball, then we won't get behind the wheel at all. With some relief, the clouds part and we're bundled into a manual Quadrifoglio. This seems a little pointless, as all right-hand drive Giulias will be automatics, and while the car is now finding some mechanical grip and proving to be more stable than we first anticipated, we're still not blown away. The cumbersome six-speed manual gearbox, controlled by a lever topped with a ridiculously large knob (sorry for the innuendo, but there it is), doesn't seem well-suited to the 3.0-litre engine in the slightest - despite a fairly nifty 'flat-upshifting' feature in Race mode and some tidy rev-matching on downshifts - and we find ourselves apathetic about the lack of a clutch pedal on right-hand drive cars. It also doesn't feel as quick as 510hp should do, nor does it sound great, although to be fair we're probably focusing more on getting to grips with the transmission during this drive.

By mid-afternoon, we're not mentally signing up to buy the Giulia Quadrifoglio. In truth, we're gritting our teeth and preparing to write another 'false dawn for Alfa' piece. And then we finally clamber into an automatic 'Cloverleaf', with no Alfa representative in the car with us and the sun out and Balocco's circuit bone dry, save for one rivulet running transversely across the track at the braking/turn-in point for a second-gear left-hander. It's perhaps unwise to unequivocally make judgment on a car based on one lap; it's also odd that two bad laps can be so easily wiped out by one stunning circuit. But the Quadrifoglio suddenly shines.

Save for slightly-too-numb, but extremely accurate steering, there's very little to fault about the Giulia. Its body control is second to none and it allows the car to make flawless, high-speed direction changes at will in the dry. Any understeer evident in the wet was entirely absent in the warmer afternoon, while there's obviously enough thump in the drivetrain to steer the back of the car with the throttle in tighter corners; slides, when they come, are progressive and easily controlled. The eight-speed transmission absolutely transforms the drivetrain because it is lightning quick in its responses and its closely spaced ratios are perfectly matched to the engine's characteristics. Now the Alfa feels really quick, hauling up to 125mph with furious disdain and playing an interesting tune with it - not great, not up there with some of the finest Alfa V6 voices of days gone by and not a patch on that ludicrous 4.0-litre V8 in the Mercedes-AMG C 63, but certainly more interesting to listen to than the BMW M3. Our minor gripe here is that it sounds better outside the car than it does within. Other than that, though, the Alfa proves to be sensationally good. What's for certain is that we can't wait to be afforded an opportunity to have plenty of time piloting a Quadrifoglio out on the roads, because we think we would come to utterly adore this rapid Alfa.

Verdict

The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio might have way too many syllables in its name for its own good and we might not yet be able to say what it's going to be like on the UK's hapless back roads, but we're confident it's not going to turn into a total lemon when it hits our shores. As a result, what we have here is a supremely confident supersaloon that, without any antecedent to fall back on, has leapt straight into the thick of the action with the German companies that have been doing this sort of thing for years. A little more noise, a little more feelsome steering, a little more interior pizzazz and we might have even been considering this thing as class-leading - and when you realise it's up against that aforementioned C 63 from AMG, you understand just what a spectacular and unexpected rabbit Alfa has pulled from the hat.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 18 May 2016









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2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Image by Alfa Romeo.2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Image by Alfa Romeo.2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Image by Alfa Romeo.2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Image by Alfa Romeo.2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Image by Alfa Romeo.

2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Image by Alfa Romeo.2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Image by Alfa Romeo.2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Image by Alfa Romeo.2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Image by Alfa Romeo.2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Image by Alfa Romeo.








 

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