Alfa Romeo has been hard at work refining the Giulia.
The engineers in Turin have updated the infotainment, interior trim, and driver assists to make its beautiful sports sedan a better rival for its German foes – and they’ve done a pretty good job of it.
But the more mundane, mainstream Giulia isn’t what the red-blooded Alfisti want to know about. They want to know about the Giulia Quadrifoglio. Having driven the Giulia Veloce, I too want to know about the Quadrifoglio.
Alfa Romeo hasn’t messed with the formula too much for 2021. Power still comes from a narrow-angle turbocharged V6 engine with Ferrari roots, and it’s still sent only to the rear wheels as God intended.
It’s also still drop-dead gorgeous, with classic sedan proportions fed just the right amount of steroids to give it presence. Forget grilles and overstuffed guards, this is a sports sedan with quiet confidence.
Alfa Romeo hasn’t messed with the essence of the Giulia Quadrifoglio, then. Good news is, it didn’t need it.
The 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio comes in one trim level, with a starting price of $138,950 before on-road costs.
There’s no choice of rear- or all-wheel drive, and no watered-down entry model. There are a few options, however.
Black or yellow brake calipers will set you back $1000, carbon-ceramic brakes add $13,500 to the price, and a set of carbon-fibre Sparco bucket seats costs $8250. The five-hole wheels on our tester are an extra $1300, and the delectably rich tri-coat Competizione Red paint on our tester is a not-insignificant $3650.
Even with a few options boxes ticked, the Giulia undercuts its German rivals. The most basic rear-wheel drive, manual BMW M3 starts at $144,900 before on-roads, while the Mercedes-AMG C63 S starts at $168,176 before on-roads.
The Audi RS4 is a different beast, given it’s only available as a wagon and with all-wheel drive, but it starts at $147,900 before on-roads.
The Quadrifoglio comes with a tasty range of add-ons compared to the regular Giulia range.
For starters, it has a carbon bonnet, roof, rear spoiler, and side skirts, along with plenty of carbon-fibre trim pieces throughout the interior. If it looks like carbon, it probably is – there’s no fake stuff here to cheapen the Quadrifoglio.
The steering wheel has Alcantara trim where your sweaty palms rest, and the seats are trimmed in leather and Alcantara.
The bespoke engine breathes through a Monza quad-tipped exhaust, and the wheels are wrapped in sticky Pirelli P Zero Corsa rubber.
That’s atop the following standard equipment on the Giulia Sport:
- 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation
- Android Auto/Apple CarPlay (wired)
- 19-inch alloy wheels
- Heated front sport seats with power-adjustable bolsters
- Leather-wrapped gearshift
- Proximity entry with push-button start
- Adaptive cruise control
- Adaptive high beam
- Bi-xenon headlights
- Dual-zone climate control
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Reversing camera
- Rear parking sensors
- Wireless phone charging
- Aluminium pedals
And the standard equipment that features on the Giulia Veloce:
- Adaptive suspension
- Limited-slip rear differential
- Active cornering lights
- Leather-stitched dashboard and door trims
- Ambient lighting
- Heated rear seats
- Eight-way power front seats with driver’s memory and four-way power lumbar
- Headlight washers
The Giulia has a five-star ANCAP safety rating, based on tests carried out in 2016 by Euro NCAP.
It received a score of 98 per cent for adult occupant protection, 81 per cent for child occupant protection, 69 per cent for pedestrian protection, and 60 per cent for safety assist.
Along with dual front, side chest and curtain airbags, the Giulia range features the following active safety technology:
- Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian/cyclist detection
- Adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist
- Lane-keep assist
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Traffic sign recognition
- Driver attention monitoring
Alfa Romeo has focused most of its attention on the Giulia’s interior with its mid-life update, and it’s paid off.
Where the pre-update car felt plasticky and cheap in some places, the new one is more grown up, and more in keeping with what we’ve come to expect from Audi or BMW.
The fundamentals are still excellent. The standard sports seats mightn’t have the same wow factor as the carbon-backed Sparco units, but they drop down low and have enough bolstering to keep you in place when you’re driving in a hurry, and the shapely steering wheel is still a joy to hold.
Don’t get us started on those spindly metal paddle shifters, either. They’re cold to the touch, and have a lovely positive action that shows some serious thought has gone into how they operate.
The red start button on the steering wheel adds a dash of Ferrari-style drama, too.
It can be a bit tricky to get in if you’re tall, though, threading between the steering wheel and B-pillar, the latter of which sits a long way forward and makes it very easy to bash your hip.
Alfa Romeo has resisted the urge to go with an elaborate set of digital dials, instead opting for more classic twin hooded analogue gauges with a screen between them.
They’re clear and easy to read – and not once did I wish for more information in front of me. Screens are overrated sometimes.
Speaking of screens, the 8.8-inch infotainment touchscreen in the Giulia is an improvement over its slightly fiddly predecessor, but it still isn’t a patch on what you get from BMW or Audi.
The rotary controller still feels a bit plasticky, and the graphics still lack the sophistication of those from its German rivals. Nowhere is that more evident than in the navigation system, which still has Tom Tom branding.
At least Apple CarPlay takes up the whole screen, and connects quickly and reliably when you plug in.
Points also to Alfa for the new wireless charger design, which puts the phone out-of-sight in an easy-to-grab location.
Rear seat space is acceptable for a mid-sized sports sedan, but not outstanding. The Giulia feels more compact than a 3 Series from behind the wheel, which plays out in limited rear seat space.
Legroom is tight, although not as tight as in the Genesis G70 we drove recently, and headroom is limited for taller passengers.
The fact there are vents, USB ports, and heated outboard seats is nice, but getting the same amount of space offered in a BMW 3 Series would be nicer.
Boot space is 480L with the rear seats in place, and all three seats fold individually.
Unusually, the interior boot release button is tiny and hidden right down by the driver’s right shin. Wouldn’t it make more sense to put it somewhere prominent?
Power in the Giulia Quadrifoglio comes from a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine producing 375kW of power and 600Nm of torque.
It’s worth noting that, like Ferrari, the team at Alfa Romeo has been clever with the car’s torque curve and staggered its delivery so you don’t get the full whack in the lower gears.
An eight-speed ZF automatic backed by stunning metal paddles is standard, as is rear-wheel drive.
The 100km/h sprint takes a claimed 3.9 seconds, and flat out you’ll be doing 307km/h.
Claimed fuel economy is 8.2L/100km on the combined cycle, though we saw north of 10L/100km over a locked-down week of short-hop city driving.
Those figures are all unchanged from launch. The mid-life facelift extended to the exterior and cabin, but not the drivetrain. We do know this engine has more to give, though.
The lighter, more aggressive GTAm has more than 400kW, so there’s a bit of headroom left in the 2.9-litre.
The V6 engine fires with a bark, and settles into a staccato idle that instantly tells you the Quadrifoglio means business – but it’s not an edgy, painful thoroughbred in the city.
Left in Normal mode, the hottest Giulia actually rides really well considering it’s on 20-inch wheels wrapped in liquorice-thin Pirelli P Zero rubber.
It soaks up speed bumps and potholes without breaking a sweat, and the steering doesn’t have any faux-heaviness dialled in, so you can thread city laneways with ease. Just be careful of those sexy wheels on tall bluestone kerbs.
If there’s a weak point it’s the brake pedal, which is very touchy at the top of its travel when you’re trying to be gentle at low speeds.
In Normal mode, the engine is relatively quiet. Flick into Dynamic and it comes to life a bit more, with a harder-edged metallic bark backing the sharper throttle and stiffer dampers.
V6 engines have a reputation for sounding a bit flat and anodyne, but the Giulia proves that doesn’t always need to be the case. It’s brassy and angry, and has an interesting character compared to the motorsports-style blare of the BMW M3 with its inline-six.
The engine loves to rev. It’s smooth and inertia-free, like all the bits spinning furiously away inside are made of titanium and coated in butter, and the way it seems to spin ever faster through the rev range is utterly addictive.
Lean on it a little bit and you get an instant shove in the back, push harder and the slim rev needle zings for the redline, as the Giulia starts to wiggle its hips.
Traction is impressive in the dry, but the sheer amount of torque being sent to the rear axle means a determined right foot will always be able to get the back wheels spinning in lower gears.
That doesn’t mean the Giulia feels like it wants to spit you into the undergrowth – you need to be alert but not alarmed.
That’s partly because the electric assists are smartly calibrated, but mostly because the Giulia QV has a stunning, balanced rear-wheel drive chassis.
Rather than trying to batter or bully a road into submission it feels light on its toes like a dancer, floating over bumps as it flows along. Alfa has fitted a Ferrari-style Bumpy Road button that allows you to soften the ride in Dynamic, which means you can enjoy an angry powertrain and supple ride.
The steering is lighter than in a C63 – and it’s lightning fast off-centre – so you can delicately flick the Giulia into corners rather than manhandling it, and then crack open the throttle and revel in how balanced (and goddamn fast) the Giulia is.
It settles on its outside rear tyre when you get on the power, and gives you so many options. Fast and neat? It’ll do it. Fast and a bit lairy? That’s no doubt an option too, although lockdown meant we couldn’t get to a track and try it out.
It has a beautiful rear-wheel drive balance when you get on the power. You could be a hooligan on the track and vaporise the rear Pirellis, but it’s just as enjoyable on the road, dancing over bumps and tiptoeing up to the limit of grip.
Just be careful with Race mode. It makes the exhaust loud, the ride firm, and the throttle sharper again, but it also turns off the stability control and backs the traction control right off.
Tempting as it is to be a hero, it’d be nice to have a chance to ramp things all the way up without removing the safety net completely if you’re more Taki Inoue than Alberto Ascari behind the wheel.
Best to leave it in Dynamic, flick the transmission into manual, and drop the dampers into soft mode to enjoy one of the best-driving sedans in the world.
And then when you’re done pushing, you can kick back in comfort and enjoy the smartly-calibrated adaptive cruise and lane-keeping, crank up the stereo, and float home again.
Alfa Romeo says the engine in the hottest Giulia is Ferrari-derived, and its service prices reflect that.
The first five services cost $685, $1095, $685, $2095 and $685, respectively.
Unlike Mercedes-AMG, Alfa Romeo hasn’t made the move to a five-year warranty. It instead is sticking with a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty in Australia.
Alfa Romeo hasn’t changed all that much with the new Giulia Quadrifoglio, but it didn’t really need to.
It’s still a brilliant sedan for people who really like driving, with a firecracker of an engine and a lively rear-wheel drive chassis – but an extra coat of polish has been applied to some of the bits that needed it.
It isn’t perfect, but it all fades into the background when you’re reaching for one of the metal paddles to keep the engine singing, sweaty palms working the wheel.
What more could you want than that in an Italian sports sedan?
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