I’m possibly the last ‘journalist’ on the planet to get my mitts on the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, so allow me to start by getting the boring stuff you already know out of the way – this is the first rear-wheel-drive saloon car Alfa has built in almost thirty years, the infotainment is functional but has the aesthetic appeal of a Gameboy Color and the interior materials are a tad hit and miss, a bit like a Donald Trump spray tan. You’ll also know this is a car that changed the game by winning numerous car of the year awards and one that has been busy mopping up the blood and organs of BMW M3s and Mercedes-AMG C63s over the past 3 years. Such claims deserve to be qualified in the world of fake news. You’ll also know that Alfas are not famed for being reliable, but, any automotive aficionado will tell you you’re not really a car guy or girl until you’ve owned one.
Most of these aficionados are old enough to be my father – I am an insta scrolling, emoji spewing millennial that knows very little of Alfa Romeo other than being disappointed that the 4C left everyone feeling a bit…meh and that the gorgeous Brera was not something that inspired driving pleasure. Then the Guilia arrived and everything changed. I suddenly cared about Alfas.
I have driven every variant of the latest and greatest BMW M3/4 and Mercedes-AMG C 63 range, they live up to the expectations and allure of the badges that bestow their booties – spending just a few minutes driving these German machines explains why they can be found by the dozen across the globe from, London to Singapore and any affluent city in between. This only adds to the attraction for something new, something different that is not an evolution of a car that has been built for 30 years. Alfa started this project on an all new base platform named Giorgio – try thinking of a more Italian name. Then they went to Ferrari and managed to add a few of their best to the Alfa payroll including the chap that developed the chassis of the 458 Speciale…how’s that for an accolade on the CV, as well as the engineer behind Ferrari engines.
The results are apparent when driving and having a nose around the cabin. Inside you’ll find huge aluminum paddles that are straight Ferrari, as is the bright red steering wheel mounted starter button. On the move the dampers can be slackened off into a ‘mid’ mode when Race is engaged – this is a godsend that greatly improves traction when driving enthusiastically on undulating surfaces and mimics the effects of Ferrari’s ‘bumpy road’ damper setting which has proven itself to be industry leading and exceptionally effective. Then there is the engine which many claim is the V8 turbocharged motor from the old California T minus two cylinders. The answer is irrelevant, it is an incredible unit that manages to produce 503bhp and 443lb from just 2.9-litres. As a result it is a tad laggy, but all the more reason to use the paddles and mingle in the upper echelons of the rev range.
What is it like to drive? Well, it is an absolute riot, a hooligan in a sexy outfit that makes outrageous noises and makes you a better driver. What do I mean by that? Well, the Giulia QV will not bellow at its best until you put it into Race mode. Look around the cabin and you will not find a traction control or ESP off button – they both call it quits when you engage Race. You cannot hear the V6 howl unless you are in Race. This means you are completely on your own – no nannies, babysitters or Au Pair to slap you into line if you get greedy with the gas pedal, how un-German. The sound is addictive – I assure you that if you’re the sort of person interested in buying a Quadrifoglio, you’ll want to hear that soundtrack and put it into Race 7/10 times…the other 3 times will be when your angry wife/husband/mother-in-law is riding shotgun.
I had the Giulia in the bitter British winter. Not once did the temperature hit double digits, this meant the P Zero Corsa rubber was never in it’s optimal operating window and that you have no choice but to learn to respect the power and immense boost that will try to put you through a hedge and into field to graze with the local farmers cows.
Stick it in race, drop it into second gear and with anything more than half throttle above 3,500rpm you pull the giant paddle for third and an almighty crack accompanies the ZF gearbox changing into third. It is hilariously immature and makes you laugh no matter how mature you might think you are. It also explains why I was driving around with the windows down wearing all the clothes I own to battle frost bite – #WorthIt. Stop pratting about and the Giulia QV harnesses its mental asylum traits and becomes an unbelievably potent machine. 0-100 is done in 3.9 (I think it’s a smudge quicker) and it will not stop until it is passing supercars and Super Mario at 307 km/h (191 mph).
This brings me onto a point that I have been having Trump-like temper tantrums over. My inner stable genius tells me that modern cars must be safe, exploitable and accessible by anyone and everyone. This sensible approach makes the case for cars such as the Audi RS models and the latest generation of Mercedes-AMG E 63 and BMW M5 (yes, I know they are not competing with the QV). They have tremendous power (circa 600bhp) yet can be driven quickly all year round. However, that comes with drawbacks, you never feel alive, the hit of adrenaline is harder to achieve when adhering to any rules of laws of the road. They are King Cobras with Ribena in their fangs, not venom and you somehow feel that you’re not exploiting all that such cars have to offer. Why not quit the power race and make cars with less power that can fed through the rear wheels and command more skill from the squishy human behind the wheel? The Giulia is exactly that. In first, second and even third, traction is overwhelmed by torque, but it is manageable if you respect it. Skip the double espresso, the Alfa will have your pupils dilated, palms sweaty and breath heavy quicker than you can order your caramel frappuchino and it’s why you have to focus on every input.
The rear end is playful but you learn that the razor sharp steering is so quick that a few degrees of lock counteracts pendulum behind you. After fathoming the limits of your right foot you never feel like you’re not in control and it is rewarding as you know that you are working with the car, not fighting it. That is the beauty of the lunacy and the incredible chassis. There is a sense of achievement that is absent or simply unachievable in more powerful cars on the public roads. It is easy to see why such a car overwhelmed so many journalists and has it’s name stamped on so many awards trophies despite not being perfect. With a couple of tweaks on the interior, infotainment, grabby brakes at low speed and other idiosyncrasies, the Giulia QV will be even more attractive than it already is. No wonder BMW M and AMG are quaking in their boots…Bravo Alfa, Viva l’Italia.