It’s important to get a disclaimer out of the way up-front. The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio has received severely mixed reviews since it launched, which range from furiously disappointed to ‘it’s so good as to be “mind-boggling.” Coincidentally, on more than one occasion, those conflicting reviews are actually written by the same author in the same story. And therein lies the magic (and frustration) of the rolling contradiction that is an Alfa Romeo.
Of the handful of Giulias Quadrifoglios that Alfa loaned out to various publications, one broke down in the middle of a track test; one refused to turn more than one lap on track before going into a limp-home mode; seat adjuster buttons broke off on another; and yet another kept shutting down when the remote start was used.
I, on the other hand, experienced none of that. I drove the Quadrifoglio out of Manhattan, two hours and 110 miles up to Lime Rock Raceway in northwest Connecticut, flogged the living hell out of it on the 1.4-mile track for four hours, then drove it another two hours and 110 miles back to NYC. Not a single warning light, overheating issue or electronic hiccup. I’m not claiming to be the Alfa-whisperer, but the Giulia was simply sublime the entire day. And as anyone who has driven this car will tell you, when this car works, it’s one of the most engaging and physically entertaining cars in production today. A noted above, though, the Quadrifoglio can also be a catastrophic failure — it just so happened to work flawlessly the entire time I had it.
It was easily over 90-degrees the entire day, which is tough on any car in traffic, and certainly on the track. The laws of probability say the car should have overheated on the West Side Highway and gone into limp-home mode just as I set out from the office. It should have been wailing in agony as I left pit lane for the fourth time. But it didn’t. I don’t know why. I don’t want to know why.
After hearing and reading so much of Alfa’s history over the years — the joys and the laments — my first experience with an Alfa was everything I hoped it would be and nothing of what I was dreading.
2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
Engine: Turbocharged 2.9-liter twin turbo V6
Transmission: 8-speed Automatic
0-60 mph: 3.8 seconds
Top Speed: 191 mph
Base Price: $72,000 ($89,000 as tested)
If you’re unfamiliar with Alfa Romeo as a company and/or the Quadrifoglio badge, it’s the equivalent of an M-level BMW or an AMG Mercedes. Still, seeing as how Alfa has been absent from the U.S for 20 years, it’s perfectly understandable that many Americans reading this have no clue about either. This new Italian four-door is so much more than just a German super sedan counterpoint — it’s a beautiful and welcome breath of fresh northern Italian air, specifically for America. But most importantly, it’s a taste of the Ferrari mythos in V6 flavor with a practical four-door garnish.
That’s not hyperbole, either. A handful of the engineers who worked on Ferrari’s 458 Speciale were commissioned to fine tune the Quadrifoglio. That process involved taking the twin-turbo V8 from the Ferrari 488, removing two of its cylinders, then dropping it in the Giulia. It’s a lovely Ferrari V6 for common folk, though Ferrari refuses to officially put its name on the thing — this engine is the spiritual successor to the Dino.
Maranello’s influence of expertise doesn’t stop at the engine bay either, it trickles down the transmission and finds its way to every corner of this car. The transmission may be automatic with a manual option (which typically never work well as either), but it somehow changes gear with an immediacy not far off from a racier dual-clutch setup. The steering communicates your wants and needs to the road just as well as if you wrote them down on a piece of paper. Any comparison as a four-door Ferrari is perfectly warranted which, depressingly, also includes the stereotypes of Italian engineering and build quality. (That is to say “usually unreliable and somewhat poor.”)
Not every Ferrari spontaneously bursts into flames. Not every Fiat leaks oil like a pasta strainer. Not every Maserati falls apart around the driver. And not every Giulia Quadrifoglio breaks down, shuts down or just plain breaks — though enough are on record as having inherited the Italian Auto Industry’s reputation for spotty reliability. That said, enough Ferraris, Maseratis, Fiats and Alfas have been built and embued with irreplicable passion, and induce such incredible smiles, and create long-lasting memories, that when they’re in that window of perfect operation, there’s no place you’d rather be.