Consensus wisdom for premium sedan buying has held a firm line: buy German. If you’re not taking it to track days, buy a Mercedes; if you can’t afford a Mercedes, buy a used Mercedes. However, it’s 2018 and consensus wisdom counts for naught. For example, a once invincible-seeming German soccer team will be watching the World Cup knockout rounds from home (or someone’s lavish yacht on the Riviera). Perhaps, it is time to give a plucky little Italian effort a try. Well… a plucky little Italian effort with a Ferrari under the hood.
Alfa Romeo’s Giulia Quadrifoglio sedan returns for 2019. It remains beautiful, a bit quirky, and magnificent. Some cars have a je ne sais quoi factor or, in this case, a non so che dire. This car does not. You know precisely why it’s special. It’s that grin that creeps onto your face when you hear that engine note in dynamic mode, whether you are hitting the straight after a hairpin turn or just goosing the throttle a bit when the light turns green.
Superlatives? The suped-up Giulia has them. The “Ferrari-derived” 2.9L Twin Turbo V6 produces 505hp, making it Alfa Romeo’s most powerful production engine ever. It accelerates from 0-60 in a blistering 3.8 seconds, faster, an Alfa rep will cheerfully note, than Mercedes’ sedan with the same price point, the AMG C 63 S (3.9 sec). If we’re throwing out prominent German cars, it’s also faster off the line than a Porsche 911 GTS. The Giulia Quadrifoglio lapped the Nurburgring in 7:32, the fastest time ever for a four-door production sedan.
Power is excellent. But, the Quadrifoglio offers it with a distinctive elegance. The braking is on point. The grip and handling are superb. There’s no need to muscle it into submission. At no point, even when squinting to find the line on a wet track, does this 500-plus horsepower sedan feel like it is trying to kill you. It gives the joyous, visceral driving experience you want to have.
At no point, even when squinting to find the line on a wet track, does this 500-plus horsepower sedan feel like it is trying to kill you. It gives the joyous, visceral driving experience you want to have.
New for 2019? Alfa did not muck about much with Motor Trend’s 2018 car of the year. Hawk-eyed spotters can appreciate the anodized brake calipers with Alfa Romeo script. One may outfit the Giulia Quadrifoglio with the Nero Edizione package – dark detailing is not just for your neighbor’s Chevy Silverado – and an exterior carbon fiber package.
There are a few quibbles with this car. The electronic PRND shifter makes what should be a mindless process mindful, and not in an edifying, yogic way. The same goes for applying the right pressure to the electronic turn signal to keep it on. You are bound to set off the sensitive, loud collision sensor within the first few minutes of driving. Every start/stop elicits an abrupt grumble as the engine cuts out and kicks back into life.
But, the truth is you don’t care about the Giulia’s flaws. You adjust your expectations to accommodate it. And, while you’re sure you remember a well-outfitted infotainment touchscreen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto compatibility, you never touched it.
Is the Giulia Quadrifoglio the purest distillation of Alfa Romeo performance and style? Perhaps not. But, it’s up there. Unlike its predecessors, it will withstand a robust downpour without rusting, and you’ll be able to do more than stare at it wistfully in the repair shop.
I’d be remiss not to mention its bulkier sibling the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Same Ferrari-derived 505hp V6. Same FCA Giorgio platform. Raised to a “commanding” and consumer-friendly SUV ride height. Reviews for the Stelvio will all be some variation of “luxe SUVs aren’t normally my thing, but the Stelvio was better than I expected.” The primary reason is it deploys its power and weight well. Hit the gas and the Stelvio will knock you back into your comfy and capacious SUV seat.
Surprisingly, the Stelvio is quicker off the line — 3.6 seconds 0-60 — than the Giulia. Motor Trend clocked it even faster the factory at 3.3 seconds, which, in an SUV, is just stupid. The Stelvio also lapped the Nurburgring in 7 minutes 51.7 seconds, the fastest time for a production SUV. It’s brilliant, driving on a track. It’s stylish if you’re into that sort of thing.
The trouble with the Stelvio Quadrifoglio comes when you’re driving home. It’s nimbler and far better handling in traffic than a Jeep or any other SUV variant. But, in real conditions where you can’t press down the throttle like a maniac, it’s still very much an SUV. The Giulia can deliver you, even for the briefest of moments from life’s stresses and obligations. The Stelvio leaves you firmly cognizant of your kids, errands, and other onerous tasks. They are why you bought it instead of the Giulia.
It’s nearly impossible to match the Mercedes for gravitas. No other manufacturer produces that divine leather seat on a decade-and-counting E-class that has molded perfectly to its primary occupants behind. But, if you’ve never considered an Alfa Romeo, you should. These things are fun, and fun, in 2018, is good.