by Jay Traugott
When the Giulia range first hit the market a few years ago, it was clear that this was one of Alfa Romeo's best midsize luxury sedans ever. That message was driven home with some conviction when the halo model, the 505 horsepower Quadrifoglio made its arrival. There's so much that this car does right, with the sweet turbocharged engine in perfect harmony with the most communicative chassis and steering setup you'll find in a four-door sedan. There's also the matter of the Giulia's beautiful looks in a segment crammed with many attractive, but rather clinical options. While BMW's M3 and the Mercedes-AMG C63 may have the more impressive lineage and a level of consumer trust that often befuddles the Italian brand, it's the Alfa that's better at being an exciting and emotive high-performance sedan. The build quality is so-so and the jury is out on long-term reliability, but the Quadrifoglio is so intent on setting your pants on fire with an intoxicating driving experience that you're not likely to notice.
While Alfa Romeo has introduced quite a number of changes and options for the Giulia range, only a few apply to the Quadrifoglio. Anodized brake calipers with red Alfa Romeo script is now standard, while on the more practical end of the spectrum, there are now 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats with a third rear headrest. A premium alarm system and heated rear seats are options, while a new Nero Edizione package for the Quadrifoglio adds darkened exterior trim and wheels.
Using the Giulia as a base is no bad thing. Alfa's midsize sedan continues to charm and shows that a four-door sedan doesn't have to be boring. Short overhangs, a long hood, and that unmistakable Alfa trefoil nose all meld together beautifully. The fastest Giulia of them all also gets unique Quadrifoglio badging, 19-inch wheels, quad exhaust tips in chrome, a carbon fiber hood and roof, LED lighting and a carbon fiber spoiler.
Although a few inches shorter than the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, the Giulia is otherwise a similar size to its German competitors, measuring 182.5/73.7/56.1 inches in length/width/height. The wheelbase is 111 inches long. At 3,806 lbs, the Quadrifoglio is lighter than the Mercedes-AMG C63, which weighs in at 68 lbs more than the Alfa.
It may surprise you to learn that the Quadrifoglio is available in colors other than Italy's signature red. But tellingly, this is the only color - known as Alfa Rosso - which doesn't cost extra. Five metallic shades are available at $600: Vulcano Black, Vesuvio Gray, Silverstone Gray, Montecarlo Blue, and Misano Blue. At a much pricier $2,200, there's also the option of either Rosso Competizione Tri-Coat and Trofeo White Tri-Coat. There's just something so spot-on about an Alfa in red, so we'd opt for either the standard Alfa Rosso or the dramatic Rosso Competizione.
With its Ferrari-derived V6 pumping out 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque, the Quadrifoglio instantly jets to the top of the class for sheer performance - at least until the new BMW M3 gets here. Propelled by the rear wheels and with power fed through an eight-speed automatic transmission, the Alfa rockets off the line and will hit 60 mph in 3.8-seconds. It's not just the straight-line performance that impresses, because the Quadrifoglio also set a four-door production sedan record when it conquered the Nurburgring in just seven minutes and 32 seconds. Flat out and unlimited, it'll reach an insane 191 mph. To match it in a straight line, you'll need a Mercedes-AMG C63 S, but the Merc is unlikely to keep up with the superbly balanced Giulia in the corners. The Quadrifoglio provides true sports car performance - it just happens to have two extra doors at the back.
While turbocharging know-how has resulted in many manufacturers producing performance engines with previously unthinkable power outputs, not all of them have also been able to deliver a truly charismatic motor. The Quadrifoglio's all-aluminum 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 not only produces stunning peak outputs of 505 hp and 443 lb-ft, but it does so with an accompanying soundtrack that sends chills down your spine. This is a truly phenomenal engine, a touch of low-down turbo lag being the only criticism. Otherwise, above 3,000 rpm, it surges towards its red line with incredible intensity, making mincemeat of passing maneuvers and with instant throttle response.
Paired with this engine is a peach of an eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF. Tuned to operate at its best when used in anger, it changes gears with alacrity and is a joy to operate with the column-mounted shift paddles in manual mode. Race mode brings out the best in both the engine and transmission. Sadly, although a manual transmission is available in other markets, it's not offered in the US.
Competing with the Quadrifoglio's engine for this car's crowning achievement, is the work that has been done to make it handle as sensationally as it does. The combination of rear-wheel-drive, quick steering, and a clever torque-vectoring differential endow the Alfa with a range of dynamic potential that leaves the outgoing BMW M3 thoroughly shaken.
Responses from the steering approach telepathic levels and despite it being quite light to turn, there's no shortage of feedback through the thin-rimmed wheel. Then, there's the ideal 50:50 weight distribution and adaptive dampers. It all just feels incredibly progressive, entertaining, controllable and forgiving. While an AMG 63 S or M3 is quick to induce oversteer, the grippy Alfa - running on Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires - gives you more options at the limit. And because there's so much more feel through the steering and chassis, it's that much easier to make small adjustments. In the Alfa, the eye-widening moments are a result of the car being able to deliver exactly what you ask of it. In the twitchy M3, these moments are more because the car had other plans. The Alfa's delicacy is what separates it from its chief rivals.
Switch from Race mode to Natural mode using the DNA Drive Mode Selector, and the Alfa surprises with a compliant ride quality, with the car successfully shielding occupants from unpleasant bumps. It's not luxury-car smooth, but considering what it can do on a track it's mightily impressive. The Giulia Quadrifoglio is one of the greatest driver's cars and in the context of a four-door sedan, possibly the best ever.
EPA ratings for the Giulia Quadrifoglio work out to 17/24/20 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. This is just about on par with the Mercedes-AMG C63's 18/27/21 mpg. On a 15.3-gallon tank of premium gasoline, the Alfa should manage a combined cruising range of 306 miles.
Once the emphasis is switched from performance to the practical aspects that define a midsize luxury sedan, the Giulia starts to fall behind the class leaders somewhat. First impressions are positive, with nicely designed seats, carbon fiber trim and sporty gauges setting the scene. However, many of the materials feel insubstantial next to the vault-like German cabins, such as the plastics lower down. Passengers at the back will also find less space than in the competition. Fortunately, the range-topping Giulia is well-equipped, with features such as keyless entry and go, 14-way power front seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, LED ambient lighting and power-folding mirrors all being standard.
Seating five passengers, the Giulia has great-looking seats, which are both comfortable and supportive, with the driver also benefiting from memory settings and manual thigh support. While headroom is decent in front, the rear seat lacks headroom and legroom for people over six-feet tall. Three passengers abreast will also struggle for foot space due to the large hump in the middle of the floor. The driving position is closer to the windshield than in most other cars, but you soon adjust and come to appreciate the sensation of control, along with great forward visibility. While the front seats are easy to get into, ingress and egress are hindered at the back by undersized rear door openings. Overall, the German trio are better for carrying passengers in the back, but the Giulia will be fine for four average-sized adults.
As standard, the Quadrifoglio gets leather and Alcantara performance front seats. There's also a bespoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum sport pedals, a leather-wrapped instrument panel with accent stitching, and leather on the upper door panels. This model gets genuine carbon fiber trim, too, which imparts a suitably racy atmosphere.
There's a choice of five interior colors: Black with Dark Gray accent stitching, Black with Red stitching, Black with Green/White stitching, a two-tone Black/Red interior with Red stitching, and a two-tone Black/Ice interior with Green/White stitching. Optional carbon fiber Sparco racing seats cost $3,500, but they forgo seat heating. Overall, the choice of materials and colors are in keeping with the Quadrifoglio's sporty appeal.
With around 12 cubic feet of space, the Giulia's trunk capacity is down on the Germans'. While this is enough for around nine grocery bags, the small opening doesn't make loading larger items particularly easy. At least folding rear seats, now standard for the 2019 model year, improve the Alfa's level of practicality.
The same is true for interior storage space, which is below-par for the segment. While there are door pockets, they're on the slim side. The glovebox is also rather small, but at least there are cupholders conveniently situated ahead of the gear lever.
Being the top-of-the-line Quadrifoglio, there is a wide array of standard features - as you'd expect at the lofty price. The leather-upholstered seats feature heating and 14-way power adjustment in front. Dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, push-button start, a heated steering wheel, a power release for the trunk, a seven-inch TFT instrument cluster, and ambient lighting are the highlights. Should you opt for the Sparco racing seats, you lose seat heating and the same wide range of power adjustment. The leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel houses controls for audio, cruise control and the red integrated engine start button.
Using a rotary knob positioned on the center console, you can control the various infotainment functions with reasonable ease, with information displayed on an 8.8-inch central screen. However, like many of these systems, familiarization will be required to perform common tasks more quickly. Standard is 3D GPS navigation, although the graphics aren't the slickest. There's also Bluetooth, voice recognition, HD radio, SiriusXM radio with a 12-month subscription, USB inputs and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. A 14-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system takes care of sound - it boasts 900 watts of punch and a 12-channel high-speed amplifier. The Alfa puts in a fair effort here, with only the Germans' ultra-modern setups proving to be a step ahead.
A J.D. Power rating of 75/100 ranks the Giulia Quadrifoglio some way behind its German and Japanese counterparts. In 2019, two recalls for the Giulia range were issued by the NHTSA: one for a faulty fuel gauge that might indicate a higher fuel level than the actual level, and adaptive cruise control which may fail to deactivate, increasing the risk of a crash. The 2017 Giulia also has several complaints on file for faults with the electrical system, a common malady affecting the Italian manufacturer.
Alfa Romeo's limited and drivetrain warranties are for four-years/50,000-miles, with corrosion perforation cover extending to 144 months with unlimited miles. Roadside assistance is for four years with unlimited miles.
While it hasn't been crash-tested by the NHTSA, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio received a Good rating when tested by the IIHS. The only aspects in which it fell short were the standard headlights, which were rated as Poor, and the LATCH anchors for child seats, which were rated as Marginal for ease of use.
The Giulia's complement of airbags includes dual front airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, as well as driver/front-seat passenger-side airbags and knee airbags. Front and rear parking sensors, a rear backup camera with dynamic guidelines, and a tire-pressure monitoring system are all accounted for. The Quadrifoglio also gets more standard driver aids than cheaper Giulia variants; the package encompasses full-speed forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection, and auto-dimming exterior mirrors. Optional safety equipment extends to adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam assist and an infrared windshield.
While BMW and Mercedes-Benz offer a tiered structure to their high-performance M and AMG ranges (Competition and S versions are the most powerful, respectively), Alfa Romeo offers just one Quadrifoglio for all super sedan duties. This is telling, because it honestly doesn't feel like the Quadrifoglio needs another layer to its performance, its astonishing dynamics or its personality. In these areas, the Alfa is a spectacular car, capable of both blinding acceleration, and stupendous agility and feel through the corners. That it does all of this while turning heads with its alluring design is a bonus. On the downside, the cabin feels a step behind in aspects like space utilization and quality. It's far from intolerable, but at just shy of $75k, the standards are understandably high. However, none of this can fully detract from the Giulia Quadrifoglio's many plus points. We'd advise you to follow a meticulous preventative maintenance schedule and take the plunge.
A base MSRP of $74,245 will get you behind the wheel of the Giulia Quadrifoglio, but do bear in mind that this price excludes tax, licensing, registration, and a destination charge of $1,595. The Mercedes-AMG C63 S is priced at a nearly identical $74,600.
There's only one variant of the Giulia Quadrifoglio, but it's all the four-door performance sedan you could ever want. Featuring a Ferrari-derived 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6, peak outputs are 505 hp and 443 lb-ft. An eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel-drive are standard. A torque vectoring differential, Quadrifoglio-tuned steering system, and an active suspension work together to improve dynamics.
Outside, the Quadrifoglio is distinguished from lesser Giulia variants thanks to 19-inch Bright Tecnico wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero Corsa rubber, a performance exhaust system with quad chrome exhaust tips, anodized brake calipers, unique badging and an active aero front splitter system. It also gets a headlamp washer system and a carbon fiber roof. The sporty cabin features carbon fiber trim, a sportier steering wheel, extended leather, and leather/Alcantara upholstery for the 14-way power-adjustable front seats. Comfort and convenience are enhanced with automatic dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting, and a Harman Kardon surround sound system. This range-topping Giulia also has more safety gear than other models, with forward collision warning and rear cross-path detection being among the standard inclusions.
2.9-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
Newly available is the Nero Edizione exterior package at $350. It features dark miron badges, a darker grille, and dark exterior mirror caps. For an even racier look, the Exterior Carbon Fiber package goes for $1,100, adding the carbon fiber treatment to the mirrors and grille.
The Driver Assistance Dynamic package costs $1,200, and includes useful driving aids like lane departure warning, automatic high beam headlamp control, and adaptive cruise control. One of the pricier add-ons is the carbon fiber Sparco racing seats at $3,500 - they look fantastic and provide more support for aggressive driving, but a lack of heating and limited adjustments ultimately mean that the standard seats are more versatile. Serious enthusiasts will consider the carbon ceramic Brembo braking system - at a whopping $8,000, the benefits, though, are only likely to be felt on a track under consistently hard use.
While the racing seats and carbon ceramic brakes make sense on the track, their appeal is limited and the price to pay for them is considerable. Instead, consider the worthwhile Driver Assistance Dynamic package - it fills in the few gaps in the Giulia's list of standard safety gear, and is reasonable value at $1,200. A wide array of wheel designs and exterior color choices also provide more customization.
Both rear-wheel-drive beasts with over 500 horsepower (in the case of the C63 S) at their disposal, the Alfa and the Mercedes nevertheless feel dramatically different on the road. The AMG is a brute, its grumbly V8 giving it the feel of a hot-rod, but it can also acquit itself remarkably well in the corners. Yet, it's the Alfa's delicacy that makes it so easy to fall in love with; where the AMG will occasionally make you wonder what's going to happen next, the Quadrifoglio communicates every nuance of the experience to the driver. As a four-door luxury sedan, the C63 wins with a much better cabin, improved tech, and more space for both passengers and their baggage. The Mercedes is also likely to prove more dependable in the long run. In a classic game of pros and cons, the AMG is likely to have more plusses on its side, but the Giulia is the more captivating performance machine and, considering what they were designed for, that's hard to look past.
With the all-new BMW M3 currently in development, should you save a considerable amount of cash and consider an almost-new F30 M3 over a new Quadrifoglio? On the M3's side is a proven recipe for success, with several generations of the 3 Series paving the way before it. A 425 horsepower twin-turbo inline-six (444 hp with the Competition package) provides potent performance, although the Alfa is ultimately faster. Even if you do go for the Competition pack, the F30 3 Series - and the M3 by extension - fundamentally lacked BMW's hallmark fun-factor from behind the wheel, leaving many a driver cold. This is precisely the area in which the Quadrifoglio excels. The M3 is fast and capable, but doesn't engage you in the same manner as the Alfa. And as versatile an engine as the M3's is, it doesn't match the Alfa's for character. As these are performance cars, we consider these aspects to be more important than the BMW's extra space and superior build quality. It's the Alfa that takes it - for now.