by Karl Furlong
In last year's review of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, we called it a "real M3 beater" and the new benchmark for high-performance compact luxury sedans. Alfa clearly believes that the Giulia Quadrifoglio is fundamentally just right, as the sports sedan moves into 2021 with no major updates. Things can change in a short space of time, though, and the all-new BMW M3 has arrived to reclaim its crown. More than anything, the M3 must try to overcome the fact that the Alfa is one of the most emotionally-charged sedans ever, mixing sweet chassis dynamics with sharp steering and a phenomenal 505-horsepower twin-turbo V6 engine that will see the Quadrifoglio reach 60 mph in under four seconds. Add in the Alfa's stunning styling, and it's a formidable package. Yes, it lacks the build integrity of the Germans and the trunk isn't that big, but in the context of what a sports sedan is meant to be, the Alfa's highs far outweigh its few flaws.
How do you improve on a near-perfect sports sedan? Alfa hasn't tried to answer that question, so the new Giulia Quadrifoglio continues into 2021 with no major changes. However, buyers can now choose from four additional tri-coat exterior colors: Ocra GT Junior, Rosso GTA, Rosso Villa d'Este, and Verde Montreal.
2.9L Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
While the latest BMW M3 may turn more heads due to the sheer shock factor of its gaping, elongated grille, Alfa Romeo has chosen a different route: it simply designed a sexy, well-proportioned sedan. From the QV's V Scudetto grille to its quad-exit exhaust outlets, it is absolutely gorgeous. The active aerodynamic enhancements extend to a front splitter system with dual electric actuators and a carbon fiber front chin spoiler, while the hood and roof are also fashioned from carbon fiber. At the back, there is a sporty carbon fiber spoiler. Standard features include LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, and 19-inch wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero Corsa high-performance tires. An exposed carbon fiber roof is available as an option.
Like all other Giulias, the Quadrifoglio has a 111-inch wheelbase. However, this high-performance sedan is marginally shorter than its less powerful siblings with a body length of 182.6 inches. The width excluding the mirrors works out to 73.8 inches and the height is 56.1 inches. By comparison, the new BMW M3's dimensions show that it is a full 6.5 inches longer, as well as wider and taller. The Alfa has a curb weight of 3,820 pounds, making it 20 lbs lighter than its arch-rival in non-Competition guise.
Alfa Romeo has availed a selection of 12 exterior colors for the Giulia Quadrofoglio. Only the classic Alfa Rosso (red) is standard, with most other colors requiring an extra charge of $600. These metallic hues include Vulcano Black, Vesuvio Gray, Silverstone Gray, Montecarlo Blue, and Misano Blue. For $2,200, buyers can choose from either Rosso (red) Competizione Tri-Coat or Trofeo White Tri-Coat. Newly introduced colors include Rosso GTA Tri-Coat, Rosso Villa d'Esta Tri-Coat, Ocra GT Junior Tri-Coat, and Verde Montreal Tri-Coat; however, these four colors are subject to late availability. While this car looks sublime in just about any color, our choice would be one of those scorching reds.
The performance potential of the Giulia Quadrifoglio is no secret. Unlike BMW and Mercedes rivals that are offered in various configurations with different outputs, there is just one Quadrifoglio on offer. With that 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6 unleashing 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque, the red-hot Alfa will reach 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds and power on to a top speed of 191 mph, making it one of the fastest contenders in its class. That's without the added traction of an all-wheel-drive system, as this Alfa directs its power to the rear axle exclusively. This Italian thoroughbred is not just blindingly quick in a straight line, though, as it achieved a Nurburgring lap time of seven minutes and 32 seconds. Combined with the sedan's superb balance and an intoxicating engine note, it's clear why the Giulia Quadrifoglio has been lauded. Although the base model BMW M3 isn't as quick, the M3 Competition will match the Alfa up to 60 mph according to the German marque's claims. The older Mercedes-AMG C63 S also registers an identical 3.8-second time to 60 mph.
At the heart of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 engine generating 505 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. Like its chief rivals, power goes to the rear axle and the V6 is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters mounted on the steering column. Notably, the new M3 offers a manual transmission but the Alfa does not, at least not in the US.
Although throttle response is mediocre lower down, once you get past 3,000 rpm, the Giulia comes alive and will leave most other sedans behind. Although it can effectively potter around town, this car was designed to be driven aggressively. Not only is power delivery explosive once you're on the move, but the gearbox blitzes through its ratios quickly and smoothly. The aluminum paddles not only feel good but respond quickly, too, making manual mode genuinely engaging. Yes, a manual transmission would've been fantastic, but the auto 'box operates effectively whether left to its own devices or not.
The Alfa's talents don't begin and end with its powertrain. If you're going to conquer the BMW M3, you'd better engineer a car that knows its way around the twisties, and boy has Alfa Romeo done just that. With its Quadrifoglio-tuned active suspension and ideal weight distribution, the Alfa manages to achieve the best of both worlds. It's sharp without feeling nervous, exciting without being a chore to drive, and comfortable without ever feeling numb. Steering feel and feedback have been intentionally dialed out of many modern sedans, but the Alfa bucks this trend and communicates effectively, never leaving the driver in doubt as to what the front wheels are doing. If you have space to safely execute slides, this can be done so fluidly and with a high degree of control via the throttle. Body control is exceptional, while the four-mode Alfa DNA drive mode selector makes it easy to switch between Dynamic, Natural, Advanced Efficiency, and Race modes. When you run out of road or track, the Brembo braking system with six-piston front calipers will bring the sedan to a safe stop, although actual braking feel could be better.
Despite its sensational dynamic abilities, the Giulia proves to be an adept cruiser. Most bumps and surface changes are dispensed with calmly, so you can legitimately undertake long road trips in comfort. This car is a true triumph.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is marginally more efficient than the new M3, returning EPA-rated figures of 17/25/20 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles, but that depends on how much you use that V6's performance. By contrast, the BMW manages 16/23/19 mpg. Bettering both is the Mercedes-AMG C63 which can return 17/26/21 mpg. With a 15.3-gallon gas tank, the Alfa's combined cruising range works out to around 306 miles.
Slide into the driver's seat, and a sporty, user-friendly cockpit greets you. Although there are plenty of appealing leather, carbon fiber, and Alcantara surfaces, a side-by-side comparison with the BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 demonstrates that the Germans still have the edge in build quality. Still, the Alfa's cabin ticks many of the boxes expected of a premium sedan, while the sporty gauges ahead of the driver do a good job of prioritizing the information that matters most. As the range-topping Giulia, the Quadrifoglio comes with many standard features such as dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable and heated front seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a premium Harman Kardon sound system. The best features are also the most tactile elements though, the steering wheel with a red engine start button and massive, aluminum paddles where many would use cheap imitations.
Five occupants can be accommodated in the Giulia's cabin, but the Alfa lacks the spaciousness of some competitors at the back. Here, occupants that are over six-feet tall will feel a bit cramped, especially with regards to headroom, although shorter trips should be fine. Ingress and egress are also more challenging at the back due to the smaller door apertures. Things are a lot better in front, where the driver and passenger benefit from 14-way power-adjustable sport seats. These seats boast power lumbar support and power bolsters, offering great support during hard cornering. However, individuals with a bigger frame may feel a bit constricted in these seats, even if the leg and headroom are good.
Standard leather and Alcantara seats come as standard and strike a sporty, high-quality note. The seats can be had in black with stitching in colors like Dark Gray and Red. Other interior color schemes are Black/Ice and Black/Red. For $3,500, the upholstery can be upgraded to a mix of Sparco leather and Alcantara race seats in the same Black, Black/Ice, or Black/Red color schemes. There are many more welcome touches that elevate the cabin, such as the leather-wrapped upper door panels, the door handles finished in satin aluminum, a leather-wrapped instrument panel, and the Quadrifoglio-specific steering wheel with perforated leather inserts. Genuine carbon fiber inlays and wonderfully tactile aluminum paddle shifters are included as well.
The Alfa's trunk measures 13.4 cubic feet, which isn't the biggest in this segment, but neither is it a dealbreaker. More troublesome is the design of the trunk itself, which makes loading and unloading items a bit of a chore, especially when reaching in to retrieve items close to the rear seatbacks. A standard 40/20/40-split folding rear seat allows for expanded storage capacity, which is always a bonus.
Although there are numerous interior storage solutions, none of them are particularly large. Along with a covered center console, there are two cupholders in front, a front tunnel cargo net, a small glovebox, and door pockets. A wireless charging pad for your phone is an optional extra.
Starting at well over $70,000, the Giulia Quadrifoglio is expectedly well-stocked with standard safety and convenience items. The feature count includes dual-zone automatic climate control, 14-way power-adjustable front seats with power lumbar support, a driver's seat memory system, and heated front seats. A prominent red starter button is used for the push-button ignition system, while the trunk has a power release function. Other amenities extend to a heated steering wheel, a digital display within the instrument binnacle, ambient interior lighting, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a 12-volt power outlet. An array of safety technologies comprises front/rear parking sensors, a rearview camera with dynamic gridlines, and blind-spot monitoring. However, many safety innovations will cost you extra; among these are adaptive cruise control, driver attention alert, and lane-keep assist. Due to the Quadrifoglio's carbon-fiber roof, a sunroof isn't available as it is on cheaper Giulia models.
An 8.8-inch touchscreen neatly integrated into the dashboard can be used to access and manage features like the AM/FM radio, HD Radio, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. It comes with both a physical rotary controller and voice recognition, although the latter doesn't function as well as the voice commands found in German rivals. The Alfa also boasts 3D GPS navigation, a media hub with USB and auxiliary audio ports, and one rear USB charging port. The standard 14-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system sounds great if you somehow tire of the V6's tune; this unit includes a subwoofer and 900 watts of punch.
J.D. Power last rated the Giulia Quadrifoglio in 2019. Back then, the sports sedan held a quality and reliability rating of 75 out of 100, which was, unfortunately, lower than most premium rivals. Although still recall-free for the 2021 model year, the Giulia suffered one recall last year for rear brake discs that could potentially fracture.
Alfa Romeo covers the Giulia with a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, a four-year/50,000-mile powertrain warranty, roadside assistance for four years, and corrosion perforation coverage for five years regardless of mileage covered.
There have been no Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio safety reviews from the NHTSA yet. At the IIHS, the Giulia received only Good scores in every crashworthiness test, although the headlights on certain trims were rated as Poor.
A suite of eight airbags will protect occupants in the event of an accident. This includes knee airbags for those in front and curtain airbags for all outboard seating positions. All the usual safety features are in place, from ABS/EBD brakes to traction control, tire pressure monitoring, hill-start assist, and electronic stability control. Both front/rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are standard, but most advanced driver aids will cost extra. Blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert is standard, but options are active blind-spot assistance, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, driver attention alert, adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assistance, and traffic sign recognition.
Despite the threat of the all-new BMW M3, the Alfa is so good that it may just hang onto its crown as the most thrilling compact high-performance sedan once we've put the new M3 through its paces. A feast for all the senses, the Giulia Quadrifoglio sedan is an exciting vehicle whether you're gazing at it sitting in the driveway or when you're wringing its neck at high speeds. The twin-turbo V6 is a gem, the chassis playful and controllable, and the steering is a joy to operate. Remove the 'sport' aspect from the equation, and only then does the Alfa come across as more average. The quality is average rather than great, it doesn't have the most spacious trunk or interior, and there are question marks about its reliability. These flaws are more problematic for lesser Giulias, but as the ultimate Alfa Romeo performance sedan this side of the GTA, you could hardly ask for a more well-rounded package than the Quadrifoglio.
As a standalone high-performance model, the Giulia Quadrifoglio will cost you $74,750 in the US. This base price excludes tax, licensing, registration, and a destination charge of $1,595. It also excludes a range of tasty upgrades that can push the final Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio price to over $90,000 including destination. In the USA, the new BMW M3 comes in at a less expensive MSRP of $69,900 or $72,800 in Competition guise. Once again, these prices can escalate rapidly with a few options.
The 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is offered in just a single trim, but it's all the sports sedan you could possibly need. Sending power to the rear axle is a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 with 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque, which comes mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. A special Race driving mode can set up the Quadrifoglio for the sharpest responses.
Outside, the Quadrifoglio boasts 19-inch alloy wheels, a carbon fiber rear spoiler, a quad-exit exhaust arrangement, LED daytime running lights, and a carbon fiber roof. The cabin blends Alcantara with leather and genuine carbon fiber inserts successfully. Standard specs include dual-zone automatic climate control, 14-way power-adjustable front seats with heating, a driver's seat memory system, an 8.8-inch touchscreen display, and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. Optionally available upgrades encompass a wireless charging pad, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and Sparco carbon fiber racing seats.
The most expensive optional package is actually the one we'd most highly recommend. It's called the Active Assist 2 Package Quadrifoglio. At $2,200, it bundles together all the driver-assist technologies one would expect in a sedan of this stature. These include adaptive cruise control, driver attention alert, lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition, and traffic jam assist. For $1,500, the Carbon Package adds carbon fiber to the steering wheel, grille, and wing mirrors. This upgrade also includes Dark Miron badging. The Nero Edizione Package with this same badging goes for a cheaper $500.
Some of the standalone options that look quite appealing include a wireless charging pad ($250) and an exposed carbon fiber roof ($2,000).
As there is only one trim on offer, the Giulia Quadrifoglio you end up with will depend on how you want to spec it. If it were us, we'd go for the default Alfa Rosso paint with the 19-inch dark five-hole wheels. We'd also equip the $2,200 Active Assist 2 Package Quadrifoglio for access to all the available driver-assist technologies, along with the $250 wireless charging pad. We'd also be happy to spring for the $3,500 Sparco carbon fiber race seats since this is a car that deserves to play at the track regularly.
The all-new BMW M3 has arrived with the angriest face ever to be paired with that iconic badge, perhaps discontent that the Quadrifoglio successfully usurped its predecessor. We haven't driven it yet, but we expect great things from the updated BMW. With its turbocharged inline-six engine, it produces up to 503 hp in Competition guise and will match the Alfa from 0 to 60 mph. Crucially, the M3 comes with an available manual gearbox that will please purists, but the available all-wheel drive might not. Whether it can match the purity of the Giulia's steering feel and chassis remains to be seen, but the M3 will undoubtedly be an exciting machine to pilot. The M3 will also have more space for passengers, a nicer cabin, and the edge on the tech front. Expect an epic battle when these two finally go up against each other.
The Mercedes has been around for a good couple of years now, but then again, a 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8 with 503 hp never really goes out of style. It's enough for the C63 S to post exactly the same 0-60 time of 3.8 seconds as the Quadrifoglio. Although it handles well, the Merc can't match the delicacy of the Alfa when the road starts to twist. The Italian's major controls are more harmonious and it provides greater driver feedback, making it the more engaging sedan of the two. The latest C-Class range, and the C63 S by extension, has an interior that has held up reasonably well, retaining the luxurious aura that is synonymous with the three-pointed star. However, both cars are a bit cramped at the back for taller passengers. Although the AMG is still a riot, the better-balanced Giulia Quadrifoglio still gets our vote.