2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio review

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

Local arrival indicates this Italian hero is right on track.

WHAT IS IT?
Only the most significant performance Alfa in decades. This is the four-door sports sedan that stands as the flagship of not just the Alfa Romeo Giulia line-up, but the halo model of the entire marque. Pressure? Um, just bit.

WHY WERE TESTING IT
We drove the Giulia Quadrifoglio on an Italian circuit at its international launch, then took a manual example over Europe’s highest Alpine climbs. This is our first crack in the car on Aussie soil, but had to be contained to a track. A full road drive will follow soon.

2017-Alfa -Romeo -Giulia -Quadrifoglio -rearMAIN RIVALS
BMW M3 Competition: engine acoustics aren’t a unanimous charmer, and the on-limit handling treads an edgy, sometimes unnerving line. Not quite the ultra-persuasive, harmonious whole it once was.

The car the Alfa really needs to beat is the Mercedes-AMG C63 S, which brings two extra pots and another litre of capacity to the donk party, yet still only line-balls the Alfa for power (but does add another 100Nm.) Dampers are stiffer than a double scotch in their most aggro setting, but you’ll be intoxicated on the performance by then.

2017-Alfa -Romeo -Giulia -Quadrifoglio -cornerTHE WHEELS VERDICT
Impossible to give a definitive verdict based on a track-only drive, but the signs for Alfa’s crucial image-builder are overwhelmingly positive. The drivetrain is sweet, strong, and refined, and the handling has a wonderful, innate balance. Add a cabin that seduces with restrained, elegant design and quality materials, and it’s easy to fall for the QV’s considerable charms.

PLUS: Strong, refined powertrain; handling balance; interior; seduction factor
MINUS: Lacks some equipment offered on rivals; is it really quick enough to rule its segment?

2017-Alfa -Romeo -Giulia -Quadrifoglio -around -trackTHE WHEELS REVIEW
In the pit lane of Sydney Motorsport Park, the so-called ‘King of the Nurburgring’ is looking less like Italian royalty, and more like an honorary Aussie bogan clown prince.

Alfa development driver Armando Bracco has the new Alfa Romeo Giulia QV ‑ recently crowned the four-door ’Ring record holder – pinned on its nose, his right foot mashed to the floor. The sweet little 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 pa-pa-paparps against the limiter, and the spinning rear Pirellis send a flurry of smoke signals that may translate, to anyone fluent in Apache, to “Alfa is back, baby...”

2017-Alfa -Romeo -Giulia -Quadrifoglio -interiorFortunately there’s an abundant supply of fresh rubber piled high in the garage, and we’ll need it, as our first Aussie drive of Alfa’s new BMW M3/Mercedes-AMG C63-fighter is to be confined to the racetrack. The test cars arrived too late for road certification, so the all-important analysis of ride, refinement, and overall liveability on local bitumen will have to wait. In the meantime, we have to be content with chasing racer Alex Davison around the Gardner GP circuit, and getting a bit of drift tuition from Bracco.

So, first impressions, beyond the local pricing: the styling is seductive, and the cabin is lovely. To my eye, the exterior has less of the overt butchness of BMW’s M3; more a purposeful curvaceousness, with several cool aero details. Inside, it has an understated style but features rich-feeling materials and fine design that feels sufficiently special.

2017-Alfa -Romeo -Giulia -Quadrifoglio -tyres -smokingMost crucially, for an Alfa, the driving position does not demand you be some ‘missing link’ creature from a Discovery Channel doco. It’s natural, the seat goes nicely low, and the gorgeous wheel and aluminium paddles fall perfectly to hand. A manual gearbox is not offered in RHD, for the three of you out there considering the full Alfa nostalgia trip.

No, this sets out to be a thoroughly modern Alfa; the car to spearhead the marque’s rebirth. You may recall Mike Duff’s drive of a manual version (Wheels, Summer ’16) scaling European summits, and his mention of an awkward shift action and high-biting clutch. No such issues here, and I suspect the eight-speed auto does a better job of masking the turbo lag Duff experienced.

2017-Alfa -Romeo -Giulia -Quadrifoglio -frontOur car feels properly on boost as the tacho swings past 3500rpm, and the run out to seven grand or a bit beyond to the 7250rpm limiter is strong, smooth and entirely cultured. Perhaps a bit more cultured that I was expecting; the engine and exhaust note from inside the cabin is not the stuff to raise neck hairs or have you shouting “Forza!” Given its ’Ring record status, I expected a little more fury and feral edge everywhere, actually. It feels ultra-swift and entirely coherent, just not quite as fast as the 0-100km/h claim of 3.9sec would suggest.

What does give real hope for its ability as a brilliant road car is the chassis balance and adjustability. Even in the stiffer of the two damper settings, it doesn’t feel overly screwed down, so maybe this setting will actually be useable on Aussie roads, unlike the borderline-brutal Sport+ / Race setting on the Mercedes-AMG C63 S.

2017-Alfa -Romeo -Giulia -Quadrifoglio -engineThe track impressions also gave a sense that the Alfa may have a more fluid, less spiky transition from grip to slip than BMW’s M3. The Alfa’s Race setting quells the ESC enough to allow full-blooded, tyre-destroying drifts, but the electronics will try and save you if you completely overcook it. Again, this bodes well for road use.

As does the overall cabin refinement, suppression of wind noise, and the feel-good factor for anyone with a weakness for Italian cars. We’ll find out for sure when the QV faces its rivals next month.

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