Alfa’s top-line Giulia gets it back in the game

Alfa’s top-line Giulia gets it back in the game


ALFA Romeo is back from the brink of being a brand forgotten with its Giulia Quadrifoglio putting it firmly in the fast lane - for petrol-heads, at least.

The top-of-the-line Giulia has won the hearts and minds of (and plenty of cash from) fans of the The Grand Tour car show after co-host Jeremy Clarkson gave the car his solid tick of approval.

There’s no doubting it’s got the goods under the bonnet and it’s certainly a good-looking vehicle. Yet some of the Italian brand’s inconsistency issues remain. While this powerful beast has an outstanding engine and is dressed in magnificent clothing, it still lacks soul where it matters most to many, which is on the inside.

On the street, the premium sports sedan’s look is pure European luxe, but its interior feels like it’s going Japanese. High-quality materials apparent on the car’s exterior aren’t consistent throughout. That may not matter, however, to a bloke - or gal - who’s after engine power. And this car has that in spades.

After decades of underwhelming Alfas, the Giulia Quadrifoglio is described as “a proper Alfa Romeo”, marking a return to the true sporting values that used to be the hallmark of this automotive group. The Giulia QV is in fact one of the first cars from the brand in a planned decade-long big-spending program to return it to a market-leading position in the power-to-weight ratio contest. In attempting to get there, it’s been chasing down some big competition in BMW M, Mercedes-AMG and Audi Sport.

But in achieving its lightweight goals, this car may have had to give up too much. The value proposition from the driver’s seat, for a start, is less-than-apparent, with buttons, dials and indicator stems feeling plastic and cheap.

Perhaps this is a matter of getting used to things, but many of them also feel like they’re in the wrong place, rendering them either counter-intuitive or ungainly. The large scale and positioning of the plastic paddle shifts make for clumsy indication or use of wiper blades. Put a bottle in the cup holder and the climate controls are blocked.

On the Infotainment system, our photographer says he’s not sure “if it is ‘simple smart’ or ‘simple stupid'. It wasn’t easy to use, and the controls for it felt really loose, unfinished.”

‘Physically getting into the car involved a bit of trickery which left me feeling my derrière was verging on the too-large size - if there’s such a thing these days.’

Another gripe was getting into the car. If an automotive manufacturer’s going to go to the trouble of including “Keyless Go” and putting in a bright red start/stop button, then Key Recognition at a locked door seems an obvious inclusion. But no. With the Giulia, one must fish around in the handbag for said key and do things the old-fashioned way. Not that there’s anything wrong with old-fashioned in some instances, but the key thing was just annoying.

As if that wasn’t exasperating enough, physically getting into the car involved another surprising bit of trickery which left me suspecting my derrière was verging on the too-large size - if there’s such a thing these days.

There didn’t seem to be enough space between the steering wheel and seat, which meant entry to or exit from the driver’s seat often resulted in contact with the car to some part of the body, either head, knee or rear-end. Given it’s not a particularly low car, this isn’t something I’d encountered in a sedan before. It is possible this was just me being particularly uncoordinated that week. Or maybe my bum really is too big. Whatever.

But all of this is meaningless for power hounds after the unadulterated performance offered in the flagship of the Giulia range (though they would be right in being less forgiving in lower-level Giulias). Plant your foot on the pedal in the Giulia QV and the reason this V6 eight-speed automatic has been propelled into the world of powerful executive saloons becomes amply apparent.

Acceleration is quick - under 4 seconds to the 100, though with all the power going to the rear wheels, it’s prone to side slip in the wet. At least it stops well, even in the rain, which is important especially as it has a claimed “best-in-class” top speed of 307km/h.

The body control and ride are relatively comfortable in the relaxed drive modes, though suspension is tight in Dynamic mode. Using the paddle shifts in that race mode provide a superb driving experience, with each gear change delivering a push in the back.

At low speeds, one thing that must surely annoy anyone driving this car is the knocking that happens when it’s in a tight turn, like a simple U-turn. Apparently this happens in all Alfa’s but it absolutely detracts from the external classy feeling of this car. And that’s going to matter to discerning customers.

Madam Wheels Verdict

A car for the power-hungry driver, best enjoyed on the open road through varying terrain over a long run where the car can be put through its paces.

Back-Seat Drivers’ Verdict: (First comments on entering the car, aged 13 and 11 respectively.) She said: “There’s not enough leg room in the back.” He said: “It feels cheap (inside the car).”

Madam Wheels Worthy? Not a car we’d like as a day-to-day drive because of the less-than-impressive finishes, tight confines and annoying knock on the front wheels in tight, slow turns.

Buy: If you believe Jeremy Clarkson who claimed in his 2017 review that “you can’t be a true petrol-head until you’ve owned an Alfa Romeo” and that this was the one to buy.

Avoid: If you’re not a petrol-head and have no desire to be one.

Likes: The look of the car on the street, the cool Monza exhaust with quad-tips detail and, of course, that engine.

Dislikes: The cheap, almost thoughtless attention to detail inside the car.

Bottom line: Around $158,800 drive away in Toorak.