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Introducing the Alfa Romeo Giulia

Introducing the Alfa Romeo Giulia

It’s taken seven long years for Alfa Romeo’s Giulia Quadrifoglio sports saloon to make it to these shores. Was it worth the wait? Prestige finds out.

Mention cars and Italy in the same breath and one word crops up instantly. Indeed, it would be fair to say that for most people around the world – even those with the slightest knowledge of automobiles – the names of Ferrari and its home country are so inextricably linked as to be almost synonymous.

Yet that wasn’t always the case. When I was a boy in drab post-war England, one of my proudest possessions was a Dinky Toy model of a bright red racing car. Yes, it was Italian, but its name didn’t begin with “F”. Instead, it was a tiny replica of an Alfa Romeo 158/159 Alfetta, a machine so successful that, in the hands of Giuseppe Farina and Juan-Manuel Fangio, it dominated the first two years of the Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship, in 1950 and 1951. In those days if you’d asked anyone to name an Italian car, they’d probably have said, “Alfa Romeo.”

(In fact, were it not for Alfa it’s doubtful Enzo Ferrari would have set up his own car brand at all. Shortly after the end of World War I he’d been employed as a driver by Alfa’s racing department and during the 1930s went on to manage the Milanese company’s team under the Scuderia Ferrari banner, when one of his drivers was the great Tazio Nuvolari. It was a relationship that lasted the best part of two decades until the two parties fell out – after which World War II provided the decisive break.)

The evocative four-leaf-clover symbol of Alfa Romeo’s former racing division, Autodelta

Since the glory days, Alfa Romeo’s fortunes have been patchy. Aside from endurance racing in the mid-’70s, it never repeated the track successes of the 1950s, and though its road cars were invariably wonderful to drive and lovely to behold, they were often plagued by unreliability – just as the then-state-owned company lurched from financial troubles to political crises. Eventually in the mid-1980s it was swallowed up by the Fiat group, which by that time also included Ferrari, but even then its owners struggled to work out exactly what to do with their charge.

Always one of those brands that enthusiasts desperately want to succeed, almost 40 years later Alfa Romeo now finds itself grouped within the premium brand portfolio of the huge automotive multinational Stellantis, which seems determined to build upon more than a century of history and goodwill. And with a line-up comprising the Stelvio SUV, the mid-size Giulia and a soon-to-arrive Tonal hybrid compact crossover, as well as the limited-edition 33 Stradale supercar adding a sprinkle of magic dust to the range, perhaps – just perhaps – it now has the products it needs not only to survive but prosper.

Unveiled in 2015 with a name recalling a much-loved succession of sporting Alfa saloons, coupes and convertibles in the 1960s and ’70s, the Giulia should have been a known quantity by now had not the company withdrawn from this market several years ago. Fortunately, the establishment of a new dealership here in mid-2023 has offered a long-overdue opportunity to experience a car that’s received the highest praise from almost everyone who’s driven it.

A four-door compact executive saloon on a rear-wheel-drive platform, which is positioned as a direct competitor to BMW’s 4 Series, it matches handsome styling – from its heart-shaped grille to the tailpipes – with some of the best dynamics in its class. Moreover, its high-performance Quadrifoglio variant, under whose vent-incised carbon-fibre bonnet lurks a Ferrari-sourced twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 engine of enormous potency, is rated among the most exhilarating super saloons in the world – a machine said to put the frighteners even on M3s and C 63s. No prizes for guessing which version I’ve asked to borrow.

The dashboard may be a little dated, but we love it

And gosh, in its Alfa Red paint job – with, of all things, a black carbon-fibre roof – and riding on 19-inch five-hole alloys, the Giulia QF really does look the business. Beneath all that lovely sheet metal and composite, its six-cylinder motor pumps out more than 510 bhp and 600Nm (the latter at 2,500-5,500rpm), hefty helpings of grunt that are delivered to the rear wheels via an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox, a carbon-fibre driveshaft and – new on the ’23 model – a mechanical limited-slip differential. If those few facts don’t suggest the word “thoroughbred”, then a zero-to-100km/h time in less than four seconds and maximum speed not of 305 certainly should. Oh, and if you’d rather be swapping cogs with a manual box, tough: right-hand-drive markets get the Hobson’s choice of an auto, though as it shifts fast and smoothly it’s probably the better deal anyway.

Where the Alfa is beginning to show its eight years is in the cabin, though to my eyes that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instrument design and info screens have moved on considerably since 2015, but I rather like the dashboard’s sweeping lines and the ’60s-style hooded circular dials – and as for the small-ish TFT display at the centre, I prefer to keep my eyes on the road anyway. Adding to the performance focus is plenty of mirror-polished, 3D-textured carbon fibre, while the small and narrow-rimmed steering wheel is fabulous, as are the long, curved gearshift paddles, the front seats and a driving position that could hardly be bettered.

Pressing the wheel-mounted starter button brings the Quadrifoglio’s turbo V6 to smooth and surprisingly unrowdy life; in fact, driven sedately through town you’ll find it’s the apotheosis of refinement. Open up the throttle on the highway, though, with the drive selector set to Dynamic, and both the motor and four-pipe exhaust system will start howling and growling like a pack of animals. Admittedly there’s a hint of turbo lag at lower engine speeds, but once you hit the torque band at around 2,500rpm and the speedometer needle makes its sudden lurch around the dial, that Fezza-built six-pot will sing its way through the entire orchestral repertoire towards a top end that approaches 7,000. If that sounds to you like an engine which loves to rev, you’d be dead right. And the Giulia QF is fast, very fast indeed, with acceleration so rapid and linear it’s hard to comprehend.

The four tailpipes indicate this Giulia is a Quadrifoglio

Equally eager to play, the Alfa’s chassis is a total joy, from the fast, communicative and ultra-direct steering to the gorgeous fluidity of the handling. Balance, grip and body control approach supercar levels, but unless you’re mad enough to flip the mode selector to Race (which adjusts the dampers to their firmest setting, turns off the stability control and will probably have you heading sideways towards the nearest lamp post as soon as you do so), the ride is never less than supple and forgiving – which, given the canyon-like potholes and expansion joints that litter the roads round here, makes this car even more magical and desirable.

As I’m hurtling along in the Giulia QF, I have to keep reminding myself that this roaring red missile is actually a four-door saloon, a car in which people can do eminently sensible things, such as loading up at the super marketing, running the children to school or football, or perhaps taking family and friends for a picnic. Were I fortunate enough to have one parked in my own driveway, I might even indulge in such responsible behaviour myself – though I have more than a sneaking suspicion I’d head out on the road simply for the hell of it, revelling in the speed, the noise, the poise and the character of what could well be the finest sports saloon money can buy. Then I’d get out to stare at it long and lovingly – and then get back in and do it again. And again.

The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio’s acceleration is so rapid and linear it’s hard to comprehend

Technical Details of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

ENGINE twin-turbocharged 2.9 litre V6

TRANSMISSION eight-speed automatic

See Also

MAX POWER 514bhp

MAX TORQUE 600Nm @ 2,500-5,500rpm

MAX SPEED 308km/h

ACCELERATION 0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds


PRICE from HK$1.408 million

Source: Prestige Online

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