The cars we loved.
When Alfa Romeo made it’s return to the U.S. market in 2012, it was a low key event as high profile Italian car makers go. That’s mostly because it had only one car on offer to American customers. The 4C roadster was an extreme sports car that captured the hearts of driving enthusiasts. Although it had less power than the latest V6 Honda Accord, it made good use of it. Problem was that it cost well over it’s suggested price of $55,000 if you could even get your hands on one.
The only other way that you could get close to an Alfa was through the Dodge Dart. The gene-splicing of the Dart somehow managed to remove much of the great DNA from the Giulietta hatchback from which it was based. The Dart was much better than any Neon, but somehow could not keep up in the highly competitive compact sedan segment.
Fast forward to 2017 and the real Alfa Romeo welcome back party is just beginning. In addition to the two variants of the 4C, Alfa will launch a sports sedan that promises to shake up the otherwise German and Japanese dominated market. To top it all off, the company promises a SUV that really puts the sport part in the acronym. For now it’s the Giulia that’s getting the attention that the 4C didn’t in Alfa’s real return to the U.S. market.
If there’s anything that stands out about the new Giulia, it’s that its different. No sedan sold in America looks like it. No sedan that I can think of even resembles it. For some strange reason when I see its snarky front end with slinky headlights I think of Captain Nemo and the Nautilus fighting an octopus. It’s an odd thought, but the Giulia will seem like a fish out of water when it makes ripples in the look-alike near luxury sports sedan market.
With BMW grip on the sports sedan title loosening and everyone from Mercedes to Infinity focusing on performance, the Giulia might seem to have it’s work cut out for it even as opportunity presents itself. In reality the biggest obstacle that Alfa faces is itself, or more specifically, the ghost of sedans past. Cars like the 164 were fun to drive when they were not needing expensive service and parts.
That memory may have faded for most, or will soon Alfa hopes when the Giulia hits our market. The Giulia is the largest sedan in Alfa’s line up and will come in three varieties. The base and Ti models feature a 280hp four cylinder turbo engine. They feature an 8 speed automatic transmission that helps these cars reach 60 mph from a stop light in just over 5 seconds. On paper they stack up well to BMW’s 328 and Audi’s A4 and are priced similarly in the $37 to 39K range.
All the fuss of course comes from the top model, the Quadrifoglo. It’s distinguished from the lesser stock by virtue of it’s 19 inch rims, aggressive active aero and race car-like rear diffuser and lower stance. It’s also adorned with the small four leaf clover (quadrifoglo) that has graced performance Alfa Romeo for nearly 100 years.
With a 510 hp Ferrari designed V6 (similar to the ones found in the Maserati Ghibi and Quattroporte) is the most powerful car in it’s class. Needing only 3.9 seconds to get to 60 makes it much faster than BMW’s M3 sedan or M4 coupe. In fact the initial word on performance makes a case for the Giulia Quadrifoglo being the closest thing to a Ferrari sedan that you can get for now.
Like any great road car, the Quadrifoglo has a nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution. It’s rear wheels benefit from torque vectoring while the ride quality is said to be on par with the class leader BMW. In addition to the tired accolade of chasing and achieving a record on a certain German racetrack, the Quadrifoglo can be a comfortable highway cruiser when the road straightens out.
Even in it’s base forms, the Giulia has hints of Italian design passion and presence. In the Quadrifoglo, it tastefully aggressive looking yet not boy racerish as things designed with passion can sometimes be. The interiors don’t look special in particular, in fact they are said to have sub par materials for a car in the $70,000 range. The top model of course comes with leather stitching and a bit more chrome than the others, but overall it’s a clean functional design reminiscent of some late Ferrari GT cars.
Hopefully Alfa won’t take BMW’s approach to options, one that nickles and dimes you for things that are standard in a Ford Fusion. That said, in the sport sedan market the novelty of an Italian product has to have some pedigree that stands above cars made from anywhere else in the world. That alone might be Alfa’s biggest selling point in a market that has made do with the same old European, Asian and occasional American marques.
Still to really compete with the Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Cadillac’s of the world, the Giulia has to be reliable and dependable. Assuming that the economies of scale in the modern auto industry will afford the new Giulia the benefit of the doubt, it will be interesting to see how resell values hold up after the first wave of them comes off leases.
At one time I had convinced myself that I might give newly used Jaguar an chance when considering a replacement for my aging BMW. Now I have an even better looking Italian option, but like with any British car, I have to look with my mind and not my heart because those Italian curves will get you every time.
2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglo