For years, I have always wanted to drive an Alfa Romeo.
Even before I finally got a chance behind the wheel of a 4C coupe a few years ago, I felt that I was unworthy of piloting an Italian icon. Even if a Milano or a 164 had an automatic transmission, I passed on that opportunity while circling one on the showroom floor.
Recently, I did a couple of dealer-based drives of Alfa Romeo's latest vehicles – the Giulia and the Stelvio. It's great that I was able to experience what these vehicles were all about. Yet, its short time in my care yielded only basic information, despite volumes of endorphin-inducing moments of joy.
Twenty minutes does not equal the full Alfa Romeo experience. I knew that if I can bring one in on a regular evaluation cycle, then I can walk away fulfilling my want of this elusive professional moment.
What I got instead was more than I truly asked for. The media fleet representing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sent up not just a Giulia for a review in another publication I designed it for. It was not a mere Ti with all-wheel drive as most Alfa Romeo customers would buy.
Instead, they sent up a Quadrifoglio.
This has to be a mistake. How can you trust this journalist with a 505-horsepower beast with carbon fiber seats and hardcore suspension? How can you bring up something that was partially developed by Ferrari – one of two brands I have yet to drive in my lifetime?
Before I answered all of those questions, I took a deep breath. Then, I scanned the Trofeo White Giulia Quadrifoglio from front to back, inside and out. I knew I had something truly special that most people would trade in their mundane day jobs for.
In June, you can read the full review of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio in the Twin Cities-based lifestyle magazine I write for. If you cannot wait until then, join me as I indulge in this work of Italian art and engineering.
The first thing you learn by working with this car is that you must throw all preconceptions out the window. You also must not recall anything you read or viewed about this car. The approach must be a clean slate. Because if you cloud your thoughts with what someone else said about the Giulia Quadrifoglio, then you will never get the right impressions and experience from it. This should be true not just on the Giulia Quadrifoglio, but of any vehicle – period.
Another piece of self-advice is to not think this is like any other vehicle. Each vehicle is special on its own merits. Some vehicles are more than equal than others. These are statements you probably heard many times over, but it is especially true when approaching the Giulia Quadrifoglio. Because of the path it took to produce this sedan, there is a higher plinth to where it sits in the sphere of the automobile.
Thirdly, be prepared to expose the vehicle on public roads. There are no amount of fanboys, trolls, public safety personnel, friends, people who really want to be your friend, and other onlookers that will possibly prevent me from doing the job of properly evaluating this piece of Italian art and engineering.
All of this may seem like common sense. Understand this: As professional as I can be in this work, there will be an occasion where you get to work with very special machinery. Thusly, that professionalism may take a back seat for just a few moments.
I'll tell you that it was tough. We all talk about "dream cars." Cars we only dream of working with or drive for at least a moment in time. Cars that seem so out of reach of those who fantasize about them. Driving an Alfa Romeo was a dream in itself. The Giulia is just a modern interpretation of the classic Alfas of my youth. It might not be that precious 1750 GT Veloce or a Spider or an Alfetta sedan, but there is a deep current that runs through this modern premium sports sedan.
That deep current was not calm. This was a big wave that a surfer must attack and ride accordingly. The Giulia Quadrifoglio had this 2.9-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 that felt like a V8. The numbers are secondary – 505 horsepower, 3.8 seconds from 0-to-60 MPH, 191 MPH top speed, and the record-setting times from the Nurburgring – to what it really feels like.
The key to the amount of smiling one can do is attached to the DNA knob on the console. Natural is just normal. It loves to rev but does so in stealth mode. It offers maximum relative comfort over terrible road conditions. There is not enough hot mix pothole solution to ease anyone’s pain. Steering weight is softer than I’d like, but that action is exact and sharp!
All of this is ratcheted up a few levels by switching the DNA knob to Dynamic. Handling becomes sharper, even though you suffer in ride quality. It's not bad if you're used to hardcore sporting machines. The average motorist might not like it. I say to you who fall into this category…"sorry, it's my wave, bro!"
Steering weight is heavier in Dynamic mode. As you know, I like my steering action and response weighted for more precise control and better on-center feel. This results in gaining greater control on more challenging roads. It also helps that overall handling is enhanced with a perfect 50/50 weight distribution and balance.
For the brakes, I have to admit loving the size of the rotors and calipers. They are of the carbon ceramic variety with large Brembo red calipers. Stopping power should be excellent, right? Well, between the rotors and calipers and a great brake pedal is a brake-by-wire system. Maybe it is the actual tester I am working with, but I would love it if that system and its components master would facilitate the power from my size 14 foot onto a very short stopping distance. Then again, I am asking for the universe from an Alfa Romeo.
In time, the system did learn that I am indeed asking for superb braking at points where I need it. Perhaps my inner talk from Jeremy Clarkson of his love/hate of Alfa Romeos and other colleagues who have expressed this concern and that feedback should concentrate on the Ferrari-developed twin-turbo V6 instead of trivial things – such as braking.
There were other things that helped make the experience of the Giulia what it was. The available Sparco carbon fiber racing seats were just fine. I'm glad for once that I lost the weight I did over the years to be able to fit in-between the deep bolsters and plop my non-existent derriere onto the flat seat cushion. These seats are not for everyone, I will admit that the standard seats look more comfortable with the same leather-Alcantara upholstery combination and contrast stitching.
But, I did not mind at all. Perhaps I am used to seats like the Sparcos. They’re simple to adjust with manual rake and recline, with a power height adjustment. That’s all you need, really. The Giulia Quadrifoglio invites you to just sit down, start it up, and run.
There are plenty of classic Alfa Romeo looks to behold. The instrument panel has two round dials flanked by a classic cover on top of the binnacle. The front end with its iconic triangle grille as the centerpiece of a sculptured design befitting of classic Alfa Romeos from the 1950s and later. The doors are shorter, but I'm fine with them.
All is forgiven when you simply look at it. You know how unique and special this car is. You know it has a sound that is undeniably Alfa Romeo. You know how much effort Ferrari and the rest of the European part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles went into developing every piece of this car.
After a few steps away from the car, I had many questions to ponder. Was it worth it? Was it worth the near-$90,000 sticker that was on it? Was it worth sitting on Sparco racing seats and switching between Natural and Dynamic to get the best mix of driving experience? Was it worth the attention it got on social media and in person? Was it worth winning Motor Trend's Car of The Year?
The answer comes from a simple truth – this is where Alfa Romeo needs to be right now. This car – the Giulia Quadrifoglio – is the embodiment of its past and present. Yet, you have to have some knowledge and experience to get to this conclusion. In my case, recalling the GTVs, the Spiders, the Alfettas, the older Giulias, the Milanos, and the 164s – as new cars – helped to enhance the experience and use them as a filter to arrive at my feelings about this car.
These points were the biggest takeaways from this experience.
Before we conclude this adventure with the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, let's talk about public perception for a moment. In the time I had the car, there were plenty of interactions with it at meets, shows, and other gatherings of friends. It seems that those who know about this car, the backstory, and the brand's history understand it more than others. I had some people who did not know that Alfa Romeo existed before the 4C's arrival into dealerships. There were some who did not put the green four-leaf clover and the word "Quadrifoglio" together – rather understand why this car wears that badge.
I had the chance to overhear some passing interactions about this car. They could be interpreted as ignorant and/or sarcastically hateful. It is concerning how so-called enthusiasts can be sometimes.
Maybe they'll understand why Alfa Romeo exists in today's automotive universe and within FCA's domain. Maybe they'll understand the importance of the Giulia Quadrifoglio to the brand's existence in the USA and worldwide. Maybe, there's hope for the world…
If I have one summation to make about the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, it would be to comprehend the reasons for this car's existence and understand its abilities to maximize the experience. ItThe Giulia Quadrifoglio is a brilliant car that is well balanced and begs to be driven all the time.
Believe me, this is a car to experience first-hand.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
All photos by Randy Stern