Once upon a time, there were cars that were pleasing to the eye while also being engaging – even exciting – to drive. Those days are mostly gone as vehicle designs have become so bland and similar that it’s often difficult to tell them apart.
As buyers continue to snatch up all of the generic crossovers they can get their hands on, manufacturers have responded by phasing out exciting models in favour of producing vehicles that sell. Not only have crossovers and SUVs been padding industry-wide sales stats month after month for the last several years, but also manufacturers’ bottom lines as these vehicles typically enjoy higher profit margins.
Vehicle occupants have become so insulated and pampered, and drivers so removed from the task at hand that the very act of driving has become a distraction from their personal devices. Within these boring cocoons, occupants are coddled with a plethora of comfort, convenience, and safety features that remove them from anything resembling a visceral experience. Engaging with infotainment screens and smartphone interfaces has become the focus. Comfortable, content, and bored, they turn to their screens for social media updates and entertainment.
There isn’t much chance of that happening in the 2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.
Among a vast sea of automotive monotony, all Alfa Romeos stand out in North America. Beyond their distinctive front ends and shapely style, they’re simply rare. The brand sold just 242 Giulias in Canada in all of 2019 and at the time of this writing it’s sold only 83 this year.
Indeed, this particular Giulia consistently captured attention wherever it went. The range-topping Quadrifoglio trim sees the dial turned up another few notches, with a laundry list of aesthetic and performance-focused details. Interior and exterior upgrades are more than just window dressing. And while engine and chassis advancements may not be seen, they can most certainly be heard – and felt.
Boasting 505 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, the Giulia is not exactly lacking in output, but its 6,500 rpm redline does take away some of the fun. Tapping the left shifter paddle a couple of times and putting your right foot down in a decisive fashion will no doubt light up the back tires with laughable ease up to and through fourth gear. Limited by an eight-speed automatic transmission with a conventional torque converter rather than incorporating a dual-clutch system, shifts could be faster but are still nicely calibrated for swift and precise gear changes.
Driving Feel: 9.5/10
Given all of the automation and insulation of modern vehicles, many of them lack feedback and character. Not so with the Giulia Quadrifoglio. It has personality to spare. Push the starter button mounted on the carbon-fibre and synthetic suede steering wheel, and the 2.9 L twin-turbocharged V6 barks to life before settling into an imposing idle. Variable drive modes increase the level of sensation and enjoyment by ramping up the throttle response, suspension damping, and steering inputs.
The drive experience is raw, responsive, and engaging, which can either play for or against the car, depending on your prerogative and preference. It may just be entertaining enough to make you put your phone down and pay attention.
From the moment you slide into the supportive eight-way-adjustable heated leather and faux suede driver’s seat, you become aware that this isn’t just any luxury sedan. It’s a raw, visceral experience. The precise steering that allows you to carve corners can also feel twitchy under normal driving conditions. The taut suspension that permits you to clip apexes with ease is also unforgiving of road irregularities. The sound of the engine is electrifying, but it’s not the only sound that creeps into the cabin on the highway. Nothing is without compromise. If you are in fact searching for something sporty yet comfortable, there are many options that should suit your needs from the likes of Lexus, Mercedes, Volvo, BMW, and Audi. But that’s not really what the Giulia Quadrifoglio is all about.
Fuel Economy: 6/10
Does anyone in the market for a 1,505 kg (3,320 lb) 505-hp sports sedan give a flying whoop-de-doo about fuel economy? Well, for those who are remotely interested, the projected consumption numbers are 13.5 L/100 km in the city and 9.3 L/100 km on the highway, with a combined average of 11.6 L/100 km. As expected, the real-world number I observed after a week of driving was much higher, settling at 15.9 L/100 km. Of course, the week was spent mostly in sport mode while using a heavy right foot with literally zero concern for fuel economy whatsoever. The Giulia Quadrifoglio asks – nay, demands – to be driven enthusiastically.
The Giulia’s value proposition will be a tough pill for some to swallow, as much of its worth can only be experienced by the fortunate one behind the wheel. As remarkable and sublime as the new Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 may be, some will only see it as a Mustang. To the untrained eye, its interior isn’t that different from that of an entry-level model costing $29,000, so how can you justify its six-figure price tag?
The same goes for the Quadrifoglio, which undeniably shares its DNA with the entry-level Giulia and its starting $47,945 price. Both the interior and exterior are decidedly more upmarket in this top trim, but it does retain elements of its more pedestrian and less expensive siblings. Where it really stands out is in its exhilarating driving dynamics and aggressive character. If you’re a driving enthusiast, then the price is a bargain.
Outfitted in a deep, rich Trofeo White tri-coat paint, it was easy to examine all of the various lines and accents of the Giulia’s exterior, from the front fascia to the dual mode exhaust pipes in the rear.
The massive carbon-ceramic brakes and Brembo calipers can be seen through the dark, five-spoke 19-inch wheels. The Nero Edizione package adds a dark grille, mirror caps, and badging.
The newly updated interior styling is nicely laid out and visually pleasing, but higher-quality dash and door materials would bring it more in line with the stiff competition in this arena. This particular model’s interior was handsomely swathed in leather, faux suede, and genuine carbon fibre.
The list of comfort and convenience items isn’t as long as one may hope or perhaps expect from a car in this segment, or of this price point. It is quite obvious after driving it that the lion’s share of research and development dollars has gone into the engine, chassis, and active suspension rather than gimmicky features like a perfume dispenser, soft-close doors, inflating seat bolsters, or automatic seat belts. The 14-speaker sound system can also be used to channel your phone through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, both of which come standard. It also offers an optional wireless charging pad and heated seats for both front and rear occupants.
User Friendliness: 8/10
Bucking the trend, the Giulia’s HVAC system thankfully features tactile buttons and dials that are easy to operate, even with gloves on. The new 8.8‑inch touchscreen houses an intuitive infotainment system, offering 3D navigation, various parking displays, and a customizable layout that helps make information easier to access. The steering wheel features buttons and switches that are easy to use. Also unlike many luxury manufacturers – cough Mercedes and BMW cough – the Giulia’s switchgear is intuitive. Push “P” for Park; slide it to the left for manual mode; push forward to drop a gear; back to go up a gear. Simple. Easy. I don’t know why others insist on complicating the process.
The suspension is firm and the steering quick and communicative. The carbon-ceramic brakes, an $8,250 option, offer plenty of bite but would require some time for the uninitiated to become accustomed. These elements could be disconcerting for some while dazzling for others. All-wheel drive has become so ubiquitous that not everyone seems to be comfortable piloting a rear-wheel-drive vehicle these days. Navigating such a vehicle during inclement weather would require some finesse and restraint. In reality, you don’t buy a car like this unless you want to crack the back end loose from time to time.
The decision to purchase an Alfa Romeo of any kind is less about practicality than it is about passion. Even more so when you’re talking about a six-figure 505-hp rear-wheel-drive sports sedan. Improvements made to the fit and finish of the interior, or additions of advanced safety technology are merely reasons you use to convince your significant other – or the rational side of your brain – that this is a smart decision. Listening to sound advice would prevent such an expenditure from transpiring, but would you really be content driving a Toyota Corolla? Of course you wouldn’t. After all, the heart wants what the heart wants. Plus, reliability ratings and good fuel economy numbers aren’t sexy. That being said, the Giulia does offer 40/20/40-split folding rear seats and a larger trunk than most sports cars. However, the rear seats are rather cramped for adults, and the cargo capacity of the trunk isn’t exactly cavernous.
Dual advanced front airbags, side curtain front and rear airbags, and blind-spot and cross-path detection are all standard equipment. My tester was equipped with the $2,295 Active Driver Assist package, which includes an active blind-spot assist, adaptive cruise control with emergency braking, automatic high-beams, lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition, a driver attention alert, and Alfa’s partially automated system that helps guide the car through traffic by accelerating, braking, and steering in certain situations. It also includes solar-control windshield glass that reduces heat inside the car by blocking infrared and ultraviolet rays from entering the cabin. If that’s something you happen to be concerned about.
Many of the newer vehicles on our roads these days are painfully dull and often indiscernible from one another. While most luxury cars are simultaneously dumbing down their styling and numbing the drive experience, the Giulia goes in a distinctly different and refreshing direction. In typical Italian flair, the 2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio raises a flippant middle finger at the establishment of luxury sedans. It stands out and captures attention. Not only will you likely be the only one on your street who owns one, but you may even forget all about checking your email and texts while you’re driving. Your friends, family, and colleagues will understand.
|Engine Cylinders||Twin-turbo V6|
|Peak Horsepower||505 hp|
|Peak Torque||443 lb-ft|
|Fuel Economy||13.5 / 9.3 / 11.6 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||368 L|
|Model Tested||2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio|
|Price as Tested||$109,435|
$15,795 – Trofeo White tri-coat paint, $2,500; 19X8.5 19X10 Dark 5-hole aluminum wheels, $500; Active Driver Assist Package (Active Blind Spot Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop, Automatic High-Beam Headlamp Control, Driver Attention Alert, Highway Assist System, Intelligent Speed Assist, Lane Keep Assist, Solar-control windshield glass, Traffic jam assist, Traffic sign recognition), $2,295; Nero Edizione (Dark Miron badging, exterior mirror caps, V scudetto grille), $350; Security and Convenience Group (cargo net, cargo tie-down loops, grocery bag hooks, premium alarm system), $450; Brembo Carbon Ceramic Brakes, $8,250; Rear Heated Seats, $500; Wireless Charging Pad, $350; Carbon Fibre/Alcantara Steering Wheel, $600