Review: Alfa Romeo Giulia is almost awesome – Detroit Free Press
Brilliant engine, steering lead brand’s comeback.
Mark Phelan/Detroit Free Press
The line of people ducking responsibility for pricing and feature decisions on the ★★★ 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is destined to be a long one.
I guarantee there will not be three more exciting or beautiful cars than the Giulia introduced this year, but those decisions — nearly $86,000 for a car with manually adjustable seats? Controls that are years behind the competition in ease of use? — will prevent Giulia from being the hit its performance and looks deserve.
This is corporate malpractice. Fiat Chrysler’s engineers and designers did their job, but the rest of the organization failed to understand the competitive reality. The result is a car that can run with the BMW M3, Cadillac ATS-V, Mercedes AMG C 63 S and other great sport sedans, but fails at simple tasks like tuning the radio and adjusting the front seats.
The Giulia is the first fruit of a $5-billion program to make Alfa Romeo a leading luxury brand and a cash cow for the struggling automaker. CEO Sergio Marchionne bet money FCA cannot afford to lose that Alfa can morph from irrelevance into a brand that can compete with Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Jaguar and Mercedes.
Giulia prices start at $37,995 for a rear-wheel-drive model with a turbocharged 280-hp four-cylinder 2.0L engine. A base all-wheel-drive Giulia with the same drivetrain costs $39,995. All Giulias get the latest version of ZF’s outstanding eight-speed automatic transmission.
The top model is the rear-drive Giulia Quadrifoglio, recognizable by the enamel four-leaf clovers on its front fenders and an astounding 505-hp 2.9L V6 bi-turbo under the hood. Giulia Quadrifoglio prices start at $72,000.
I tested a Quadrifoglio with blind spot alert, USB ports, Harman Kardon audio, lane departure and front collision alerts, navigation, carbon-fiber Sparco racing seats, carbon-ceramic Brembo brakes, 19-inch wheels, active carbon-fiber front spoiler and more. It stickered at $86,850. All prices exclude destination charges.
The Giulia is more powerful and costs more than competitors like the Audi S4, M3, ATS-V and Infiniti Q50 Red Sport. It’s got a bare 2 horsepower more, but a substantial 73 pound-feet more torque than the slightly more expensive twin-turbo V8-powered Mercedes AMG C 63 S.
The demanding Marchionne delayed FCA’s new Giorgio architecture several times because the vehicles in development weren’t good enough to compete with those outstanding cars.
The extra time paid off. The Giulia’s handling and acceleration are outstanding. The steering may be the sharpest and most responsive of any sedan on the road, but it’s not touchy, with a clear on-center feel. The suspension clings to the road in fast turns and hunkers down for acceleration. Even with aggressive sport tires, the adaptive suspension also absorbs bumps reasonably well, and road noise is acceptable.
Alfa’s corporate sibling Ferrari engineered the Quadrifoglio’s 2.9L twin-turbo V6 to produce a whopping 505 hp and 443 pound-feet of torque. The exhaust note is unobtrusive until you floor it or activate the dynamic or race modes. Then it delivers a satisfying rumble and back-pressure burps.
The interior is snug and attractive, trimmed with attractive leather, contrasting stitching and carbon-fiber trim. Storage for phones, cups, and other items is good. Rear legroom is fine.
The trunk has a narrow opening that makes it hard to load large objects, but its size is competitive.
The seats are comfortable, though the optional racing front seats have manual adjustments that offer fewer choices than the competition. They also lack memory for the driver’s settings. If you don’t think that matters, count how many $87,000 sedans you see parked on the street. Everybody else used the valet, and valets often adjust seats.
Power seats are available, but not with the Sparco carbon-fiber sport seats. Note to Alfa product planning: Rich Americans who’ll shell out $2,750 for carbon-fiber seat backs will also want a decent range of adjustment and memory for their settings. Heated and maybe cooled front seats, too.
The display screen for navigation and audio is small. Unlike leading competitors, it’s not a touch screen. You have to use a cumbersome rotary controller to access many features. Combined with iffy voice recognition, the controls can be frustrating.
The poor controls are inexplicable. FCA’s Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram brands have the auto industry’s simplest and best controls, the combo of touch screen, buttons, dials and voice called Uconnect.
There’s no excuse for using a third-rate version of BMW’s iDrive with Uconnect in FCA’s corporate parts bin.
Despite those frustrations, the Giulia is a wonderfully engineered sport sedan and a joy to drive. It’s easy to forget its failings as you slice through traffic, hug curves and delight at the exhaust note.
To enjoy that, though, you have to get past the annoying controls, pricing and feature packaging. Buyers faced with terrific competing sport sedans from brands they know and trust are not likely to do that.
When Fiat Chrysler’s history is written, the Giulia won’t be the car that saved the company, but it comes maddeningly close.
Contact Mark Phelan: email@example.com or 313-222-6731. Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan.
Behind the Wheel
2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
Rear-wheel-drive five-passenger sport sedan
Price as tested: $85,850 (excluding destination charge)
Rating: ★★★ (Out of four stars)
Reasons to buy: Handling, power, looks
Shortcomings: Controls, lack of common features, price
Competitive EPA fuel economy ratings
(Rear-wheel-drive, automatic transmission models, where available)
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio: 17 m.p.g. city/24 highway/20 combined. Premium gasoline.
Audi S4 Quattro: 21/30/24. Premium gasoline.
BMW M3: 17/24/19. Premium gasoline.
Cadillac ATS-V: 17/25/20. Premium gasoline.
Infiniti Q50 Red Sport: 20/26/22. Premium gasoline.
Mercedes AMG C 63 S: 18/24/20. Premium gasoline.
Comparative base prices (excluding destination charges)
(Rear-wheel-drive, automatic transmission models, where available)
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio: $72,000
Audi S4 Quattro: $50,900
BMW M3: $64,000
Cadillac ATS-V: $60.095
Infiniti Q50 Red Sport: $48,700
Mercedes AMG C 63 S: $72,800
Specifications as tested
Engine: 2.9L 24-valve twin-turbo V6
Power: 505 hp @ 6,500 r.p.m.; 443-ft. of torque @ 2,500-5,500 lb. r.p.m.
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 111.0 inches
Length: 182.6 inches
Width: 73.7 inches
Height: 56.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,800 lbs.
Where assembled: Cassino, Italy
Key features on vehicle tested
Standard equipment: Antilock brakes; stability control, curtain air bags; torque vectoring differential; active suspension; carbon-fiber drive shaft; rear backup camera; auto-dimming side mirrors; remote start; passive entry; stop/start system; alarm; rain-sensing wipers; carbon-fiber interior trim; leather dash and upper doors; heated steering wheel; aluminum paddle shifters; aluminum pedals; navigation; Bluetooth compatible; voice recognition; USB ports; carbon-fiber hood and roof; LED daytime running lights and taillights.
Options: Carbon-fiber racing front seats; Rosso Competizione tri-coat paint climate package; forward collision warning; lane-departure alert; blind spot and cross-traffic alert; automatic high beams; infrared windshield; cargo net; cargo floor hooks; Harman Kardon audio; carbon-fiber active front spoiler; carbon-fiber steering wheel; black seats with red stitching; carbon-ceramic Brembo brakes