Review: Alfa Romeo Guilia aims for Ferrari-like panache – USA TODAY
Alfa Romeo unveiled the Giulia on the opening day of the Los Angeles Auto Show press preview.
Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY
In a crowded field of stylish luxury sedans, Alfa Romeo may have found a slightly devious way to help the highest-performance version of its new 2017 Giulia sedan stand out.
It hints at the look and feel of Ferrari. Just a tad, but enough to make the point.
At the heart of the beast, the top-of-the-line Giulia Quadrifoglio has a 2.9-liter V-6 twin-turbocharged engine good for an impressive 505 horsepower. Unlike whisper-quiet luxury cars, the engine isn’t shy about letting the driver know it’s there. It rumbles at idle.
At full throttle, it’s a rocket. It comes billed as capable of zero to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, and for us, it responded instantly. Top speed is electronically limited to 191 mph.
Though its exhaust-note growl isn’t the same as a Ferrari, there’s one other touch where there’s an unmistakable resemblance – a big red start button mounted on the steering wheel.
We were anxious to get behind the wheel of the Giulia because it goes to the heart of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ attempt to reestablish Alfa Romeo in the U.S. Once famous for the sports car that Dustin Hoffman drove in the 1967 classic film The Graduate, Alfa remained a quirky presence until disappearing in the U.S. market in 1995.
Seeing an opening for Italian style in a luxury-car market jammed with German, Japanese and American models, CEO Sergio Marchionne decided to give Alfa another go. Alfa Romeo tiptoed back last year with the 4C roadster that has sold modestly. While Alfa has its own distinguished racing heritage, it actually has a Ferrari connection: both were under the Fiat Chrysler umbrella until Ferrari was spun off. A spokesman, Berj Alexanian, says the two brands still cooperate and that Giulia’s motor is “inspired” by Ferrari – it shares the bore and stroke of a California T supercar.
After dangling its sports car before drivers, Alfa Romeo is making a much bigger bet on Giulia as its big seller.
Besides the Quadrifoglio, with a hefty starting price announced Thursday of $73,595 (including delivery charges), Giulia will come in two other lower-priced versions. One is the base car at $38,990, with a 2-liter engine putting out 280 horsepower. The other is the Ti, with upgraded interior features and other touches, at $40,990. Quadrifoglio arrives at dealers this month, followed by the other two next month.
The prickly part of developing Giulia Quadrifoglio was navigating the luxury vs. performance equation. They are not always in sync. For instance, Quadrifoglo has a very firm racing-style driver’s seat that is perfect for holding your torso in place for tight turns. But it isn’t cushy enough for the tender backside of your typical luxury-car buyer.
The ride can only be described as stiff – a must for performance cars but, again, not all that pleasing for cruising.
At times the car felt raw, not refined. And that may be the point: Guilia has suspension and transmission shift-point settings for different types of driving, including one for racing.
Inside, Giulia has adequate, though not overabundant, headroom. The back seat is decidedly cramped for big adults. With thick roof pillars and its sleek profile, Giulia doesn’t provide a lot of visibility.
We didn’t come away as a big fan of the infotainment system, though it did have one feature that we found intriguing: the system warning drivers when they are drifting out of their lane works through the audio. Leave the lane without signaling and that Rossini aria (how could you not listen to Italian opera in an Alfa?) is painfully interrupted by a “whoop, whoop, whoop” alarm.
All in all, Giulia is a welcome choice to the American luxury car scene though, let’s face it, it’s not a Ferrari.
What Stands Out
Power: Hot, hot, hot
Cushy comfort: Not, not, not
2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
What? Luxury sedan
When? In showrooms this month
Where? Made in Cassino, Italy
What makes it go? A 2.9-liter V-6 bi-turbo engine putting out 505 horsepower with eight-speed automatic transmission
How thirsty? Not yet disclosed
How big? 15.2 feet
Verdict? A nice, new, distinctive choice in a crowded luxury car field