Alfa Romeo's Frankfurt Motor Show was one of the biggest of the whole event: The bonkers new Giulia QV saloon showed its face, and the whole range is set to arrive in autumn 2016 to take the fight to the refreshed BMW 3-Series.
The only Giulia we've seen so far is the hottest variant, and the figures don't disappoint. The Italian firm claims it can lap the Nurburgring’s fearsome Nordschleife circuit in just 7:39 - a new record for a saloon car if true. It is powered by a 503bhp turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 and can hit 0-62mph in just 3.9 seconds.
It appears Alfa has put a lot of time and effort into making its new halo sedan the fastest car in its class. It’ll rival models like the BMW M3, Audi RS4 and Mercedes-AMG C63 when it arrives in the UK next year. It’ll do 190mph, and thanks to its carbon fibre active aero splitter, will generate an impressive 100kg of downforce at top speed.
It’s the first of eight new models from Alfa due by 2018, and will play a significant role in helping the Italian brand boost its sales to over 400,000 by the end of that year; in 2014, it shifted 74,000 models.
We’ll have to wait until the Geneva Motor Show in March for our first look at the more mainstream, non-QV version of the Giulia, but it’s clear from what we’ve already seen that it’ll be a world away from its angular predecessor, the 159.
The Giulia signifies Alfa’s move away from family saloon rivals and into compact executive territory. The 159’s intricate headlamp design is replaced by large LED units that sweep round to the wheelarches, and while the trademark Treofoil V-shaped grille remains, underneath are purposeful air intakes and a prominent lip spoiler. The long, kinked bonnet sweeps back to a steeply raked windscreen, while the side profile reveals a rounded window design similar to the Alfa 8C coupé’s.
The Quadrifoglio (it stands for Cloverleaf) also has butch side sills, although it’s not yet clear whether more humdrum models will get these styling cues.
There’s a hint of the Jaguar XE in the coupé-like rear three-quarter profile, but Alfa has made the car its own with sweeping LED tail-lights and a neat boot spoiler. This model sports racy quad tailpipes with a gloss black surround, hinting at the performance from the Ferrari-derived powertrain underneath.
There’ll be a choice of auto and six-speed manual gearboxes, plus the car will be available with rear or four-wheel drive – a radical departure from the front-wheel-drive 156 and 159.
Alfa boasts of 50:50 weight distribution, and uses lightweight materials throughout including aluminium for the wings, doors and rear crossmember, a carbon fibre bonnet and roof, and other composites. It also claims best-in-class torsional rigidity.
All cars get multi-link rear suspension and double front wishbones. The Quadrifoglio is said to offer 3bhp per kilo, and we can expect even top variants to weigh around 1,500kg. Adaptive dampers and an updated DNA variable driving system are also available, but it’s unclear if base cars will get these.
Running costs are yet to be confirmed, but Alfa claims the 3.0-litre V6 QV will emit “less than 200g/km of CO2, meaning it should return around 35mpg. For comparison, a BMW M3 will do 32.1mpg, and emit 204g/km.
The Quadrifoglio also debuts performance tech that’s new to Alfa, including Torque Vectoring, an electromechanical Integrated Brake System and an Active Aero splitter that manages downforce for better high-speed stability. CEO Harald Wester told Auto Express great efforts have been made to differentiate the Giulia from the dominant German (and now British) compact exec crowd.
He explained: “Premium brands offer the same thing. They are interchangeable. If you exaggerate, you could say they’re boring. New Alfa will put the driver back at the centre. It’ll once again become the perfect fusion of man and machine. Putting the driver at centre stage means they’re at the heart of the brand.”
Alfa started with a blank canvas when it came to the Giulia’s interior, too. Its design is a world away from those of current Alfas: while familiar details remain in the cowled dials and chrome-ringed ventilation controls, the swooping dashboard and large central screen are new.
Sporty features such as carbon fibre trim throughout and a push-button engine start mark the car out from small executive rivals. The tall centre console is a result of its rear-wheel-drive layout.
Exact prices have not been announced, and we’ll have to wait until next year for finalised specs for the diesel and lesser petrol models, but a spokesperson has confirmed the hot QV version will cost from £53,000 in Germany. A lightweight version, with carbon fibre roof and bonnet, ceramic brakes and racing seats, will start at £66,000.
What do you think of Alfa's new Giulia? Can it take on the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Jaguar XE? Let us know in the comments section below...