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In-depth reviews

Alfa Romeo Giulia review - Engines, performance and drive

Great range of engines offers both performance and economy

While the Giulia nameplate has a rich history with roots back to 1962, this latest executive saloon is thoroughly cutting edge. It makes extensive use of lightweight materials, such as carbon fibre for the driveshaft and aluminium for some chassis parts and the bodywork, including the suspension sub frames. 

It means Alfa has given the Giulia 50:50 weight distribution, which should make the car great to drive. Double-wishbone suspension takes care of damping at the front, while a multi-link rear set-up means no corners have been cut to deliver great handling.

The first thing you’ll notice after setting off in the Alfa is the quick steering, which feels great through a series of turns. It’s accurate, too, so you can have confidence placing the car where you want it. 

The chassis is also sharp, although at first the Giulia can feel nervous and hyper-alert because its steering is that sensitive, particularly in the Dynamic setting. However, once you get used to the rate of response, you learn to use less lock and the Giulia’s reactions feel more natural.

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Alfa Romeo’s DNA selector means you can choose from three driving modes in the standard cars: D for Dynamic, N for Natural and A for Advanced Efficiency (the Quadrifoglio also gets a Race mode). These allow you to alter the steering weight and throttle response, but the car feels at its best in the Natural and Dynamic modes, with the 'A' setting taking a bit too much away from the car's responses. It’s not as involving as a BMW 3 Series, but the Giulia serves up enough engagement to keep keen drivers interested.

The downside to the Giulia's sporty drive is a poorer ride than some rivals. In the most part the Alfa handles bumps and imperfections well in the Natural setting, or with the optional adaptive dampers in their softer mode, but some surfaces and potholes do send a shockwave through the chassis, with some lateral wobble noticeable.

By and large the Giulia offers a decent level of comfort, although it’s clearly set up for sportier dynamics. This is helped by the optional limited-slip differential, which further boosts agility.

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An eight-speed automatic gearbox is standard on all UK cars, and it's a reasonable unit, providing fast shifts when required. The large paddles behind the wheel feel satisfying to use, which helps bring back some of the driver engagement lost with the lack of a manual model. 

The hot Giulia Quadrifoglio is superb to drive, with incredible performance, balanced handling and a great soundtrack. It’s a genuine rival for the BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63.

All models have lane departure warning as standard, while adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, a rear parking camera and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian protection are all optional.

Engines

The Giulia’s engine range seems fairly limited compared to some rivals, but this helps keep things easy to understand, and you can’t go far wrong with any of the power units on offer.

The biggest seller will be the 2.2-litre diesel, which comes in two power outputs that have been uprated since the car's original launch, with 158bhp and 187bhp. The torquey 2.2-litre turbodiesel delivers the gutsy performance you’d expect from the Italian marque. It has a different feel to the diesels on offer in the car’s German rivals, with a much more linear power delivery. It also feels keener to rev, so it’s more fun to drive quickly. The downside is that there’s not the same muscular feeling that comes from the huge lump of torque at the bottom of the rev range so often found in other modern diesel execs. 

At least the engine is well suited to the sporty Italian persona of the Giulia. At the test track, the Alfa matched the BMW 320d from 0-62mph with a time of 7.1 seconds. Once it was rolling, the Giulia was able to use its 450Nm of torque and the closely stacked ratios of its standard eight-speed auto transmission to good effect. The lower-powered diesel manages the sprint in 8.2 seconds.

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There’s also a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol model with 197bhp, or 276bhp in the Veloce model. The engine matches the chassis’s keenness to perform and revs freely with a nice rasp. When we tested the 197bhp engine, it managed 0-60mph in 6.7 seconds, and with eight gears in its transmission, it was also rapid during our in-gear assessments, pulling strongly from low down thanks to a combination of strong torque and the car's low kerbweight.

However, the gearbox isn’t the smoothest-shifting unit here. Manual mode can feel quite jerky, and while in auto it slurs shifts better, it still doesn’t have the precision of an Audi A4’s dual-clutch set-up.

The next step up is the Veloce, in which the 2.0-litre petrol engine has been tweaked to liberate an extra 79bhp and 70Nm of torque, cutting the 0-62mph time by nine-tenths of a second. That makes the Veloce as fast as a 321bhp BMW 340i, despite being down on power to its rival.

Finally, there’s the hugely powerful Quadrifoglio model, which gets a 2.9-litre V6 with 503bhp and 600Nm of torque. It’s turbocharged, but the Ferrari influence on the unit is clear once you try it. This engine loves to be revved and feels more like a naturally aspirated unit than the rival BMW M3’s turbo six-cylinder.

With a 0-62mph time of 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 192mph, the Quadrifoglio has an incredible amount of performance on offer. The V6 sounds great, although the howl always seems cut short when you hit the limiter - it sounds like it could rev even higher than it does.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    2.0 TB Super 4dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £33,044

Most Economical

  • Name
    2.0 TB Super 4dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £33,044

Fastest

  • Name
    2.9 V6 BiTurbo Quadrifoglio 4dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £62,924
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