Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio review
Alfa Romeo super saloon is a convincing rival to the Mercedes-AMG and BMW M establishment
Alfa Romeo has returned to form with the Giulia compact executive saloon. And what better way to top the range than with a high-performance model that has been developed with input from Ferrari? The Quadrifoglio (it means Cloverleaf) is exactly that.
Alfa Romeo did a canny thing with the Giulia Quadrifoglio (we'll call it the QF from now on), because it launched the high-performance model ahead of the rest of the range. It heralded a fresh start for the firm, with an all-new car that had the German establishment in its sights.
To that end, it kitted the Giulia out with rear-wheel drive, so it only seemed appropriate to fit a big engine in the QF to make the most of it. The twin-turbo V6 under the bonnet has an odd capacity of 2.9-litres, but that's because it's a six-cylinder development of the twin-turbo V8 engine found in the Ferrari California T and 488 GTB. In the Alfa it makes 503bhp, which is on a par with its performance saloon rivals.
In Europe you can get the Giulia QF with a six-speed manual gearbox, but in the UK the QF, like the rest of the Giulia range, only comes with an eight-speed auto sourced from gearbox specialist ZF (which also supplies the Alfa's BMW and Jaguar rivals). This can be controlled with the steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters, or be left to its own devices.
The engine powers the Giulia QF from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds and on to a claimed top speed of 191mph - no electronic limiter in place there - while the noise it makes gives it character.
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As you would expect the Giulia QF gets a muscular makeover when compared to the standard car. There are bigger wheelarches over dark 19-inch alloy wheels, lowered suspension and deeper bumpers front and rear. Quad exhausts poke out of the back, and the interior has been suitably upgraded, with sports seats, as well as leather and carbon fibre trim throughout. You do pay for these upgrades, with prices starting around £62,000, which is double the price of the most expensive version of the standard Giulia.
The main rival for the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is the Mercedes-AMG C 63 saloon, although there are other opponents if you're after performance instead of the specific body style. The Audi RS5 Coupe and RS4 Avant estate, Lexus RC F coupe and the BMW M4 Coupe are all in a similar vein.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is the first performance Alfa since the 4C sports car, but it's a much more convincing machine. With more than 500bhp on tap, and handling that’s a match for class rivals like the BMW M3 or Mercedes-AMG C 63 saloon, the Quadrifoglio is the car that Alfa enthusiasts have been hankering after for years.
Yes, it’s going to cost an arm and a leg to run, but with great looks and solid build quality to back up its stonking performance, there’s not really a lot to say against the Alfa if you’re in the market for a mid-size super saloon. The dealer network has some catching up to do if it’s going to match the ‘brand standards’ of BMW and Mercedes, but that’s unlikely to matter to Alfa Romeo customers.
Engines, performance and drive
The standard Giulia delivers impressive road manners, and as you’d expect, the Quadrifoglio model significantly ups the ante. Like most of its premium executive rivals, the latest Alfa has returned to a rear-wheel drive chassis configuration. Alfa enthusiasts will know the marque spent years in the wilderness making relatively uninspired front-wheel-drive cars, but coupled with perfect 50:50 weight distribution the new car is extremely well balanced. It is impressively accurate and the quick steering makes threading corners together on the average British B-road a thoroughly rewarding experience.
On the road, the QF feels blisteringly quick, an impression that’s aided by a sharp throttle response and a slick-shifting transmission that can be controlled via large column-mounted paddles. So it’s a shame the Giulia’s 2.9-litre V6 sounds a little flat. Engaging Dynamic mode increases the volume and adds some cracks from the exhaust on upshifts, but it’s not as characterful as the noise made by AMG's twin-turbo V8.
The Giulia’s steering is a bit lifeless, but it’s quick and there’s bags of front end grip. Agility is further boosted by the torque vectoring differential, which shuffles torque to the outside wheel to help fire the car out of corners. Like a C 63, you can alter your line using both steering and throttle. However, there’s not as much traction as in the Merc, particularly in slippery conditions.
The standard adaptive dampers don’t control body movements quite as well as in the Merc, even in the firmer Dynamic setting. The flipside is that the Alfa is a more supple and relaxing car than its rival in Comfort. Combined with the low levels of wind and engine noise, it makes the Giulia a better long-distance cruiser.
You can also add crushingly expensive £5,500 carbon ceramic brakes to the QF. These offer fade-free stopping at the track, but on the road the set-up is snatchy and requires hefty pedal pressure to perform effectively.
You can only have the Giulia QF with a single engine option, but it’s a great one. As mentioned before it’s a close relation of Ferrari’s all-aluminium twin-turbo V8, and Alfa’s 2.9-litre V6 version delivers 503bhp and 600Nm of torque – the latter between 2,500-5,000rpm, although the unit revs pleasingly up to 7,000rpm if you want to listen to those quad tailpipes howling. The result of this Ferrari-inspired goodness is a claimed 0-62mph time of just 3.9 seconds and maximum speed of 191mph.
When we tested the QF at the track, poor traction off the line meant the Alfa needed 5.3 seconds to sprint from 0-60mph. However, once up and running, the combination of 600Nm of torque and an eight-speed gearbox meant the Giulia narrowly had the upper hand over an AMG C 63 during our in-gear tests. It completed the fourth gear 30-50mph run in 2.5 seconds.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
The chances are anyone considering a Giulia QF – or its 500bhp+ rivals from BMW or Mercedes – won’t be too bothered about the MPG figures. Let’s face it, the car is likely to cost you as much in depreciation as it does in fuel over two or three years.
That said, the fuel economy on official test measures comes out at a reasonable sounding 34.4mpg ‘combined’, which isn’t too off-putting. It’s probably even achievable if you drive like a short-sighted nun, but driving with your toe pinned to the floorboards will significantly increase thirst – and we only achived 19mpg in one when we tested it over a varied set of roads. You do get Start&Stop of course, plus cylinder deactivation on light throttle loads, but you should still be expecting to make regular stops to fill the 58-litre fuel tank.
Thanks to the Giulia’s high purchase price and 212g/km CO2 emissions, you’ll also be lumbered with an £1,240 first year car tax rate, and £450 annual VED charges for the following four years. If you’re thinking of running one as a company car, watch out for a 37 per cent Benefit in Kind rate.
One of the consequences of running a high performance executive saloon with Porsche 911-rivalling performance is the hit you’ll have to take on insurance. The Alfa Giulia QF comes in at a very high group 46 – about par for the course for cars of this type.
Like the models it competes with, depreciation is going to be a significant factor in the overall running costs for the Alfa Giulia QF. Drive 36,000 miles over three years and your Quadrifoglio could lose around 45% of its value come trade-in time. By contrast, a comparable Mercedes-AMG C63 is expected to hold on to around 43% over the same period – which with cars this expensive could equate to a difference of around two thousand pounds.
Interior, design and technology
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is a highly significant car for the Italian marque. Not only for its return to a rear-wheel drive configuration, but because it’s the first iteration of new chassis platform technology that also underpins the Alfa Romeo Stelvio SUV. In Giulia guise the platform is topped with a svelte four-door saloon body, and but an estate isn’t likely to be high on Alfa’s development list – despite the Germans have done well in the past with estate versions of their high performance saloons.
The Quadrifoglio's muscular makeover is spot on. With its subtly bulging arches, neat bonnet vents and cloverleaf badges, it grabs attention. There are four wheel design options, and the basic Alfa Red solid paint is supplemented by four metallics and a pair of tri-coat (pearlescent) options. You can even choose red, yellow or black brake calipers.
Inside, the Giulia has one of the best Alfa Romeo interiors in a generation, thanks to its slick design, decent materials and solid build quality. Yet it still doesn’t have the premium appeal of its German rivals, while details such as the flimsier feeling switchgear are out of place in a £60,000 car.
But the thin-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel feels great in your hands, while the green and white stitching on the seats and dash let you know you’re in something a bit special. However, it’s worth noting that if you want the figure-hugging, carbon-fibre shelled bucket front seats, they cost an eye-watering £2,950 extra.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Alfa’s rotary-controlled infotainment system Connect 3D Nav, which is optional in the Guilia QF, has a big 8.8-inch screen and all the bells and whistles. It lacks some of the connectivity and customisation features of the BMW iDrive system, but the sat-nav uses TomTom technology so is very user friendly.
Sounds are taken care of with an optional 900-watt Harman Kardon system with 14 speakers, which is a suitably impressive set-up.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
With only the one body style, Alfa doesn’t present QF buyers with too many challenges, and fortunately the packaging of the Giulia means its accommodation is on a par with the BMW 3 Series. There’s a great driving position, and the sports seats are comfortable with plenty of adjustment, plus you get all the regular practicality features of the mainstream saloon.
Like all the high performance versions of compact executive models you’ll need to drive with a bit more care and attention to avoid kerbing those beautiful alloys or knocking chunks out of the front splitter on parking bay kerbs, but otherwise the practicality is largely on a par with regular Giulia models.
There’s not much between all the compact executive models for size, so don’t look for advantages or otherwise here. The Alfa’s elegant profile is quite swoopy, although not as rakish as some, and of course the QF version rides a little lower to the ground than standard models.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
As with the standard Giulia, the Quadrifoglio matches the class leaders when it comes to interior space, with decent head and legroom in the rear.
The Giulia has one of the longer wheelbases in its class, which means it’s pretty good for rear legroom. However, those svelte body lines mean headroom isn’t optimal for taller rear passengers – although it’s marginally less claustrophobic in the back than a Jaguar XE. The rear-drive format means there’s a wide transmission tunnel which reduces space for a middle seat occupant, and if you want to spec the fancy carbon shell front seats, watch out they don’t eat up too much knee-room for taller passengers in the back.
The BMW 3 Series was the obvious benchmark here, and Alfa engineers matched it exactly with the Giulia – so you get a decent 480-litre capacity. It’s not quite as handy as the BMW’s though, as the opening is smaller and the lip higher. The 480-litre boot is 45 litres up on the Mercedes C63, but the fuel tank is smaller. There’s less storage space in the cabin, too, with tighter door bins.
Reliability and Safety
Safety is well considered on Alfa’s Giulia Quadrifoglio, with much of the available safety tech applied to this flagship model as standard. That means the QF comes with Autonomous Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection, Blind Spot Monitoring, Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning – in fact, all the assets you’d expect on a newly engineered technical platform.
The standard Giulia performed very well in the Euro NCAP crash tests, garnering a full five-star rating. It scored 98 per cent for adult occupants, 81 per cent for children and 69 per cent for pedestrians. Safety assistance features scored 60 per cent.
With so much new technology, engineering and an all-new engine, we might have to wait a little while for a definitive verdict on reliability. However, the Alfa certainly has a high quality feel, even if in places it’s not quite up to the ‘carved from rock’ feel of some of the Germans.
It's also worth noting that Alfa Romeo finished in an impressive second place overall in our Driver Power 2018 satisfaction survey.
The Alfa Giulia QF comes with the brand’s standard three-year/unlimited mileage warranty – two years are factory backed, and the final 12 months are honuored by the dealer. You also get 24-hour breakdown recovery thrown in.
The Quadrifoglio is included on Alfa’s EasyCare Service Plan and you can get three years inclusive – if paid up front – for about £799. That includes three 9,000-mile services.