Alfa Romeo returns to its competition roots with this car, the Giulia Quadrifoglio. In many ways, it's the ultimate Italian super saloon. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
Take one of the most driver-orientated mid-sized premium sports saloons you can buy - Alfa Romeo's Giulia. Then give it a Ferrari-derived 510bhp 2.9-litre twin turbo V6. Add in a special torque differential to get all that power down through the rear wheels. And assign a Ferrari engineer to finesse this creation. The result is this Giulia Quadrifoglio: and it's rather unique.
Over the last decade, there's been regrettably little from the Alfa Romeo brand when it comes to really powerful sports cars and super saloons - the kinds of models that might really appeal to keen drivers. At the launch of the Milanese marque's important Giulia saloon in 2016 though, we saw a car that represented just that, the Giulia Quadrifoglio. This model certainly has a proper engineering CV. Its V6 engine is inspired by a Ferrari V8 - and it was developed by an ex-Ferrari engineer too, Philippe Krief, the man behind the Maranello brand's much admired 456. The Quadrifoglio (or 'Cloverleaf') badge is one the Italian maker applies only to its most focused models. And its use is certainly justified here.
This Giulia Quadrifoglio model is a four-door Ferrari in all but name. Under the bonnet lies a 2.9-litre petrol V6 Biturbo that's essentially a cut-down version of the 4.0-litre V8 used in Maranello's 488 GTB. It develops a thundering 510bhp, which at the time of this test was an output matched only by the upgraded and much pricier 'S' version of this model's other most obvious rival, the Mercedes-AMG C 63. This Alfa storms to 62mph in a 3.9s time that identically matches that Merc, this figure only slightly slower than that Ferrari we just mentioned. And should you find yourself a track or a stretch of unrestricted autobahn, it'll keep powering on up to 191mph. Alfa's thrown all the performance technology it has at this halo model, though interestingly, not its Q4 4WD system. Not for our market anyway. In lieu of that, 'Active Torque Vectoring' helps get the power down through the bends, 'Active Suspension' varies the damping and 'Alfa Chassis Domain Control' connects the different systems to deliver the best set-up as the car is being driven. There's also an 'Alfa Active Aero' system that alters the angle of the front splitter to help this model scythe through the air more cleanly, plus the 'DNA' drive modes system gets an extra 'Race' setting for tyre-smoking starts. Other markets get a manual gearbox option but an 8-speed paddleshift auto transmission is mandatory for the UK.
The taut proportions of the Giulia work well with the Quadrifoglio embellishment. Enthusiasts will most readily recognise this top Giulia version by its unique 19-inch wheels, through which you can glimpse black aluminium calipers. There's also a potent rear air diffuser and black gloss window surrounds. At the front, piercing bi-xenon headlamps give the car some serious overtaking presence. And at the rear, there are LED tail lamps, plus a sports exhaust with quad tail pipes. As usual, of more importance is the stuff you can't see, namely the use of ultra-lightweight materials in this variant's structure, including carbon fibre for the bonnet, roof, front splitter, rear spoiler and body inserts, as well as aluminium for the doors and wings. Inside, the cabin is set apart with sports seats upholstered in a leather-and-alcantara combination. The dashboard and the door panels are also wrapped in stitched leather and there are carbon fibre inserts around the fascia, plus you get aluminium kick plates and an ambient lighting set-up for a classy feel after dark. Otherwise, it's the usual Giulia interior package, with design is centred around the driver, the main controls grouped together on the small steering wheel. There's an 8.8-inch centre-dash touchscreen. When it's time to take a seat in the rear, taller folk might find access hindered a little by the swept-back roofline. Still, the rear door opens decently wide and once inside, you'll find that there's a decent amount of back seat space by class standards, with plenty of space to push forward your feet beneath the front chairs. Out back, there's a 480-litre boot.
This Quadrifoglio variant, as you'd expect from its exalted price tag (which at the time of this test in early 2020 was around £63,500), comes with its own unique specification. That encompasses 19-inch alloy wheels, Bi-xenon headlamps and dark-tinted rear windows. Plus black-painted aluminium brake calipers, quad sports exhausts poking out of the rear diffuser and a sports bumper incorporating an 'Alfa Active Aero' system that alters the angle of the splitter to help the car scythe through the air more cleanly. 'Active Torque Vectoring' helps get the power down through the bends, 'Active Suspension' varies the damping and 'Alfa Chassis Domain Control' connects the different systems to deliver the best set-up as the car is being driven. Inside, the upholstery features a lovely leather and alcantara combination, plus there's carbon fibre dash trim, two individual rear seats and a red starter button on the steering wheel, along with a 'Race Mode' you can access through the 'DNA' driving modes controller. There's also an 8.8-inch 'AlfaConnect' centre-dash infotainment screen with built-in navigation, 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring and an 8-speaker DAB audio system. Plus you get a rear view camera and an alarm. Safety kit includes an 'AEB' Autonomous Emergency Braking system with pedestrian detection, plus a Forward collision warning set-up and Lane Departure Warning.
No one would expect this top 2.9-litre V6 Biturbo Quadrifoglio super saloon variant to be a paragon of frugality, but thanks to a cylinder deactivation system that cuts in under part-throttle loads, it actually doesn't do too badly. Its figures - 27.2mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and 206g/km of NEDC-rated carbon dioxide - are roughly equal to what you'd get in a rival Mercedes-AMG C 63. The figures quoted assume selection of the 'Advanced Efficiency' 'DNA' system driving mode, which softens off the throttle response to give better fuel consumption. There's a graphic fuel consumption display in the instrument binnacle TFT read-out. And there's an 'Efficient Drive' eco-coaching set-up on the centre-dash infotainment screen that grades the frugality of your progress based on three criteria - 'acceleration', 'deceleration' and 'gear changing'. As for peace of mind, well you get the usual three year unlimited mileage warranty covering parts, materials and labour, plus 3 years of AA Contact support which includes 24hr Roadside Assistance, Home Start, Relay, Relay Plus, European Cover, Accident Management, plus access to travel information, legal advice and technical information. You can spread the cost of maintenance work by opting for an 'Easy Care Servicing Plan' that runs from one to five years. It includes the cost of all labour, parts and fluids, so you won't be landed with any unexpected bills. Insurance won't be cheap - rated up at group 46.
We can't help being reminded here of another car developed by a premium Fiat Group brand with Maranello assistance, the Lancia Thema 8.32, known popularly as the 'Thema Ferrari' and produced between 1984 and 1994. That car used a 3.0-litre V8 that developed around a third of the power boasted by this Giulia Quadrifoglio. Time has moved on - and how. You could argue that this top Giulia doesn't offer anything you can't already get from a rival Mercedes-AMG C 63 and in some ways that's true. But this Alfa delivers its performance in an even more beguiling way - and of course it's much rarer. One for collectors we think.
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