At the tail end of 2018, MSF was invited to Scotland to test out Alfa Romeo’s latest high-performance SUV; the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. A roaring V6 coupled to a refined version of the standard Stelvio chassis, the car was an absolute hoot. However, the recipe wasn’t a new one – Alfa had previously released a Quadrifoglio model based around their Giulia Saloon car. The Giulia Quadrifoglio is a car I’d personally wanted to drive for some time, and my experience of the Stelvio did little to dampen this appetite. 6 months later, Alfa informed me they had availability on a Giulia, would I like a go? Would I?! Roll on the Giulia Quadrifoglio.
Writing about Italian cars and not referencing food in some way is so tricky – the two just seem to go together so well! Anyway, lets discuss the recipe Alfa cooked up with the Giulia Quadrifoglio (known as the ‘QV’). As with many Italian dishes, it appears relatively simple – take a standard Giulia, throw in extensive use of lightweight materials, add a Ferrari co-engineered engine and spice up the interior. Sounds easy right? Except, there’s actually a lot more to it, with many of the changes far from obvious to the outside viewer.
For starters, the use of lightweight materials isn’t all about reducing the overall weight of the car. Instead, Alfa have used lightweight materials to help them optimise where the weight sits in the car, with the result being a perfect 50:50 front/rear weight distribution – ideal for handling balance. The use of carbon fibre isn’t exclusively for ‘bling’ areas – sure, it’s nice the bonnet and roof are made of carbon, but so is the prop-shaft – a part completely hidden away, yet through the use of carbon fibre Alfa shaved off an extra 5kg.
Suspension tuning isn’t just stiffer springs and new dampers either, with bespoke components fitted to the Quadrifoglio and a trick rear linkage setup – so trick it earned Alfa a new patent. The suspension connects to the road through Pirelli P-Zero tyres, well-regarded rubber with the unenviable job of transferring the engines 510 horse power to the tarmac.
Those horses are delivered by the beautiful V6, and anyone who knows anything about the Giulia QV will know the engine is a bit special. Based around the recent Ferrari V8 twin-turbo, it’s architecture is all but the same, albeit with the end two cylinders chopped off. Despite the cylinder reduction and ‘small’ 2.9L displacement, resultant performance is still staggering; 0-60 takes just 3.9 seconds, whilst the Giulia QV will carry on all the way to 191mph… Gulp.
On paper then, the Giulia QV appears to have it all. However, first impressions tell you ever so much about a car, and Alfa’s haven’t always been love at first sight for me. It pains me to say it, but the Giulia QV was no different. Whilst the interior is full of beautiful pieces of carbon fibre, alcantara and aluminum, there are still a few panels that feel cheap – certainly for a car costing ~£70,000.
Then there’s the seating position, which is quite far forward within the vehicle. The spacing to the pedals and wheel are correct, but the dash itself is very shallow so the windscreen & mirrors feel a little claustrophobic. Adjustment of the seats is also fairly limited – only basic changes can be made, with even lumber adjustment a step too far.
The infotainment system is per other recent Alfa’s I’ve tested – ie, a little lacking. Ok, the Giulia has been around for a couple of years now, but even so it seems to have aged faster than you’d like. The central display is smaller than rivals, whilst the interface lacks the fluidity and graphical pizzazz rivals from Germany offer. Not the best of starts then…
As ever, there’s a but; and the but in this case comes into action the moment you press the engine start button. You see, no matter how hard you try to find fault with the car’s interior or infotainment, the truth is none of that matters once the engine’s fired up and you start to drive the car.
The steering got me first; supercars aside, I’ve never driven a car where the steering feels so alive and direct. The car just begs to be driven – there are a buzz and energy transmitted through the steering wheel which is far beyond what you’d expect from a family saloon. No doubt the speed of the rack has a lot to do with this – the smallest of inputs at the steering wheel changes the vehicle’s direction considerably, necessitating concentration but rewarding you with a front end which feels hyper-mobile. A glorious flat bottomed carbon fibre wheel is Alfa’s chosen communication device – with a thin rim which allows for a race-car-like grip.
Then you touch the throttle, which is an experience in itself. Turbochargers typically dampen and scramble an engine’s natural tune, yet Alfa has managed to shoe-horn an addictive bark into the V6 which once again begs you to drive it hard. The V6 creates a real shove – plenty enough to break traction at the rear wheels in the lower gears despite the considerable size of the P-Zero tyres. It likes to rev too, with the engine providing plenty of push all the way to the red-line.
Alfa chose well with the rest of the drivetrain; ZF’s excellent 8-speed automatic gearbox provides plenty of ratios, fast changes, and versatility. Alfa’s software control of the gearbox invokes fun too – smoothness may have been performance criteria in the vehicles comfort modes, but switch it to dynamic or race and it slams home the gearchanges with real ferocity.
Lastly, power is split between the rear wheels, and the rear wheels only, by a properly limited slip differential (LSD). Sending power solely to the rear wheels certainly hurts initial traction, but it more than makes up for this in the fun it allows and the weight saving it no-doubt facilitates over a 4 wheel drive system. The LSD is a welcome aid to rear-traction, distributing power mechanically rather than relying on clever electronics.
With the bar set very high, perhaps the only minor niggle is brake feel, which can be a little lacking through the pedal. Feel and stopping power are very different mind you, with the QV offering the latter in abundance. Alfa quotes a stopping distance of 32 metres from 62mph, a staggeringly short distance for such a car. The steel discs as tested never felt out of their depth throughout testing, although carbon ceramics are offered for those with a hunger for more at a cool £5,500…
The combination of all this means the Alfa eats roads for breakfast and provides driving joy like nothing I’ve experienced before. The performance is so useable and the car so communicative, it’s a serious delight to drive; I never once drove the QV without a childish grin on my face. A testament to this, I actually found myself taking an alternative (often longer) routes home in the hopes of finding new roads, corners and experiences to enjoy in the QV.
The drivetrain all works superbly well for spirited drives, but as this is a family-friendly 4-door saloon, its versatility will need to be such that it can be driven every day, all year round. For this sort of driving, the QV’s best left out of the performance orientated dynamic and race modes, with both normal and advanced efficiency well suited to the daily grind.
In these modes, the QV is a tamed beast, with the aggression dialed back and a passive, docile personality revealed. The exhaust note is restrained at low-rpm, gearchanges softened, the suspension tempered and resultant ride superb. Despite not offering much adjustment, the Sparco bucket seats are some of the best around, with all passengers commenting on their remarkable ability to give support without causing discomfort. Mind you, at £3,250 I suppose they ought to be good!
Initial grievances over the unusual seating position quickly melt away, with the positives it affords in terms of driver/vehicle communication, head room and visibility soon apparent. The Harmon Kardon stereo (£950) provides abundant volume and detail to the stereo system, offering a viable alternative to the V6’s note should the desire take you. Boot space isn’t bad either, with more than enough room for the weekly shop or a few suitcases.
Then there are the QVs looks. Whilst a lot of rivals are focusing on hard lines and creases, the QV takes on typically curvaceous Alfa styling. Finished in Competizione Red, it carries real presence whilst also being instantly recognisable as an Alfa. The car drew attention and admiration throughout my time with it – there’s no doubt the Alfa badge carries more kudos than direct rivals.
Fuel economy for everyday driving wasn’t bad either – on a long/careful run you can expect to achieve ~30mpg, with a mixture of spirited and casual driving dropping this south to around 20mpg. For the performance on offer, these are commendable figures – aided somewhat by features such as cylinder de-activation, proving the V6’s ingenuity extends beyond pure performance.
Is the Giulia Quadrifoglio the family saloon that has it all? It certainly makes a compelling case, offering a smooth, quiet and efficient ride for the everyday and barn-storming performance for the weekend. The stark contrast between the car’s two personalities is truly impressive.
In terms of driving enjoyment, the QV is the best I’ve driven all year. The connection you get with the car, the roar of the engine and snap of the gearbox combine to make an irresistible experience. If family saloons were bought purely on the driving experience, it’s hard to see the QV failing to be top of the list.
However, it’s not perfect. The interior could certainly offer more given the price tag, whilst the technology is a step behind competitors. Is this enough to stop you buying the QV? Not in my book – handing back the keys to Alfa was really tough. What a car!
Thank you to Alfa Romeo UK for providing our test car. On the road price as reviewed: £72,685.