Our motoring expert Charles Rangeley-Wilson will never look back after test driving this incredible car that soaks up our awful British roads like a Bentley, but steers and handles like a Lotus.
I love Alfa Romeos. Back in the 19th century, when I had hair and worked at Motor Sport magazine, I jumped on the Alfa launch invites with great enthusiasm. I remember the Alfa 33 and its zingy boxer engine, the 164 with its cello-concerto V6 and the Cloverleaf 75, which even the Alfa media rep confessed was a car he climbed out of sweating as much as smiling.
That 75 went across the Fens like a punk in a mosh pit. The 33’s steering wheel was further away than the pedals. Almost nothing that involved a wire worked at all. However, to hear any of those sublime engines singing their way towards the red line, who’d care about backache, rust, lethal torque-steer or trivial details such as these?
Ducati bikes were the same – soulful engines undermined by a fragility of temperament and Friday-afternoon wiring. I’ve owned four, but never an Alfa.
That may have to change. I’d been given an Alfa Giulia for a week and, after only one hour behind the wheel, I began scouring Autotrader ads to check out the nearly new prices. I’ve not driven anything this side of a Porsche Cayman with such sublime steering and I’ve not driven anything at all with such a finely honed balance of damping and chassis control. The Giulia soaks up our awful British roads like a Bentley, but steers and handles like a Lotus. How did the company do that?
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By breaking every rule in the ‘how to design a car’ book, it seems, and by kidnapping Philippe Krief from Ferrari and locking him in a room with a clean blackboard, his dream-team pick of designers and the task of building something to rival the BMW M3 in two years flat. The Giulia is Alfa’s Turandot moment – according to late CEO Sergio Marchionne, it’s a ‘masterpiece’.
On the road
Alfa Romeo Giulia Super
Priced from £31,250 as tested
Combined fuel consumption 47mpg
0–60mph 6.6 seconds
Top speed 146mph
If that’s true, I had yearned for a drive in the Nessun Dorma of the piece, the Quadrifoglio, a 503bhp dragster that’s more or less a four-door Ferrari, taut with muscular curves, bristling with exhaust pipes and vents. Alfa delivered the more modestly trousered Super, a turbocharged four-potter that kicks out a tolerable 200bhp and, in the more frantic of its engine modes, still flies any time you want to hold on to the gears and make the engine sing. Although with only four cylinders, it ain’t no Pavarotti. More Lou Reed after a rough night, but that’s okay.
The Giulia is an impressively lithe 1400kg (3,100lb) and I’d rather be in a hurry in this Alfa than in one or two cars that I can think of with three times the power. Besides, there’s also a Veloce version, which ups the ante to 280bhp and closes the gap on the cloverleaf. Join the queue.
There’s so much to fall in love with about the Giulia: its perfect curves – arguably all the prettier in the less pumped ‘ordinary’ versions – the cockpit and driving position, the flat-bottomed steering wheel, with its neat fighter-plane starter-button, the eight-speed automatic transmission, which is seamlessly smooth and always in the right gear, the Grand Prix paddles that snick so neatly and that sublime, miraculous ride.
The party’s over, you’ve lit up and are blowing smoke at the ceiling. Is there anything to make you wonder about pledging your life-long affection to the sultry Italian? Of course – it’s Italian! Duh.
Minor caveats included an indicator that was bewilderingly reluctant to self-cancel, speakers that occasionally crackled, a weird squeak somewhere and a radar that was so sensitive I had to turn it off in traffic.
Pish. As with the Mona Lisa, beauty demands its imperfection. All that stuff was probably deliberate.
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