Cars

2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Review: Yes, Virginia, There Is a Perfect Sports Sedan

The 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, By the Numbers

  • Base Price (as Tested): $73,700 ($89,595)
  • Powertrain: 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine, 505 horsepower, 443 pound-feet of torque; eight-speed automatic transmission; rear-wheel-drive
  • 0-60 mph: 3.8 seconds
  • Top Speed: 191 mph
  • EPA Fuel Economy: 17 mpg city / 24 highway
  • Cargo Space: 13 cubic feet
  • Quick Take: Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

Of all the appeals to hold onto innocent faith, to resist yanking back the curtain of mysticism covering an utterly mundane world, few ring as strong as the New York Sun’s famous editorial from September 21, 1897. An eight-year-old girl named Virginia wrote a letter asking whether or not Santa Claus exists; in response, the paper published a manifesto extolling the value of believing for the sake of believing.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy…nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.”

And how. That kind of willful romanticism is what makes us human—and it’s also what made me fall head over heels in love with the 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Chances are you’ve heard about the car‘s notorious unreliability in the hands of reviewers, or all the alleged pain points stemming from its rushed development. I didn’t experience any of those over nearly 500 miles of driving; all I can evaluate is what I have placed before me.

And that, friends, is the best performance sedan you can buy. Period.

That strong statement is backed by the Giulia Quadrifoglio’s gorgeous styling, that raspy twin-turbo V-6, lightning-fast steering, and one of the most balanced chassis of any car—sedan or otherwise—out there. It’s not faultless, just like the tale of Santa Claus is rife with temporal impossibilities. But taking those faults and holding them up as a proof the car can’t possibly be that good is the kind of hubristic skepticism that scared little Virginia into seeking comfort from a newspaper’s editorial page.

It’s an Alfa. It’s something special. To paraphrase the Sun, the larger story of the Giulia is thus: Yes, Virginia, there is a super sedan. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Alfa Romeo!

Line it up against the rest of the performance sedan market and the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio seems to strike many of the same power chords: It’s functional, fast, light(ish), and packed with the standard retinue of goodies like active magnetic suspension and a torque-vectoring differential. But the spec sheet hints that’s something’s a little different here. A twin-turbo 90-degree V-6 lets loose 505 Ferrari-derived horses at full gallop, all directed to the rear wheels—no novice-friendly all-wheel-drive here. Its relatively low curb weight of around 3,700 pounds allows the Giulia Quadrifolgio to hit 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds.

Climb behind the wheel, though, and the Alfa’s magic makes itself fully known. The Giulia comes with four driving modes shoehorned into a nonsensical DNA acronym—Dynamic, Natural, Advanced Efficiency, and a separate Race mode—and the car‘s personality is noticeably altered by each of them. Dynamic and Race are where things get real, of course; the former creates a vivacious dance partner, while the latter unlocks the Italian exotic hiding within the Quadrifoglio. Race mode opens up the operatic exhaust, flattens the suspension, and turns off every single electronic nanny. Assuming you’ve taken care to warm up the slick-like 60-treadwear Pirellis, the power delivery is at once precise and brutal, a tsunami of sound and force that pushes the Giulia into reckless-driving territory with alarming ease.

The 11.8:1-ratio steering is near telepathic without being twitchy. The $8,000 carbon ceramic brakes on my tester bit like an alligator (though the brake-by-wire software could use some fine-tuning at lower speeds). Shifting seems more like snapping. That beautifully balanced chassis is hard to upset, even in my blunt hands, rotating around the center point just enough fast turns. It doesn’t feel overpowered at all despite packing over 500 hp—call this car‘s handling “chaotic neutral.”

Most cars with sporting pretensions offer different modes to make the experience as multifaceted as possible. But no other sedan nails each with such astounding precision that you’d swear you were driving a different vehicle altogether every time you click the knob. It’s a fuel-sipping commuter special in Advanced Efficiency, a bastion of normalcy in…Normal, a whirling dervish in Dynamic, and a snarling riot in Race. It offers a more complete and engaging experience than anything with four doors and M, AMG, or RS in its name. It also happens to drive better than all of them at the limit.

Doesn’t hurt that the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is nice to look at, either, especially in stunning Rosso Competizione. You’ll see lots of awkward sexual metaphors in reviews penned by the crusty old guard; let’s move past that tired trope of Italian promiscuity and simply acknowledge that it’s a beautiful, striking car. Alfa’s triangular grille is about as recognizable to Americans as Kyrgyzstan on a blank map, and that rareness lends it near-supercar status amongst random passersby.

The Giulia reportedly went through several redesigns at the order of former FCA honcho Sergio Marchionne himself during development. His death last year backstops all that style with sober substance; it’s a masterwork with real soul. The low, wide stance complements the flat lines beautifully, while its curves feel purposeful instead of a soft concession to aerodynamics. The upright greenhouse is another welcome departure from the typical mold. And around back, the quad exhaust and exposed carbon fiber diffuser are…okay, fine, they’re vaguely something of a turn-on.

Unfortunately, the interior can’t quite cash the premium checks being written by the rest of the car. It’s a bit of a mishmash in there, as if the designers tried their hardest to give it a distinct, luxurious Italian flair while grabbing what they could from the Fiat-Chrysler parts bin—and cutting a few noteworthy corners. The swooping dash is a gorgeous touch; too bad what appears to be a unique trapezoidal infotainment bezel reveals a dinky postcard-sized screen floating in a sea of black plastic when activated. (Actually, there’s too much plastic, period—especially considering the $89,595 sticker on my tester.)

The gear shift lever is a direct (and cheaper-looking) copy of BMW’s silly new design, and forget about a manual. (At least, if you’re an American; Europeans get the option of a six-speed stick.) A rattle emanated from the bottom of the windshield on cold mornings for the first 15 minutes of driving—bad rubber, perhaps? Touch points like switches and dials don’t feel expensive. And common comforts like ventilated seats and a heads-up display are missing from the options list.

None of these things are deal-breakers themselves, or even altogether. They’re just the consequences of an unstuffed cabin that hearkens back to the way performance cars used to look on the inside. Push that steering-wheel-mounted start/stop button, dial up Race mode, grab those massive paddle shifters, absolutely floor it, and…what plastic?

In its uplifting response to little Virginia, the New York Sun wrote that should Santa Claus not exist, “It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.” Should you not have faith in the idea that there exists one idealized performance sedan out there, then you and the world around you would be equally as miserable. The “skepticism of a skeptical age” should not be heeded here. The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio isn’t perfect. But it is the best, and we’re all better for believing in it.



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