An Italian in New York.Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
- The Alfa Romeo Giulia that I tested is a four-cylinder version of the more powerful V6 Quadrifoglio trim I sampled last year.
- The Giulia is Alfa’s bid to compete in the US luxury sport sedan market, taking on the likes of BMW, Audi, and Mercedes.
- The Giulia offers a distinctive, stylish, and appealing take on the luxury four-door — and it’s really quick!
The name “Giulia” means “youth” in Italian, but the legendary auto vehicles from Alfa Romeo that carry it are anything but: the moniker dates to the early 1960s and was born by some of the loveliest, peppiest little rides this side of Turin.
It therefore made perfect sense that when Alfa commenced its return to the US market a few years back, it returned to the Giulia’s heritage for a sedan to take on the best from BMW, Mercedes, and Audi.
In 2017, the high-performance version of the Giulia, the Quadrifoglio, was a Business Insider Car of the Year finalist. But it was also nearly $80,000 (worth every lira, if you ask me).
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It isn’t the only Giulia in town, of course. I recently sampled a 2018 Giulia TI Lusso, stickering at $52,090 (base is about $41,000). It did not come with the Giulia Quad’s 2.9-liter, 505-horsepower twin-turbo V-6, effectively a Ferrari V-8 with two cylinders lopped off. Instead, it was motivated by 2.0-liter, 280-horsepower inline four, with but a single turbocharger.
In my experience, it can be tricky to move down to reviewing a less ambitious trim level of a car intended to fire the enthusiast’s senses after hitting the road in the brawnier spec. In the case of the Giulia, however, I went into the process with a thematic expectation: the Quadrifoglio was power, but I assumed the four-banger would be finesse.
Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding! I was correct! So much so that driving the four-cylinder G after the Quad amounted to piloting a completely different car. Good different, ultimately. But different, all the same.
Read on learn more:
Complaint time! See that yellow bit of plastic at the front of the engine bay? That’s the hood release, and I’ll bet you a Campari and soda that it’s going to fail within a year. But what about the motor?
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The Giulia’s 2.0-liter, 280-horsepower inline four sends power to the all-wheel-drive system via an eight-speed automatic transmission. With 306 pound-feet of snappy torque, the Giulia sprints to 60 mph in about five seconds.
You’d think I’d have encountered a big letdown after the Quadrifoglio’s stonking 505hp mill, but while Quad feels as if it’s chewing up and spitting out the pavement, the four-cylinder Giulia is quick and light.
Velocity comes in various flavors.
So what’s the verdict?
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
The big differentiator for the Giulia when it comes to the competition from BMW and Audi is that the Alfa is Italian and this not a boring German choice in luxury four-doors. But Alfas are also supposed to be fun to drive. The Giulia Quadrifoglio certainly was. How about the less powerful version?
With, say, a BMW, I typically encounter a rising curve of impressive-ness behind the wheel. The 3-Series is the Giulia’s natural foe, and from the base machines all the way up to the mighty M3, you’re rewarded with more of simply everything behind the wheel.
The four-cylinder Giulia offers something different. The car feels feathery, light, quick on its feet. And it is quick, with that five-secondish o-60 mph time. The “Dynamic” DNA setting gives you good snap from the throttle and tight inputs from the steering. Find some curves and hurl the Giulia into them. But use the suspension and the crisp traction to sling yourself out, rather than hammering through as you might with the Quadrifoglio.
In “Normal” mode, you can tool around town in quiet, stylish comfort. The “Adaptive” mode makes the best use of the all-wheel-drive system — and I did, in a freak pre-Thanksgiving blizzard on the East Coast! The Giulia was very, very reassuring in some nasty conditions.
Safety and driver-assist features are what you’d expect from a modern luxury sedan, from blind-spot detection to lane-departure and forward-collision warnings (all in all, about $2,000 extra for everything).
The bottom line is that I actively fantasized about owning the Giulia, while I was driving it. It suited my moods. And at $52,000, my well-equipped tester offers a lot for the price, and who knows, you might be able to talk up some deals, given Alfa’s new-ness in the US market.
The big caveat is that Alfa hasn’t exactly minted a sterling reputation for quality, thus far. However, the Giulia comes with a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty covering car and powertrain, so you can expect the company to fix any immediate problems.
The Alfa Romeo non-Quadrifoglio Giulia is appealing because it offers something appealing that isn’t German, while matching and in some ways surpassing Mercedes, BMW, and Audi. It’s worth a look.