It seems an age we’ve been waiting for the Giulia, a car Alfa Romeo claims good enough to give the Germans a bloody nose in the world of cars. Not since the 159 has the Italian marque had a model to compete in the junior exec class, in that time little has changed, the BMW 3 series still heads the class, closely followed by the Mercedes C Class, the Audi A4 is still around for people who love beige, in fact the only new addition is the Jaguar XE, itself a very good car, even better than the BMW in some areas.
So this is a tough call for Alfa Romeo, if it’s to be a success it can’t just compete, it has to improve, it has to win, it has to turn a new generation of driving enthusiasts into Alfa lovers, no small task then.
Approaching the Giulia from the rear, there’s more than just a hint of the BMW 3 series, follow the car round and this curvaceous yet muscular design continues, then you see the face, the triangular grille set in the middle, instantly recognisable, this really is a good looking saloon. The overall design gives it a real sporty stance, like it’s ready to go, indeed as I look at it and it stares back at me, I’d swear it’s beckoning me in ‘come on, let’s go!’ Or maybe I’ve had one too many energy drinks this morning but whatever it’s just become the bedroom poster choice out of the junior execs.
On the inside:
The stylish exterior carries on into the inside, a large flowing dash with the instrument panel in the centre for the gauges, themselves are big and clear, the controls for audio and climate use simple dials and switches. A centre mounted display screen is discreetly tucked into the dash, it’s all very simple, stylish, looking and feeling good.
Some might say the driving position is distinctly Italian, with pedals closer together than most cars, personally it’s not something I noticed. It is a comfortable place to sit, not just in the front but rear passengers have plenty leg and headroom.
The steering wheel almost gives you an impression of F1, incorporating a starter button and other controls.
The Giulia rides on a brand new architecture engineers developed to underpin it, this will also be used for several other Alfa Romeo’s including the forthcoming Stelvio.
What Alfa Romeo has achieved is a car that although having four doors, feels like a sports car, coupled with quick response steering, the Giulia feels sharp, a stiff chassis set up reminds you of an M3, creating a relationship between steering and body which is very direct, responsive and intuitive, and the excellent steering feel builds a confident dynamic between driver input and car response.
As with all Alfa’s now, the Giulia has the ‘DNA’ switch, allowing the driver to change set up from A for advanced efficiency, N for natural, normal everyday driving or D for dynamic, which effectively tightens the whole car up for a sportier set up. The top of the range 2.5l QV has the additional ‘R’ for the Race mode, turning this four door saloon into a car that beats the Lamborghini Huracan round the Nurburgring.
Naturally you’d expect the QV to ride harder than the 2.0 models, and it does but not in a jaw breaking, spine pain enduring way, it’s no Rolls Royce but neither does it crash over rough road surfaces like my old 156GTA used too . On the road the difference between the QV and the 2.0l petrol doesn’t feel that much, yes the QV is sharper, more responsive but not by that much, it’s fair to say we weren’t racing and no doubt a lap at Oulton Park would really unleash the QV’s power, after all a 0-60 time of under 4 seconds with 503bhp is quick in anyone’s top trump collection, but the reality is on a normal road the 2.0l petrol with its 197bhp is no slouch.
Driving the Giulia you notice other things like how little wind notice there is, the engine revs very smoothly, it’s sharp throttle response and almost instant torque somehow make the Giulia feel smaller in size, like a hatchback than a four door saloon. Let’s not forget this car is also rear wheel drive, enabling this 2.0l petrol to accelerate to 60mph 6 seconds and onto a top speed just short of 150mph, certainly more than enough for everyday driving. A diesel version will also be offered and no doubt will by the biggest seller, if mainly through business lease options, but the 2.0l petrol is a seriously sweet unit.
So what’s the verdict? Has Alfa Romeo managed to put itself top of the class? In many ways you’d have to say yes, it’s certainly a more interesting car than its German counterparts, it rides as good if not better than the Jaguar XE. Certainly the top of the range QV model is a BMW beater, whether they brought along the M3 or M4.
If we’re to be fussy, maybe some of the interior finishes aren’t quite up to German standards but that’s being very fussy and truth is you could pick faults in any cars in this class. Overall what Alfa Romeo has done is create a car you want to drive, not a being box on wheels status symbol ‘look at me I’m moving up the corporate ladder’ car but something with passion, a car that when you get home from work not only will you stop to take a second look at the Giulia before you go inside but you’ll find an excuse to go for a drive after dinner. Alfa Romeo has talked about their cars having a heart and soul, the Giulia has the Midas touch.