Here are the clues: I began my most famous novel…
Fancy a saloon car with mind-bending performance? Look no further than the Giulia Quadrifoglio, it’s a road-going ballistic missile!
Approaching this vehicle across the car park at Vospers, Exeter, it would be easy to make a quick assumption that it’s a tarted-up Alfa, trying to compete in a sector packed with stars such as BMW’s M3, numerous Mercedes AMGs, so many excellent machines, could this machine from Alfa Romeo have any real merit in this already crowded sector.
Firstly, it’s worth mentioning that the engine was designed by Ferrari, a twin turbo all aluminium V6 – you’d certainly expect fireworks and yes, 510 horse power easily pushes this machine into super-car territory.
The abundance of power this car possesses wasn’t immediately noticeable upon moving off down through Marsh Barton, power is very nicely metered, particularly in normal mode, surprising for such a highly focussed machine.
On part-throttle the experience is refined, quiet, smooth, comfortable, it’s a relaxing drive, but you’re always aware that this car won’t suffer heavy-footed fools, it deserves carefully measured respect.
Initially, once you’ve setup the driving position (this model had carbon fibre seats which were surprisingly comfortable), your first impression is that the steering is crisp and finely controlled by the steering wheel, there’s no slop or slack in the mid position, it’s tight and very positive. Drive is through an eight speed ZF gearbox which is perfectly matched, you find there’s not much need to intervene and progress is smooth. My route from Vospers was off the Marsh Barton Industrial Estate, down along the A30 to Ashburton and up across the river Dart and upstream onto Dartmoor, before crossing over the Dart again at Dartmeet, arriving at the Two Bridges Hotel for a lunchtime sandwich.
The cockpit’s a nice place to be, the media/control screen was neat, having the ability to switch to split screen was really handy. Flappy paddles were all nicely placed and for the driver, the seating position is commanding, with a proper ‘quality’ feel to the cockpit that’s easily equivalent of any Merc or BMW, actually, if anything, the Alfa possessed more style and individuality than the bland German competitors.
Out on the open road (the A30) you’re aware of being in charge of an amazing machine, there’s so much power that gear swapping is entirely redundant. If anything, short-changing to a higher gear, and as early as possible, was preferable. Heavy-handed acceleration from cruising speed on a damp dual carriageway easily invoked wheelspin, despite the traction and stability control remaining switched on, something it’s wise to ensure – this car is a proper beast.
Negotiating the tight and twisty roads up Dartmoor was a delight, the car’s athletic and nimble nature just added to the enjoyment, although foot control needed to be restrained.
Kevin at Vospers ran me through the driver modes, N for Normal, D is for Dynamic (basically Sports mode) and R for Race. He did caution me about R, it unleashes a raw machine that’s best suited for the track – enough said! Switching to D mode the car changes noticeably, the exhaust note take on a harder, more purposeful edge and you notice that the ride tightens up immediately, becoming less limo-like, more out-and-out street fighter. The transformation is amazing really, one minute you’re wafting about in luxury, next, you’re in charge of a finally balanced supercar – what a trick this car pulls off – allowing you to really have the best of both worlds at the twist of a dial.
In terms of styling, I found the Alfa to be understated, although the quad pipes were a nice bit of bling. In terms of the wheels, you couldn’t miss the size of the vented disks, a bit like drilled dustbin lids, massive, lacking slightly in bite at low speed ambling, but anchoring down from high speed, they were totally superb as you’d expect.
In truth this is an incredible machine, supercar performance (with major industry awards for 2017), fine, poised handling, quiet and refined ride quality, there’s not much to fault. What’s most interesting is that for a £62k car, it provides what most equivalents are charging at £90,000 and beyond. Granted, it’s not a car for the masses, but for what it is – it’s the bargain of the century.
My time with the Quadrifoglio was short I have to say, about 3 hours of driving, but in that time I’d come to absolutely love this car. At its best, in Sport mode with the gearchange in manual, using flappy paddles, it was a car lovers’ delight, the hard-edged wail from the sublime V6 was memorable. I did wonder if it should have four wheel drive though, but apparently their comparatively lightweight 4×4 Stelvio will have this powerplant later in the year – Yikes!!
The engine – yes, it’s worth discussing because it’s an absolute peach. As with all V6 engines, reciprocating internal balancing is good, meaning that in use it’s super-smooth and immensely flexible. With a turbo for each bank of cylinders, it’s a lightweight all-aluminium unit designed by Ferarri. It seems to be the way to go, smaller capacity engines pumped up with turbos, after all, having a heavy engine out front will greatly mar handling, so the lighter the better with a front-engined performance car. At part throttle it’s smooth, making easy progress threading through busy town streets. In terms of being out on the open road, there’s an almost imperceptible pause if wish to use more power, and when it hits, my god it launches the car off with a hard edged growl. Depress too hard and any traffic behind diminish into small dots in the rear mirror within several seconds, no cog swapping required, it’s a superb power plant.
As mentioned, a lightweight turbo unit helps a lot in terms of balance and this car achieves the magical 50/50 weight distribution over front and rear axles, enabling finely balanced and controlled handling, particularly important when there’s 510 horsepower at the rear end.
What’s in a name?
Quadrifoglio – the name makes reference to the Alfa Romeo Cloverleaf racing heritage. It’s worth noting that this car circulated the Nurburgring circuit at 7 minutes and 32 seconds, beating the Porsche Panamera Turbo by eight seconds (source – Top Gear). It’s worth looking it up on youtube, the lap looks truly frightening.
In conclusion, I’d say that this machine breaks new ground for Alfa Romeo in that it achieves so much, it’s a quality machine with absolutely superb engineering. The ride is luxurious, but can transform in a second to a hard-edged sports machine possessing real character – what a fantastic car!