2017 Alfa Romeo

This Italian sport sedan uses power and passion to gaina foothold in the New World

By MALCOLM GUNN
www.wheelbasemedia.com

The latest addition to the luxury sport-sedan club has plenty going for it, in terms of style and under the hood. The 2017 Giulia should also give the Alfa Romeo brand some much-needed visual wow with buyers in North America.

Unless you’re a serious car nut, Alfa Romeo won’t have significant meaning. At all. Yet the Italy-based century-old automaker (now part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) traces its roots back more than a century and is practically a household word in most of Europe. It’s also the company that gave Enzo Ferrari his start as a racecar driver and team manager back in the 1920s, when Alfa Romeo was enjoying great success on the Grand Prix circuit.

The Giulia (pronounced: Julia) is the second significant Alfa model to arrive here in this decade, following behind the 4C sports car, and just ahead of the Stelvio hatchback wagon due later this year. All are basically low-volume models that appeal to anyone with a penchant for something non-traditional (i.e. not originating from Germany, Great Britain, Japan or North America).

True to form, the Giulia is a 100-percent made-in Italy machine that in many ways resembles a BMW 5 series from a generation or two ago. However when viewed head-on, the triangular-shaped grille is a dead giveaway as to its Alfa origins. The sedan’s hunkered-down stance broadly hints at an ability to defeat the wind, but the rest of the body, although elegant, is actually bone-stock traditional.

Elegant is also an apt descriptor for the Giulia’s passenger compartment. Switches and knobs are held to a minimum, while the dash cover is stitched leather. The trim for the dash and door panels is wood, aluminum or carbon fiber, depending on the model, and fits like a Giorgio Armani suit.

Although the 5 series is on the Giulia’s radar, the car more closely resembles the BMW 3 Series in overall length and wheelbase, and also weighs about the same as the Bimmer. That gives the Alfa a decent power-to-weight ratio, especially considering the choice of engines. A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque is standard for the base Giulia and Giulia Ti trim levels. Alfa claims the Giulia will hit 60 mph from a standing start in 5.5 seconds.

Those numbers are tame by comparison to the Giulia Quadrifoglio (Italian for four-leaf clover). This version is bent on crushing the BMW M5, Cadillac ATS-V and similar performance models with a twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V-6. It pumps out 505 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque and dances to 60 mph from rest in a mere 3.8 seconds. The Quadrifoglio also holds the record for quickest production sedan to circle the benchmark Nürburgring test track in Germany.

Both engines are mated to eight-speed automatic transmissions (a six-speed manual gearbox is rumored to arrive later), but for all-wheel-drive, the four-cylinder is your only choice.
Giulia acquisition begins at $39,000 (including destination fees). That gets you into a well-equipped sedan with dual-zone climate control, leather-covered seats (10-way powered in front), push-button start, 7.0-inch touch-screen and backup sensors.

Shift up to the Giulia Ti and the additions include heated front seats and steering wheel, 8.8-inch display screen and 18-inch wheels (17-inchers are standard).

Stepping up to the Quadrifoglio inflates the Giulia’s price to $73,600, but puts a host of specialized content literally into play. There’s a Quadrifoglio-specific grille and wheels, carbon-fiber hood, roof, trunk spoiler and a driver-adjustable lower front valence (splitter). Brembo brakes with carbon-ceramic pads are also available as part of a $6,000 option package.

Inside are sport bucket seats, carbon-fiber dash trim and, most importantly, adjustable suspension and powertrain settings, including a race mode.

Regardless of model, the hard-charging Giulia provides the best reason ever for establishing a connection with a fast, fun and affordable Italian.

What you should know: 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia

Type: Four-door, rear- /all-wheel-drive mid-size sedan

Engines (h.p.): 2.0-liter DOHC I-4, turbocharged (280); 2.9-liter DOHC V-6, twin-turbocharged (505)

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Market position: Alfa Romeo is taking aim at the established players at the premium end of the sedan scale. As a newcomer in this bracket, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is gambling big that the brand’s sporting reputation will win the day.

Points:
• Bold front end differs from the rest of the understated body.
• Crisp, clean interior adds a touch of class.
• Base turbocharged engine delivers more than enough power for most buyers.
• Quadrifoglio model is pricey, but not when compared to high-performance versions of similar-sized European models.
• Only fans of Euro-spec sedans will “get” this car.

Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic alert (opt.); active cruise control (opt.); emergency braking (opt.); forward collision warning (opt.)

MPG (city/hwy): 24/33 (2.0)

Base price (incl. destination): $39,900

By Comparison:

Audi A6
Base price: $48,000
Solid, comfortable sedan offers a range of power choices. S6 makes 450 h.p.

Cadillac ATS
Base price: $47,000
Mid-range four-door surprises with luxury and a 640-h.p. CTS-V.

BMW 5 Series
Base price: $51,000 (est.)
New 2018 model will return with the usual tame and a full-on 560-horse M model.