For a time, the sports sedan lost its way.
The Germans — who reigned supreme in the category for as long as most can remember — have lost their way, opting for luxury amenities and newfangled gadgetry over that quality that makes the sports sedan, well a sporting vehicle: drivability. Hell, one could convincingly make a case that the recently quashed Chevy SS was a purer iteration of the car than its contemporaries at Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
But a new sports-sedan champion has emerged: Italy. Specifically, the Alfa Romeo Giulia, an Italian street razor/ballistic missile born out of the Alfa Romeo Cassino plant in Piedimonte San Germano. There isn’t a four-door you will drive this year that elicits more grins and adrenaline rushes than the sublime Quadrifoglio edition.
The Giulia eschews superfluous luxuries like shiny wood trim and cinematic levels of infotainment in exchange for a driver-centric focus on performance that allows it to embarrass steeds with a sticker price that easily outweighs that of the Quadrifoglio (around $72K).
After taking one out for a spin last month, here's what we learned.
Alfa Romeo 1 (3 images)
Where we drove it: The freeways and backroads of Northern Illinois, where there are few police but some seriously open stretches of blacktop.
Our first impression, in three words: Elevated daily driver.
Tell me about the boring stuff under the hood ... It's anything but boring, with a Ferrari-inspired 2.9-liter twin-turbo direct-inject V6 that snorts out 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque to the meaty rear 285/30 ZR 19 Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires. The Quadrifoglio’s potent mill is mated with a rapid-fire eight-speed automatic gearbox and a torque-vectoring rear differential.
There are several radically different drive modes: Dynamic, Natural, Advanced Efficiency and the positively enthralling Race mode, which quickens throttle response, tightens up the adjustable dampers, disables the stability control and opens up the exhaust valves that let the Quadrifoglio scream like a monster. It uses an ultra-light, ultra-strong carbon fiber driveshaft, powerful and progressive cast-iron brakes, front double wishbone suspension with a semi-virtual steering axle and a patented rear Alfa Link design suspension setup.
The Quadrifoglio also possesses cutting-edge underbody construction that’s made of steel (along with aluminum and composites for weight savings), a brilliant “by-wire” electromechanical braking system and a new Magnetti Marelli central electronic chassis management computer that differentiates the drive modes from one another, similar to those used on much pricier Ferraris.
Alfa Romeo 2 (3 images)
Why does all that matter? The tech and the numbers don’t do the Quad justice, since it fires your driving neurons like no other car this side of $100K. Just because you can’t take it to its top speed of 191 MPH anywhere but at a track or an isolated road in Montana doesn’t mean you can’t truly bask in its rapier-like precision and Howitzer-esque punch.
Taking it up Illinois 94 at 40 MPH, switching it to Race mode, downshifting to 3rd, and punching the gas through the floor results in what feels like going into Plaid. Then you hit the exit ramp and let off, and the entire car becomes one with your body. Coasting each apex approximates the turns a short-track speed skater makes. Finally, you enter the local town, dial it down to Natural mode and do your best to pretend you weren't just having an out-of-body experience; you're just heading to True Value, for some potting soil.
Which is to say: the Quadrifoglio's range is one of its strongest suits, and yet none of it is remotely anesthetizing. If you want to drive like a granny around town, the Quad lets you do it by switching it into the two more subdued modes. Want a distinct performance bump? Go to Dynamic mode. The Quadrifoglio is progressive, and you can feel the rear tires slightly brake without making you soil yourself. Race mode turns it into an uncaged animal, but not in the way a Dodge Viper might, making you fear for your life.
Alfa Romeo 3 (4 images)
How hard is it to jack it up? In Race mode, an unskilled driver could blow himself into the weeds without too much effort, but the stability control system in the other three modes keeps you shiny side up. The interior tech is shockingly easy to use: you’d have to be a hamfisted fool for things to go errant. Controls on the center stack and steering wheel are intuitive; and oh, that carbon fiber and leather steering wheel is sublimely shaped, with the perfect diameter for white-knuckling it. The three rotary controls between the seats that manage drive modes, audio and infotainment are uniquely sized and provide excellent actuation.
How big is the boot? No cubic footage numbers have been disclosed, but the trunk doesn’t scream “long road trip.” It’s certainly smaller than most mid-sized sports sedans, but you can throw in a couple of bags for a weekend getaway. Unlike the standard Giulia sedan, the Quad’s rear seatback doesn’t fold down, but hey, you’re not buying this thing for summer soccer-dad duties.
Alfa Romeo products (4 images)
Pairs well with: Serengeti polarized driving sunglasses to dispel the glare from your next sunny apex. Piloti Prototipo bespoke driving shoes to manage the sporty pedals. Racing chronograph from Omega for purpose-driven style. Schott NYC’s James Retro Style Naked Cowhide Jacket because fashion shouldn’t compromise function when you’re taking a crisp fall drive.
Conclusion: The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio might be a mouthful, but you’ll be utterly speechless when you expose its capabilities on street or tarmac. It’s both daily usable and track tossable, thanks to a brilliant chassis management system and distinct drive modes. To drive it is to attain sports-sedan nirvana. It’s the new, hard-to-reach benchmark for four-door rocket sleds, and at $72K base, we consider it a complete steal considering that it will outgun a Porsche 911 GTS off the line. It takes the mantle as the best sports sedan you can buy right now.
Our last impression, in three words: Ferrari in reform.