Audi A8 VS Alfa Romeo Giulia
- Unmistakably Audi
- Amazing interior design
- Groundbreaking safety features
- Pricey options
- Most of its autonomous tech locked out for Aus
Alfa Romeo Giulia
- It’s not German
- Improved in-cabin feel
- Better value than before
- Fiddly multimedia software
- Limited in-cabin storage solutions
- Only three-year warranty
In a world where genuine wood trim and nappa leather comes in a Mazda6 for under $50,000, premium brands like Audi have been forced to come up with new hallmarks to underpin their status and asking prices.
The new, fourth-generation Audi A8 is no different, packing hardware capable of autonomous driving well ahead of what is currently allowed on any public roads, along with an array of safety, efficiency and convenience firsts for the brand that cement the model's position at the top of the four-ringed luxury tree.
The current S-Class may measure your vital signs and aim to improve your general well-being, but it won't give you a foot massage. If you tick the right options boxes, the new A8 will.
We were among the first to drive the new A8 at its Australian launch around Sydney last week.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Alfa Romeo was poised to rock the established mid-size luxury sedan segment back in 2017 when it launched the Giulia, firing a direct salvo at the big Germans.
Combining drop-dead gorgeous looks with peppy performance was the name of the game for the Giulia, but after arriving with much hype and fanfare, Alfa Romeo doesn’t seem to have conquested as many sales as they had originally hoped.
So far this year, Alfa Romeo has sold just 142 Giulias, well behind the segment leading Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4, but a new mid-life update hopes to revitalise interest in the Italian sedan.
The refreshed line-up brings in more standard equipment and sharper pricing, but has Alfa done enough to sway you out of a tried and trusted German sports sedan?
|Engine Type||2.9L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The new A8 is a very accomplished machine, and can certainly be optioned up with enough toys to entertain and comfort whether you're riding in the front or back.
It's not possible to say if its better than the S-Class or 7 Series in isolation, but it has a unique design ambience that's unmistakably Audi. If you're a four-ring devotee, you won't be missing out.
Based on this test, the sweet spot of the range is the long-wheelbase 55 TFSI. At this end of the market, it's fair to say the extra $12,000 for the added length and $3000 for the smoothest and most powerful engine are worth it.
Regardless of the bigger wheels, we'd probably spring for the Premium plus package and the Executive package's rear seat with the Entertainment package for all the most impressive toys. This would mean a total list of almost $250k, but it's arguably how Audi intended the new model to be.
Also check out Peter Anderson's video review from the A8's international launch:
Would you consider the new A8 over an S-Class or 7 Series? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Alfa Romeo Giulia7.9/10
This is the Giulia Alfa Romeo should have launched back in 2017.
Especially stacked up against its German rivals, the new Giulia is not only more attractive to the eye, but also the hip pocket.
The boost in standard equipment and safety gear is a huge boon for potential Alfa buyers, while no compromises are found in the Giulia’s fun-to-drive nature and peppy engine.
Its weakest aspect might be its average three-year warranty, but if you are looking for a new premium mid-size sedan that stands out from the crowd without any major concessions, the Giulia should be on your watch list.
At first glance the new A8's exterior styling may look a tad obvious, with unmistakably Audi design adding a bunch of straight lines to make things look more serious.
The reality is far more considered, being the first whole design to emerge under Audi Design boss Marc Lichte's stewardship. Previewed by the first Prologue concept in 2014, the result has an elegance that underlines its position as Audi's flagship and is less likely to be confused with an A6 than the S-Class can be with the E-Class.
If you're after the ultimate in design details and lighting performance, you can also opt for $13,200 laser headlights that can double the range of LED headlights to 600m ahead. This option also brings OLED tail-lights with jewel-like filaments less than 1.0mm thick.
Compared with the third-generation model it replaces, the size of the new A8 is 37mm longer, 13mm taller but 4.0mm narrower, riding on a 6.0mm longer (2998mm) wheelbase. The long wheelbase version is 130mm longer again in wheelbase and overall.
In A8 guise, it combines aluminium, steel, magnesium and CFRP to result in the biggest material variety used in an Audi to date. Kerb weight ranges from 1995kg for the short-wheelbase petrol model to 2020kg for the long-wheelbase version, with the diesel versions adding 55kg respectively.
A 15-spoke, 19-inch wheel design is standard for Australia, but the Premium plus package fitted to all the cars we tested brings a 10-spoke 20-inch design, while the options list includes another three choices of 20-inch wheels. You can also get 21-inch alloys with the optional Sport package.
As you'll see in the interior images, the A8 represents another significant step forward for Audi design, with horizontal themes and numerous traditional controls now hidden beneath touchpads.
Key among these is the deletion of the centre console controller for the multimedia system, which has been replaced by an 8.6-inch secondary touchscreen beneath the 10.1-inch main screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone interfaces are available via USB connection, and the A8 will act as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot if you sign up for a data plan.
This split layout is less imposing than using one giant screen as in a Tesla, and both give haptic and acoustic feedback to commands to simplify use while driving. All versions also score the excellent 12.3-inch 'Virtual Cockpit' display ahead of the driver.
All A8s also now get a smartphone-like back seat remote controller, which enables control of temperature settings, seat adjustment, lighting, media functions and window blinds (when optioned) via its 5.7-inch OLED touchscreen.
Another surprise detail is that the interior door handles are now power assisted, which represents the lengths Audi has gone to in reducing control weights.
Alfa Romeo Giulia9/10
Park a brand-new 2020 Giulia next to its predecessor, and you’ll find they look identical from the outside.
Having been on sale in Australia since early 2017, the Giulia doesn’t look like it has aged a day. In fact, we reckon it has gotten a bit better with age, especially in its top-spec Quadrifoglio trim.
With a triangular front grille and the number plate offset to side, the Giulia looks unique relative to anything else on the road, and we appreciate its distinctive styling.
The angular headlights also add to the Giulia’s aggressive and sporty stance, even in its base Sport trim, while the 19-inch wheels help fill the arches and give a sense of a more expensive car.
The handsome look continues to the rear, with the sculpted derriere looking taught and tight like a well-tailored pair of suit pants rather than some ill-fitting, off-the-shelf trousers.
However, we will point out the black plastic on the underside of the bumper on our base Giulia Sport, which looks a tad cheap with only a single exhaust outlet on the left, and a sea of… nothing.
Stepping up to the more expensive (and more potent) Veloce or Quadrifoglio remedies this however, with a proper diffuser and dual and quad outlets respectively.
Combine the stylish exterior with more colour options – like the new 'Visconti Green' – and you can really make your Giulia pop, though we do wish our test car was finished in a more exciting hue.
With this Vesuvio Grey option, the Giulia blends in a bit too closely to the greys, blacks, whites and silvers you usually see on premium mid-size sedans, but all colours aside from white and red attract a $1355 premium.
Inside, much of the interior carries over as before, but Alfa Romeo has moved things a little more upmarket thanks to a few small touches that add up to a big difference.
The centre console area, while not being redesigned, has been given more of a premium makeover thanks to a carbon-fibre-like trim with aluminium and gloss-black highlights.
The shifter, especially, feels great thanks to the dimpled leather design, while other touch points such as the multimedia control, drive select and volume knobs also deliver a weightier, more substantial sensation.
Aside from that, the Giulia retains its premium cabin materials, soft-touch multi-function leather steering wheel and mixed material finish for an elegant and sophisticated interior worthy of a premium European model.
Our test car was kitted out with the standard black interior, but more adventurous buyers can opt for tan or red – the latter of which would definitely be our pick.
Choosing the biggest sedan in the line-up isn't just about outdoing your neighbours, it's also fair to expect enough room to stretch out and ponder your stock options.
Despite the new A8's minor 6.0mm wheelbase growth, the interior dimensions have grown 32mm in length, which has expanded legroom as well as headroom.
Fundamental practicality elements are covered as well, with a cupholder and bottle holder for each outboard passenger, an array of USB and 12-volt charge points and two ISOFIX child seat mounts for the back seat. There's also a Qi wireless phone charger within the centre console.
Boot space is a useful 505 litres, and while there's no split-fold for the back seat, there is the capacity to bring curtain rods home from Bunnings via the ski port. There is also a space saver spare wheel beneath the boot floor.
Alfa Romeo Giulia7/10
Measuring 4643mm long, 1860mm wide, 1436mm tall, and with a 2820mm wheelbase, the Giulia offers plenty of room for passengers, front and rear.
The sports front seats are an especially pleasant place to be; tight-hugging, well-bolstered and super supportive, meaning no fatigue even after extended driving trips.
Storage solutions though, are somewhat limited.
The door pockets won’t accommodate a bottle of any size thanks to the armrest design, while the two centre cupholders are positioned as such that a bottle will block climate controls.
A generous storage cubby can be found under the centre armrest though, and the wireless charger design lays your device almost vertically in a separate compartment so you won’t scratch your screen.
Glove box size is standard, but the owner’s manual does eat into room a little, while driver’s also have access to another small cubby to the right of the steering wheel.
At least Alfa now includes a handy key fob holder to the left of the shifter? Though this feature becomes redundant with keyless entry and push-button start meaning you more likely just to leave the keys in your pocket.
The rear seats offer plenty of head-, leg- and shoulder-space for passengers in the outboard seats, even when the front seat is set to my 183cm (6'0") frame, but the door pockets are, again, disappointingly small.
I fit adequately in the middle seat, but wouldn’t want to be there for any extended period of time due to the transmission tunnel eating into the footwell.
Rear passengers have access to a fold-down armrest with cupholders, dual air vents and a single USB port.
This is enough for one large and one small suitcase, with a bit of room in the sides for smaller items, while four luggage tie-down points are located on the floor.
The boot also features latches to fold down the rear seats, but given they aren’t spring loaded, you still need to push them down with something long or walk around to the rear seats to flip them over.
Alfa Romeo has not revealed volume with the seats folded down, but we noticed the aperture into the cabin is noticeably narrow and quite shallow.
Price and features
The fact that the new A8's entry price has dropped almost $6000 to $192,000 is likely to have less impact than a $19,990 Hyundai i30 special, but Audi's claim that it offers up to $36,000 more value than before may lower a few bifocals.
Introducing Audi's new naming scheme, which no longer makes reference to engine capacity in preparation for electrification, the diesel base model wears a 50 TDI badge, before moving $3000 north to the petrol 55 TSFI. Either models can be had in long-wheelbase form (signified by a capital L after A8) which will cost you an additional $15,000 respectively.
The $210,000 A8 L 55 TFSI at the top of the price list is more than $42,000 cheaper than the previous V8 diesel 4.2 TDI and a more than $120,000 less than the previous S8 Plus, but a new performance flagship is due to appear in the near future.
Value is rather subjective at this end of the price scale, but by comparison the entry RRP for the new A8 undercuts the base 7 Series by $34,900, the S-Class by $3900, but starts $1871 above the Lexus LS.
Both the A8's 50 and 55 engines come with the same trim levels, but when the standard kit is this lengthy it's more a matter of features not included in the A8, rather than those that are.
As you might expect, there's an array of options available. These accessories range from the aforementioned wheel choices and laser lighting to $3600 Alcantara headlining, $4500 all-wheel steering, a $5200 night vision system, or $12,100 3D Bang & Olufsen sound system with 23 speakers.
There are five options packages also, starting with the $6690 'Entertainment package' which brings a six-disc DVD/CD changer (on top of the standard DVD/CD player) and twin tablets for the rear seats which mount to the front seat headrests.
The nappa leather trim can be expanded to the upper and lower dash and glovebox, door trims, headrests, centre console, steering wheel airbag cover and the backs of the front seats with the 'Full leather package' for an extra $9950.
If you can't hold out for the sport edition S8, you can almost look the part with the $9950 'Sport package', which brings a more aggressive front and rear bumper, 21-inch wheels, all-wheel steering and expanded 'piano black' interior trim.
Audi Australia tells us all A8s ordered to date (along with both cars pictured here) have ticked the $11,000 'Premium plus package', which brings 20-inch rims, adaptive windscreen wipers with integrated jets, chrome exterior details, ambient lighting with variable colours, black control buttons, digital TV, electric rear sunblinds, the full leather package mentioned above, interior fragrancing with ionisation technology, rear tinted windows, softer rear headrests and ventilated massage front seats.
If you've already selected the rear seat entertainment system, you can also choose the $18,500 'Executive package' which brings individual reclining back seats and extended centre console - which also eliminates the centre rear seat - with folding tables, front and rear seat ventilation and massage function, heated armrests all round and a heated steering wheel. It's the Executive package that also brings the heated rear passenger-side footrest and the foot massage USP.
Alfa Romeo Giulia9/10
The 2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia has been trimmed down from four variants to just three, kicking off with the $63,950 Sport.
The mid-tier Veloce will set buyers back $71,450, while the top-spec Quadrifoglio is $138,950 – both of which have been reduced by $1450 and $6950, respectively.
Though the point-of-entry is higher than before, the newly introduced Sport grade is actually based on the old Super grade with the Veloce pack added in, actually saving buyers a bit of money compared to be before.
As such, privacy glass, red brake calipers, 19-inch alloy wheels, and sports seats and steering wheel are now standard across the range, and all items that you’d expect in a premium and sporty European sedan.
You'll also score heating for the front seats and steering wheel, which are you wouldn't normally see on any price-leading variant, making these features especially noticeable.
Also standard in the Sport is bi-xenon headlights, push-button start, dual-zone climate control, and aluminium pedals and dashboard elements.
Handling multimedia duties is an 8.8-inch screen, though this year the system gains touch functionality to make Android Auto and Apple CarPlay use a little more intuitive.
A wireless smartphone charger is also now standard across the line-up, which will stop your phone’s charge at 90 per cent as to not overheat/degrade your device’s battery.
As tested here, our Giulia Sport is priced at $68,260 thanks to the inclusion of the 'Lusso Pack' ($2955) and 'Vesuvio Grey' metallic paint ($1355).
The Lusso Pack adds active suspension, premium Harman Kardon sound system and interior ambient lighting, while a dual-pane panoramic sunroof can also be optioned for an extra $2255.
Overall, the Giulia is much better value than it was before thanks to its improved equipment levels, especially when stacked up against base versions of its rivals.
Engine & trans
You might be surprised to learn there's no V8 in the new A8's arsenal - for now, the S8 could change that - but an even greater sign of the times is the return of a petrol version for the first time since 2013. Efficiency gains are the main reason for the petrol comeback, which is explained in detail under the fuel consumption heading below.
Both the 210kW/600Nm 50 TDI turbo-diesel and 250kW/500Nm 55 TFSI petrol specifications use 3.0-litre turbocharged V6s which may seem to be simply plucked from existing models, but they bring mild hybrid technology to the Audi line-up for the first time.
Unlike conventional hybrids that use an electric motor to provide horsepower to drive the vehicle, a mild hybrid (or MHEV) enables the combustion engine to be switched off when the vehicle is coasting or braking, or effectively as an extension of a start/stop system which conserves fuel when a car is stationary.
The A8's mild hybrid system is facilitated by the move to a 48 volt electrical system, with a supplementary 10Ah lithium-ion battery mounted in the boot to keep the electrical systems fed for up to 40 seconds with the engine switched off. Audi claims the system has the capacity to save up to 0.7L/100km.
An extra starter motor has been integrated with the alternator to restart the engine more smoothly via a belt, rather than the conventional cog and ring gear used by the dedicated starter motor for cold starts.
Both engine specs deliver their max torque rating from just above idle, with the 50 TDI at 1250rpm and the 55 TSFI at 1370. Claimed 0-100km/h acceleration performance figures are an impressive 5.9s and 5.6s respectively.
Like all recent longitudinal-engined Audis, the new A8 uses a version of ZF's much lauded eight-speed torque converter auto gearbox, and both engines send power to all four wheels via the 'quattro' all-wheel drive system.
The optional all-wheel steer system can twist the rear wheels by as much as five degrees, reducing the turning circle by around 1.0m at slow speeds. While at higher speeds, the rear wheels move parallel with the fronts by as much as two degrees to improve stability, particularly for rapid lane changes and evasive manoeuvres.
All new A8 variants carry a maximum braked towing capacity of 2300kg.
Alfa Romeo Giulia7/10
Powering the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sport is a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine tuned to deliver 147kW at 5000rpm and 330Nm from 1750rpm.
Mated to a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission and driving the rear wheels, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sport is claimed to accelerate from 0-100km in 6.6 seconds, while top speed is capped at 230km/h.
Though those outputs might not seem like much in 2020, the driver-focused, rear-drive layout and brisk acceleration time are more than a match for its petrol-powered German counterparts.
Buyers wanting a bit more performance can also opt for the Veloce grade that takes the 2.0-litre engine to 206kW/400Nm, while the Quadrifoglio uses a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 good for 375kW/600Nm.
Gone are the days where full-size luxury sedans got away with devil-may-care fuel consumption, and even though they still spin six cylinders and need to move around two tonnes, the 55 TFSI petrol versions manage an 8.2L/100km official combined figure. This is when using at least 95 RON Premium unleaded of course.
As you'd expect, the diesel fuel economy is even better with 5.9-6.0 official figures across wheelbases.
With a fuel tank capacity of 72 litres, this suggests a theoretical range between fills of 878km for the petrol models, and between 1200-1220km for the diesels. The A8's spec sheet lists the option of an 82-litre tank if they aren't quite far enough for you.
Alfa Romeo Giulia7/10
Officially, the Alfa Romeo Giulia will sip 6.0 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, but our weekend with the car yielded a much higher 9.4L/100km figure.
Test driving consisted of navigating the tight inner-city streets of Melbourne’s north, as well as a short blast up the freeway to find some twisty country B-roads, so your mileage may vary.
Worth noting the Giulia Sport sips Premium 95 RON petrol, making it a little more expensive to fill up at the bowser.
Our test started in the worst of Sydney morning traffic, which presented the chance to put the latest adaptive cruise assist (ACA) system through its paces on a very clogged Eastern Distributor.
I'm a huge fan of active cruise control systems that guide the vehicle from speed to a stop, but the A8's ability to start moving again is another step beyond. It helps you avoid being ‘that guy' who hasn't noticed the traffic moving, and would no doubt work wonders for traffic flow if all cars were so equipped. Given the chance, Audi says this system works all the way from 0-250km/h.
No matter what your reaction to the A8's exterior, the freshness of the interior design is like no other, and everything you touch feels first class.
The four-spoke steering wheel has a surprisingly large diameter and is shared with the upcoming A6, but uses thinner spokes than the norm to promote visibility of the virtual cockpit display as the wheel is twirled.
The haptic and acoustic screens make it as easy as we've experienced to handle a touchscreen while driving, but not quite as simple as the previous console controller.
Front and rear seats are softly padded for comfort rather than support, and unsurprisingly there's ample room in every direction for this 172cm tester, regardless of wheelbase.
All examples of the A8 we drove were optioned with the Premium plus package, which means one inch larger 20-inch alloys. Despite all A8s coming standard with adaptive air suspension, small bumps like cats eyes and expansion joints are more noticeable than you might expect. As is often the case, the standard 19-inch alloy wheels are likely to be the solution.
We drove both engines and wheelbase choices at the A8 launch event, and you need to be paying close attention to hear any extra noise from the diesel. It does make a muted groan under throttle, but likely worth the 300-plus kilometres of extra range if that's what you're after.
The diesel's smoothness is also no doubt aided by its use of active engine mounts. If you're after outright refinement and performance, the petrol is the one for you but neither feel in any way sluggish.
Heading through the bends of the Royal National Park and then back over the hills via Macquarie Pass at pace, there was no disguising the fact that the A8 is a big car, and it tends to float unless you select 'Dynamic' from the drive mode selector. Regardless of mode, it's more planted than any luxury SUV.
Making a bee-line back to Sydney via the Hume, the A8 simply wafted along at 110km/h in near silence. As you'd expect.
Alfa Romeo Giulia8/10
Like all respected sports sedans, the Alfa Romeo Giulia features a front-engine, rear-drive layout to entice the those who would rather drive than be driven.
The exterior styling of the Giulia certainly promises a sharp, entertaining steer, while the interior touch points do nothing to take away from that potential.
Guide yourself into the snug bucket seat, wrap your hands around the wonderfully sized steering wheel and you will notice that Alfa has built the Giulia for the driver.
The steering wheel is an especially nice touch point and features oversized paddle shifters mounted on the steering column – not wheel – making it nearly impossible to miss a shift even when midway through a corner.
For those that like to use the shifter though, the up/down gear selection is arranged in the preferred back/forwards position respectively.
The adaptive dampers in our test car can also be stiffened up independently of the drive mode selected.
Speaking of which, three driving modes are on offer – 'Dynamic', 'Natural' and 'Advanced Efficiency' (DNA in Alfa-speak) – which change the feel of the car from hardcore to more eco-focused.
With suspension able to be changed on the fly, drivers can have the softest setting on for the bumpy, tram track-laden inner-city Melbourne streets, with the engine in full attack mode to get away from the lights for a cheeky overtake.
It's also a plus that the suspension can be changed from the press of a button on the centre console, instead of usually diving into a whole bunch of complicated menus to tweak and fine-tune certain elements.
Underpinning the Giulia is double wishbone front suspension and rear multi-link set-up, which helps keep things communicative and exciting from the driver’s seat.
Don’t get us wrong, you won’t be ripping drifts or breaking traction in the dry in a Giulia Sport, but the 147kW/330Nm engine offers enough pep to make driving fun.
Push hard into a corner and you will get tyre squeal, but luckily the steering feels sharp and direct, meaning its easy and fun to hunt for apexes even when keeping things under the posted speed limit.
The multimedia system in the Giulia is much improved with the touchscreen functionality to make Android Auto feel a bit more natural, but the 8.8-inch screen does look quite small when buried in the dashboard.
The rotary controller is also better, although the software is still a little fiddly and unintuitive to navigate from page to page, a bugbear likely remedied with more time in the car.
The airbag count has been further bolstered by an industry-first centre airbag, which has been designed to prevent head clashes between front seat occupants. This also represents Audi thinking beyond any Euro NCAP or ANCAP criteria.
It also comes with Audi's exit warning system, which warns the driver of passing cars or cyclists but can now delay the door opening in case the driver doesn't see the warning light.
A front-mounted laser scanner replaces the usual radar system for active cruise control and front AEB, which doubles the range of a radar scanner to 80m and enables both functions to work at speeds up to 250km/h.
This laser scanner is also key to the A8's Level 3 autonomous preparation, but local laws limit its capability to active cruise control with lane assist.
Alfa Romeo Giulia9/10
Alfa Romeo’s Giulia sedan was awarded a maximum five-star safety rating from ANCAP in May 2018, with testing based on a left-hand-drive model from 2016 in Euro NCAP examinations.
In the adult occupant and child occupant protection tests, the Giulia scored 98 and 81 per cent respectively, dropping points for just ‘adequate’ chest protection of children in the frontal offset test.
As for pedestrian protection, the Giulia notched a 69 per cent score, while the safety assist assessment yielded a 60 per cent result.
Also included at no extra cost on the 2020 Giulia is driver attention alert and traffic sign recognition, with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, automatic headlights and wipers, hill-start assist, lane departure warning, tyre pressure monitoring, and a reversing camera with rear parking sensors carrying over.
According to ANCAP assessment, the Giulia’s AEB functions from 10km/h and works up to 80km/h to help drives mitigate an accident.
But the Giulia misses out on rear cross-traffic alert and an automatic emergency call function.
Like all Audis, the new A8 is covered by a three year, unlimited kilometre warranty. This is short of the five year-plus periods becoming more common among mainstream brands, but equal to the terms offered by BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Lexus differs by offering a four year, 100,000km plan.
Service intervals and capped price servicing mirror the previous A8, with a 12 month/15,000km schedule, and maintenance costs for the first three services can be wrapped into a package for $1900.
We had no issues during our test, but any common faults, common problems or reliability issues are likely to appear on our A8 problems page.
Alfa Romeo Giulia7/10
Like all new Alfa Romeo vehicles, the Giulia comes with a three-year/150,000km warranty, matching the assurance period of BMW and Audi models, though the Germans offer unlimited mileage.
Service intervals on the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sport are every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.
The first service will set owners back $345, the second $645, the third $465, the fourth $1065 and the fifth $345, totalling $2865 for five years of ownership.