Tim Robson track tests and reviews the new Alfa Romeo Giulia QV around Sydney Motorsport Park, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.
It's time for one of the oldest car brands in the world to stand up and be counted again. Founded in 1910, Alfa Romeo has on its resume some of the most beautiful and inspiring cars ever created... but the last 15 or so years have been but a sad shadow of glory days long gone, with an uninspiring line of Fiat-derived makeovers that haven't sold well and have done the brand very few favours.
Despite this, though, there is still a lot of goodwill and affection for Alfa, which claims it's spent the last five years, along with €5 billion (A$7 billion) and a team of FCA's best and brightest, reinventing itself for the new century.
The Giulia sedan is the first of a range of all-new cars that are designed to turn the company around, and the QV is throwing down the gauntlet to rivals like Mercedes-AMG and BMW in no uncertain terms. Has it managed to pull off the seemingly impossible?
The four-door Giulia is unashamedly bold and statuesque, according to Alfa, with strong lines, curvaceous accents and a low, purposeful stance, while its cab-back glasshouse lengthens its bonnet.
The QV is kitted out with carbon fibre throughout, with the bonnet, roof (these two items alone saving almost 35kg), side skirts, front lower spoiler (or splitter) and the rear wing all made from the lightweight material.
Alfa has, thankfully, managed to give the Giulia QV a degree of individuality.
That front splitter is, in fact, an active aerodynamic device that rises to reduce drag at speed and lowers under braking to add downforce to the front end.
Nineteen-inch rims finish off the car, and can be had in the traditional cloverleaf style as an option. The hero colour, of course, is Competizione Red, but it'll come with the choice of seven exterior and four interior colour options.
Alfa has, thankfully, managed to give the Giulia QV a degree of individuality in a sector where it's all too easy for one car to look like the next.
From the driver's seat, the instrumentation is simple, clean and stylish, with minimal controls and a focus on the job of driving.
The steering wheel is compact, beautifully shaped and adorned with thoughtful touches like the Alcantara thumb pads, too.
The stock sports seats are highly bolstered and supportive, even for a 100kg pilot, and its relationship with the two pedals and steering wheel is straight and true. If you've ever driven an older Alfa, you'll know why this is important.
The rest of the switchgear looks gorgeous, with a subtlety and a delicacy we weren't expecting.
The red starter button on the steering wheel spoke, too, is a big nod to the inclusion of Ferrari DNA in the Giulia range in general, and the QV in particular; in fact, the head of the Giulia program, Roberto Fedeli, is a former Ferrari man with cars like the F12 to his credit.
The rest of the switchgear looks gorgeous, with a subtlety and a delicacy we weren't expecting.
The only glaring issue we can see is the eight-speed automatic's toggle-style shifter, which has been banished from the rest of the FCA empire. Large fixed paddles – again, echoing what you might find behind the wheel of a 488 – are the best way to operate the gears.
Rear seat room is fair to middling, with a slightly restricted amount of headroom for taller passengers despite a deep-seat rear seat bench.
It's a tight fit for three people, but perfect for two. ISOFIX mounts adorn the outside rears, while rear vents and a rear USB port are nice touches.
One small negative is the height of the Giulia's sills, which can make ingress a bit tricky. Ditto the shape of the doors, especially the rears.
During our quick track test, we spied two cupholders up front, two in the centre of the rear and bottle holders for the front doors, as well as rear door pockets. The boot holds 480 litres of luggage, but neither a spare wheel or space saver.
Price and features
The Giulia QV kicks off at $143,900 before on-road costs. This puts it right in the midst of the fight with its European counterparts, with the BMW M3 Competition priced at $144,615, and the Mercedes-AMG C63 S sedan at $155,615.
Standard fare includes 19-inch alloy wheels with custom Pirelli tyres, bi-Xenon and LED headlights with adaptive front lighting and automatic high beam, powered and heated leather sports seats, as well as carbon and aluminium trim.
It also gets adaptive dampers and six-piston front and four-piston rear Brembo brake calipers. The rear-drive Giulia has active torque vectoring on the rear axle and an eight-speed traditional automatic as standard.
The beating heart and crowning jewel of the QV is its Ferrari-derived 2.9-litre twin turbo V6 engine.
Option packs include a carbon-ceramic brake system upgrade for both ends of the car for around $12,000, and a pair of powered carbon-backed Sparco race buckets for around $5000.
Black brake calipers are standard, but red or yellow can be optioned, as well.
Engine and transmission
The beating heart and crowning jewel of the QV is its Ferrari-derived 2.9-litre twin turbo V6 engine. No one is saying it's a Ferrari engine with an Alfa badge, but there's evidence to suggest the all-alloy motor comes from the same F154 engine family as the Ferrari California T's V8 – and both engines share exactly the same bore, stroke and vee-angle numbers.
Making 375kW at 6500rpm and 600Nm from 2500 to 5000rpm from the direct-injection V6, Alfa suggests the Giulia QV will do 0-100km/h in just 3.9sec and will reach 305km/h. It'll return a claimed 8.2 litres per 100km, too.
These outputs put the M3 in the shade, which offers just 331kW and 550Nm in Competition spec and a four-second-flat 0-100km/h time.
The Giulia QV can stare down the Mercedes-AMG C63 on power numbers, but falls 100Nm short of the German car's mighty 700Nm score. The Italian is a claimed 0.2sec faster to 100km/h, though.
The QV comes standard with a newly developed ZF eight-speed auto that teams up with a rear end that sports active torque vectoring, using two clutches on the rear axle to send up to 100 per cent power to the wheel that needs it most.
Corner to corner, straight for straight, the QV is constantly tweaking itself to maximise its performance.
The all-new platform, known as the Giorgio, gives the QV double-wishbone front and multilink rear suspension, while the steering is electrically assisted and connects directly to a quick-ratio rack.
It's worth mentioning here that Alfa has debuted a world-first braking system on the Giulia that combines a regular servo-operated brake with the car's stability control system. Put simply, the brake system can work with the cars stability system in real time to optimise brake performance and feel.
Further to that, a central computer – known as a chassis domain control, or CDC computer – can change, in real time and in sync, the torque vectoring, the active front splitter, active suspension system, brake system and traction/stability control settings.
Corner to corner, straight for straight, the QV is constantly tweaking itself to maximise its performance. Wild, eh?
While Alfa claims a low of 8.2 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, our six laps of track testing netted a figure closer to 20L/100km.
The QV, not surprisingly, prefers 98RON, and the car has a 58-litre tank.
Our experience today has been limited to no more than 20km – but that 20km has been at pretty insane speeds. From the off, the QV is lithe and surprisingly supple, even with the drive mode switch in dynamic and the dampers set to 'hard'.
That engine... wow. Just... wow. My fingers were moving in double time just to keep up with the shifts.
The steering is light and feelsome, too, with nuanced and meaningful feedback (though more weight would be great in the racier modes), while the brakes – both the carbon and the steel versions – feel full, robust and bulletproof, even after big stops from silly speeds.
And that engine... wow. Just... wow. My fingers were moving in double time just to keep up with the shifts, such is the urgency and strength with which it blasted through its rev range.
Its torque delivery from low throttle, too, would do a tractor proud; in fact, it's best to drive the Giulia QV in a gear higher than you might otherwise do, just to keep it in the midst of that fat band of rich, meaty torque.
It's not a shrieker, but the V6's baritone resonance and loud cracks on full throttle change through its quad exhausts came in loud and clear, even through a helmet.
Custom Pirelli tyres are, according to an Alfa chassis engineer, as close to competition-ready R-spec types as it's possible to go, so there will be questions marks around both wet weather performance and longevity... but for a track session, they are brilliant, with tonnes of lateral grip and great feedback.
The Giulia QV is an absolute belter of a thing... on a track, at least.
It's easy to feel at one with the car, as well, with a simple, clear dash arrangement, great visibility, cosseting seats and a perfect driving position. There's even room to wear a helmet.
Alfa has not skimped at all on the Giulia's safety credentials, with the car scoring 98 per cent in adult occupancy safety in its Euro NCAP testing – a record for any car.
It's also fitted with an array of active safety features that includes forward collision warning with autonomous emergency brake and pedestrian recognition, lane departure warning, blind spot assist with cross traffic alert and reverse camera with parking sensors.
The Giulia QV is covered by a three-year, 150,000-kilometre warranty.
Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km. Alfa Romeo offers a pre-pay service program for the car, with prices yet to be confirmed.