'This is the car that will put Alfa Romeo back on the map’ is a phrase often heard from the Italian manufacturer, but one that has never really rung true.
At the launch of the all-new Giulia saloon, country director Damian Dally said it ‘really is the car to relaunch the brand’.
However, sales aspirations are low – Alfa expects to sell 3,900 Giulias this year.
Under the skin is an all-new platform, which will form the basis for a range of new Alfas to 2020, including the upcoming Stelvio SUV – which is expected to be the big seller.
The Giulia is Alfa’s first saloon since 2006 and it drops into the playpen with some of the biggest names in the business. With a conquest sale aspiration of 80%, it needs to steal customers from the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Jaguar XE and Mercedes C-Class.
To give the car the best possible start, Alfa Romeo focused on developing the flagship Quadrifoglio version first, then reverse-engineered the mainstream models.
Unlike most D-segment saloons, the Giulia harnesses high-performance technology such as a carbon-fibre propshaft and aluminium suspension and body panels. The focus on weight-saving not only improves performance, but also efficiency.
The range starts at £29,190 for the base spec ‘Giulia’ with a 2.0-litre 200PS turbocharged petrol engine. There are three further trim levels; Super, Speciale and Veloce. A fleet-specific Tecnica model is also available, priced from £30,750.
Standard specification is generous and includes an eight-speed automatic transmission, alloy wheels, LED rear lights, dual-zone climate control, cruise control with speed limiter, 8.8-inch Connect infotainment system and ‘DNA’ driving mode selector.
Super models cost from £30,880 and get larger 17-inch alloy wheels, leather and fabric seats and steering wheel paddle-shifters. Buyers can choose the 200PS petrol engine or a 2.2-litre JTDM diesel with either 150 or 180PS.
In Speciale trim, the wheels are 18 inches. Bi-xenon headlights, powered and heated sports seats, sports bumpers, black gloss window surround and rear sports diffuser with dual exhausts are also included. This model costs £34,150 and is only available with the 2.2-litre 180PS diesel engine.
The Giulia Veloce is exclusively available with a 280PS petrol engine and shares the Speciale’s sporty exterior styling and spec.
At the top of the range is the £59,000 Giulia Quadrifoglio. It utilises a Ferrari-inspired 510PS 2.9-litre bi-turbo petrol engine. Alongside its more aggressive body, which uses a carbon fibre bonnet and roof, there are 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside, it is equipped with sports seats trimmed in leather and Alcantara with white/green stitching, lashings of carbon-fibre trim and a sports steering wheel with red power button.
Safety kit comes in abundance on all Giulias. Forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian protection, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control (optional) and blind-spot monitoring (optional) are all available. In any guise, it’s an extremely safe car, scoring the highest ever result in the Euro NCAP occupant safety test (98%), with an overall five-star rating.
Alfa Romeo is expecting the 180PS diesel in Super trim to be the big seller. It costs £31,950 and despite having a 30PS advantage over the lower-powered model, returns identical fuel consumption of 67.3mpg (combined) and CO2 emissions of 109g/km. Acceleration from 0-60mph takes 7.1 seconds (8.2 for the 150PS) and maximum speed is 143mph.
With 450Nm of torque on offer, the JTDM serves up strong pace. Its eight-speed automatic gearbox is well matched to the engine and executes smooth shifts. The engine note is slightly intrusive, but overall it’s a well-suited engine for this type of car.
Tipping the scales at 1,374kg and with perfect 50:50 weight distribution and rear-wheel drive, the Giulia delivers an immersive driving experience. Despite erring on the firm side, it’s hard to fault the manner in which the car gets down the road. Where previous Alfa saloons have appealed to the eye, the Giulia is, at last, an Alfa you can fall in love with for the way it drives.
All models are fitted as standard with Alfa’s DNA drive mode select. It adjusts a multitude of settings (where specified) including those of the engine, suspension, steering, transmission, rear differential, instrument display, brakes and driver aids.
Non-Quadrifoglio models get a choice of three modes: Dynamic, Natural or Advanced Efficiency. Opt for the flagship and an additional Race Mode option is available, which uncovers this car’s true identity.
In Race, the Quadrifoglio unleashes the full might of its powertrain – 510PS and 600Nm of torque means it can reach 60MPH in just 3.9 seconds and go on to 189mph.
Its fierce power isn’t reserved for straight lines though; an advanced torque-vectoring double-clutch rear differential system and computerised chassis control helped this car lap the Nürburgring in 7m32s, the same time as a Porsche 911 Turbo and 20 seconds faster than rival BMW M4.
This is no track-monster-with-number-plates though. Switch to Dynamic or Natural and the Quadrifoglio will soak up the miles in as dignified a manner as the diesel. Furthermore, if you engage advanced efficiency mode, half of the V6 shuts down to boost fuel consumption. This means the high-performance Giulia can return 34.4mpg with CO2 emissions of 189g/km.