A sports car pretending to be a saloon

I first drove the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio at the launch in Italy four years ago, around the Balocco test track in Vercelli. Frankly I loved it. Instantly accessible speed, reassuring but entertaining dynamics and as for those knuckle-biting sexy looks… well this is one hot saloon.

This time I got to spend a few days ‘living’ with the updated current edition of the flagship of the seductive saloon range, from the hard-core petrolhead’s favourite non-supercar brand. It still sports the ferocious 3.0-litre bi-turboed V6 putting out 510bhp and 600NM at 2500rpm, driving the rear wheels through an 8-speed automatic gearbox.

That catapults this executive-spec carriage from rest to 60mph in under four seconds (3.9) and keeps up the momentum to hit over 190mph. In normal use you’ll burn through fuel at a combined rate of 27.2mpg and leave behind a trail of 235 grams of CO2 emissions every kilometre.

The boot is perfectly handy for a car of this size, and rear accommodation is surprisingly comfortable – that’s coming from a 6ft 2in spindly specimen of awkwardness. Despite setting the driver’s seat for myself, I could slip in behind with room to spare happily passengering in this ride for hours.

Though of course I’d much rather be behind the driver’s wheel, from where you can see the exposed weave of the carbon fibre on the underside of the bonnet edge through the windscreen – both it and the roof are made of the lightweight stuff to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible.

Inside, the trim quality and application has been uprated, there’s a nicer more inviting feel to the cabin. The infotainment has been dramatically improved, finally feels more integrated and intuitive – even if it still doesn’t quite fill the blacked-out blankness of the centre screen as I’d ideally wish. Great seats, a driving position designed to keep you both comfortable and ready for action, is indicative of the duality of this car’s persona.

Decent visibility, reasonably compliant ride, easy controls and all the usual driver’s aids make this a decent around town companion. You can do the chores and the commute in this. What you want to do, and what the car really wants to do, is head out of town, switch the DNA knob into D for ‘delinquent’ or something like that, eschew the ‘Race’ setting (without life-saving traction and stability systems engaged, it’s probably best to leave that for the circuit), and wind up the revs to 6500rpm where the peak power hits.

The refined six, suddenly gets vocal, the exhaust note becomes frantic, there are pops and bangs, your body is perceptibly pushed into those bucket seats and you’re grinning like you’ve been goosed. And it’s not just a one-trick drag-strip wannabe challenger, the Giulia anchors onto the tarmac, and while there’s not quite the stunning tacked-on assurance of the Stelvio’s all-wheel drive system, it threatens no dramatic oversteer unless you go looking for it. As for ‘understeer’ – ‘non capisco’.

The Klingon Bat’leth-style paddles are perfectly positioned to encourage your use, though the transmission responds well by itself, it’s just more satisfying to slam in the changes with the wheel-flanking blades of joy. And if the road gets too uneven, and there’s any hint of unsettling the QV’s composure, hit the ‘bumpy road’ button, and there’s a transformation in how the surface indiscretions are telegraphed to the cabin.

Yes the steering could do with a little more feel, there’s some road roar and okay, what I really want is a little more of the rad attitude at normal mode speeds (maybe a crazy loud exhaust button?) and actually just more of that mechanical orchestra at full tilt. Plus it isn’t cheap at around £70k.

As for concerns about its reliability and durability, not entirely unfounded when it initially went on sale, all that can be said is that this press car had nearly 10,000 of not inconceivably hard-driven miles, and it felt absolutely tight and quite box fresh, with no faults or errant warning lights, as have been evident in historic press drives of Italian metal from this group stable. 

So am I recommending you buy this? Yes! What other saloon delivers so much competence and style, along with pulverising performance and exquisite handling? Well there’s the BMW M3, but if you still can’t bring yourself to face that new grille, this pretty rival is the one to park in your drive.

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