It’s very difficult when reviewing an Alfa Romeo not to go all nostalgic and hark back to the good old days when the once-revered Italian brand was a common sight on race tracks all over the world. Sure, Alfas even from the glory era were regarded as just a little highly-strung compared with competitive models from established continental manufacturers, but they were endowed with a spirit and a sportiness that made them a brand of choice for the more adventurous and passionate driver who liked to stand out from the herd.
No-one knows that better than FCA, the Alfa importers for South Africa, which is precisely why they went on an emotion-stirring nostalgia kick when the new Alfa Romeo Giulia series was presented to the press in the Western Cape. A convoy of Alfa GTs and saloons from yesteryear was on hand to chauffeur us journos from Cape Town airport to the Franschhoek Motor Museum and the estate’s privately-owned race track nestling under brooding Cape mountains.
As if that journey was not enough to stir memories of Tazio Nuvolari, Juan Manuel Fangio and other great Alfa drivers from yesteryear, FCA had also assembled a prized collection of Alfa models dating right back to 1947 and had these on display in one of the museum’s halls where the all-new Giulia was soon to be unveiled.
Indeed, there was a danger that the glorious achievements of yesteryear could just take the gloss off the primary reason for our presence at this cathedral of history – to drive the new Giulia and in particular, the new Giulia Quadrifoglio which marks Alfa’s overdue return to the ranks of the sporting super-saloons.
Thanks to the QV’s eye-popping mechanical specification, any such thoughts were soon banished as the blood red machines were presented to us under a blazing hot sun alongside a sinuous race track which we were soon to be hurtling around.
Initially, just 46 examples of the QV have been imported and all have been accounted for despite a price tag in the range of R1.4 to R1.6 million. More will be available to order for those seeking an alternative to the BMW M3, Merc C63 AMG and RS-series Audis.
The price varies according to whether you order the Launch Edition or Race Edition but whichever it might be, a colossal 375kW/600Nm will be at your disposal courtesy of a Ferrari-tweaked 2.9 V6 BiTurbo that delivers an exhaust note to massage the ear drums.
Given that we did not turn a wheel on a public road in the high-performance QV, all comments herein must be taken in context. A race track with ultra-smooth surfaces and innumerable changes of direction hardly replicates everyday driving conditions. However, let it be known that the sporting credentials of this rear-drive super-saloon cannot be questioned.
When pushed hard, the steering is quick and ultra-responsive, the brakes beyond reproach and the grip from the 19-inch wheel/tyre combo is immense, albeit that the tail could be flicked out to straighten corner exits.
Purists may be surprised to learn that an 8-speed auto is employed but this shifts quickly and smoothly and thanks to the use of large paddle shifters, the driver has almost complete control of shift patterns.
Alfa claims a top end of 307km/h and a 0-100 time of just 3.9s along with a combined fuel consumption of 8.2l/100km which most definitely was not attainable on-track! A pity that the tank capacity is just 58 litres which rather restricts non-stop grand touring that simply has to be a forte of this car.
The interior, decked out in black leather, is a step up for Alfas in that there is lots of soft-touch surfacing and a sturdiness to the execution that is frankly reassuring. Equipment levels too are generous with virtually every mod con on hand but you’ll never feel you’re in a luxury saloon as the style simply isn’t that way orientated.
If the QV is all muscle and get-up-and-go, it’s more attainable siblings, each powered by a 147kW 2.0 four cylinder turbo, are more orientated towards buyers who value practicality and performance wrapped in a stylish package.
As with the QV, interior execution is neat and tidy rather than plush but again, the generous use of soft-touch surfacing impressed.
Three derivatives of the Giulia are offered, these being tagged Base, Super and Stile with equipment levels and trim levels getting more generous with each move upwards.
The overall impression is that Alfa has made a serious effort to broaden the appeal of this larger-than-expected saloon such that in 2.0 litre guise, the Giulia is more of a business express than outright sporting saloon. It too is equipped with an 8-speed auto that’s responsive and acceptably smooth.
The motor certainly has enough power and torque (330Nm at just 1 750 rpm) to make for effortless and fuss-free performance with a top speed of 235 km/h and a 0-100 time of 6.6 seconds.
For sure, the Giulia is now a much more convincing alternative to the German triumvirate and to the Jaguar XE while the QV tackles the sporting models from these manufacturers head on.