by Frank A. Aukofer

Talk about polar opposites. The 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia is everything its previously introduced garage-mate, the 4C, is not.

First, however, we must stipulate that the two models from the storied Italian manufacturer share one thing: gorgeous styling. Italian designers always have had a flair for sensuous curves.

Beyond that the two cars are way different. The 4C is a two-seat, rear-drive sports coupe or convertible that fills the cabin with raucous noise, rides hard, is strenuous to enter and exit, with manual steering that delivers darting handling, and no amenities like pushbutton starting or cruise control.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti

Yet despite its near $70,000 price tag, it is loved by some enthusiasts for its looks and performance on smooth racetracks.

The new Giulia—at least in the top-line Quadrifoglio trim, could not be more different. It is the essence of sophistication and stirring performance: a four-door sports sedan in the mold of the BMW M3, Cadillac ATS-V and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.

Alfa Romeo, part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, is attempting a comeback after more than two decades absent from the U.S. market. It started with 4C and now brings the Giulia, which is being offered in two versions: the $38,990 standard and the tested Quadrifoglio, which starts at $73,595.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti

For those who care about translations, Giulia is Italian for Julia and Quadrifoglio means four-leaf clover. You can’t miss the big green clover emblem on the flanks of the front fenders. Alfa stands for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, which translates into Lombard Automobile Factory, Public Company, which was founded in 1910.

The main distinguishing characteristic of the Quadrifoglio is its refinement. Slide into its well-bolstered driver’s seat, which hugs the torso for spirited high-speed driving around curves, slip it into gear in the normal driving mode and you can traipse about town as if you were lazily cruising in a Hyunda Elantra, Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla.

But just forward of your feet lurks explosive power from a 505-horsepower V6 engine with twin turbochargers that delivers 443 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. It can be manually shifted with two giant paddles mounted on the steering column—not the wheel itself—so you always know where they are.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia

That means you can, as they used to say, suck the doors off almost anything on the road in a drag race. Top speed, according to the company, is 191 miles an hour, and Car and Driver Magazine, in an instrumented test, clocked the acceleration time to 60 miles an hour in 3.6 seconds.

However, that’s under test conditions where the driver gets the turbochargers spooled up before punching the throttle. If you simply floor it away from a stop sign, there’s hesitation as the engine re-starts from the stop-start system and the turbo power lags. It helps to switch off the stop-start.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia (European spec)The Quadrifoglio manages speed runs with aplomb and crackling exhaust sounds—music to the ears of any enthusiast. There are four driver-selectable modes—Dynamic, Natural, Advanced, Efficiency and Race—that customize performance parameters, including transmission shift points, steering response and suspension settings. They are augmented by a rear differential that incorporates torque vectoring to enhance sharp handling on curves.

It wouldn’t do to have the rapid acceleration and highway speeds without a way to arrest them so the Quadrifoglio stops with authority. Though the disc brakes are superb, track-bound aficionados likely will order the optional $5,500 fade-minimizing carbon ceramic brakes.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia (European spec)Despite its Italian flair, the tested Quadrifoglio displayed a few shortcomings. The interior was thoughtfully designed but the knobs and buttons looked as if they had been copied from an economy car. The buttons on the outside door handles for keyless entry did not work and the lane departure warnings sounded as if someone were loudly burping or gassing through a megaphone.

The Giulia is a quiet long-distance cruiser with relaxed straight-line steering that requires few corrections. Comfort is first rate for the driver and up front passenger. Though the outboard back seats have decent head room, knee room is in short supply and, as usual in most cars, the center-rear seat should be studiously avoided.

With an overall length of 15 feet 3 inches and a total of 107 cubic feet of interior space—13 cubic feet of that in the trunk—the Giulia is classified by the U.S. government as a compact car. Regardless of the numbers, it is right-sized for exciting sports sedan duty.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio four-door sedan.
  • Engine:9-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 505 hp, 443 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 94/13 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,822 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/24/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $73,595.
  • Price as tested: $79,195.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti

Photos (c) FCA