2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti AWD Review - Rolling the Dice on Your Commute
2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti AWD
There’s a series of curves on my route home that can be an absolute joy when traffic is minimal. Beyond a left-hand kink over a slight rise, the road drops away at least fifty feet in a sweeping right curve and flicks back left at the bottom of the hill to cross a river. It’s not much – maybe a quarter of a mile – but for a few moments, I forget the last nine hours spent driving a desk.
While my usual vehicle for this road is my trusty minivan, a proper driver’s car makes the route much more rewarding. Beyond making me disregard the stress of a day at the office, a good drive can make me briefly ignore the various quirks and idiosyncrasies of the car beneath me.
Quirks and idiosyncrasies — in roughly equal measure with solid driving dynamics — have been the hallmarks of virtually every Alfa Romeo since at least the Truman administration, meaning the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti has plenty of heritage to live up to. Now that Chrysler is once again part of the Alfa Romeo parentage, will the Imported From Detroit vibe reflect in this imported sports sedan? Or will the Giulia remain, for better or worse, a proper Italian?
Ace in the Hole
I’ll admit to being disappointed when I realized the Alfa Romeo being delivered was not the twin-turbo V6-powered Quadrifoglio, but the tame, four cylinder-equipped Giulia Ti. Tame may not be the best term, however, as the base engine’s 280 horsepower shames all other entry-level compact sports sedans.
BMW can only muster 180 horses from the 2.0-liter turbo in the 320i, and 248 hp from the similar four in the 330i. Audi’s A4 manages 190 hp in base trim, and 252 hp with the uprated four-cylinder. Mercedes-Benz offers 241 horsepower in the C300, equal to the power from Lexus’ IS 200t. Infiniti? 208 hp in the Q50. Only Cadillac approaches the Italian with the 271 hp generated by the ATS’s turbo 2.0-liter.
The character of this turbocharged four-cylinder is unlike most Alfa Romeo engines I’ve experienced. Rather than a sonorous sweep up to a redline, the torquey engine runs out of steam as the needle glides to the right, with a rev limiter cutting the fun at 6200 rpm. Again, unlike other Italians, the exhaust note is rather dull.
Alfa Romeo claims a 0-60 time of 5.1 seconds for the Giulia Ti – though I haven’t concluded whether that figure is for the rear-drive model, or the all-wheel drive car I tested. My instrumented testing (using a Racelogic Driftbox GPS timing system) resulted in consistent 5.8-second 0-60 dashes – still quick, certainly, though I’d love to try the rear-drive model for comparison.
I was a bit flummoxed by the “DNA” selector dial behind the shift lever. While I’m accustomed to a drive mode selector, the D, N, and A nomenclature encouraged me to recall my 10th grade Latin classes for acronyms resembling the Italian language.
Imagine my embarrassment when I realized the modes are Dynamic, Normal, and All-weather.
Much of my driving, of course, was spent tuned to the Dynamic mode, which holds gears until redline and allows you to bounce off the rev limiter when using the automatic transmission’s manual mode. On that note, the manual mode is one of the few I’ve seen that shifts in the “proper” pattern – that is, forward to downshift, backward to upshift. It’s a more natural motion for a sequential transmission, and shows that FCA engineers did some homework to make the Giulia appeal to enthusiasts.
Yeah, a proper manual transmission would be better, but it’s hard to justify an option that appeals only to maybe 20 enthusiasts who will actually buy a car so equipped, along with scores of journalists (like me) who beg for it but refuse to lay down their own cash.
When driving in Normal mode, shifts are as soft as you’d expect from any $50k near-luxury sedan. The Giulia works nicely as a commuter, as the suspension soaks up Ohio’s road imperfections admirably. Its seats proved reasonably comfortable, with decent support and adjustability, though I’d have preferred a longer thigh bolster.
The kids were happy spending time in the rear seat, with no complaints – the high center tunnel helped keep the overly clingy eight-year-old on her side, away from her brooding older sister.
I dislike the start/stop system. My week with the Alfa Romeo was a particularly warm one, hovering near triple digits, though not as warm (118 degrees!) as the car’s dash readout would have you believe.
The Giulia’s restart process is unlike any I’ve experienced in a car with a fuel-saving start/stop system. Upon restart, the HVAC blower shuts off for a few precious seconds, which is quite unpleasant when trying to combat a scorching sun and radiant heat from a jet black sedan.
The parking assist is equally annoying. There are times when I’ll sit in the car with the engine running for a few moments after parking – gathering my wits before subjecting myself to another day at work, or negotiating a truce between warring tweens in the backseat before heading inside. When activated, the Giulia’s system emits a warning any time something comes near the front bumper – no matter if the transmission is in Park or not. Thus, the Giulia chimes away annoyingly until I turn off the ignition or deactivate the system.
Which means I deactivated both the park assist and the start/stop every time I started the car. It’s a shame both systems are so intrusive they can’t be used.
The infotainment system, likewise, is not good. It’s not quite as bad as the universally hated first generation BMW iDrive, but it’s close. The big knob requires pushes, clicks, and turns to control navigation and audio, but navigating the multiple layers of menus takes your eyes off the road for entirely too much time. Thumb controls on the steering wheel help, but too many functions require the control knob.
Sound quality, on the other hand, is quite good with the optional Harmon Kardon audio system, though I found myself suffering through songs I’d rather not listen to simply because setting radio presets or SiriusXM stations was such a chore.
With Fiat Chrysler’s excellent Uconnect infotainment systems available from the corporate parts bin, I’m baffled why this system exists. Heck, even the old, low-resolution uConnect screen in my 2012 Town & Country performs more intuitively.
And, yeah, there are panel gap issues. See this hasty cell phone pic of the gap between the fender, hood, and fascia.
Hold ‘em, or Fold ‘em?
I’ve always been one to read a great deal about a great number of subjects. I’m told that at the age of three, I’d often head out to the curb on Sunday mornings to get the newspaper before my parents were awake. I’d hide books under my pillow so I could read after I was supposed to be asleep. And I quickly graduated from Dr. Seuss to Road & Track, thus my appearance at this fine publication rather than some place like Feline Headwear Weekly.
I’d often seek out back issues of my favorite magazines, either by writing letters or stalking my local library. Most fascinating were new car reviews published in the ‘60s and ‘70s, which I assumed were an unvarnished assessment of vehicles from the good old days. I was amazed at the positive reviews that casually mentioned, in passing, the need to replace ignition points during testing, or “only” getting stranded once by some magnificent exotic.
As I marveled at the relative reliability exhibited by then-modern cars in the mid-1980s, I often wondered about the issues road test editors experienced that didn’t make it into print. I knew those problems first hand, as my dad usually had an MGB on jackstands in the garage, but I somehow knew that future automotive writers wouldn’t have such character-building experiences while driving new cars.
In 1984, though, I didn’t know Alfa Romeo would eventually leave the US market, only to return decades later with the Giulia. Today’s writers get to experience the uncertainty their elder colleagues lived with on the daily, as witnessed the other day at Jalopnik. Beyond the uneven panel gaps, and the start/stop funkiness, I didn’t experience any serious issues.
Maybe I was lucky, but no car thoroughly redeems its many quirks like the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia does. Ten minutes on any two-lane had me grinning like an idiot. Four hours on the epic backroads of southeastern Ohio had me considering rolling the dice on becoming a one-car household. I didn’t want to give the Giulia back.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is not a rational choice. It’s the car that speaks to the five-year-old gearhead within who somehow needs to choose respectable transportation. It’s for the driver who needs a little excitement every morning – whether from the drive itself, or from the uncertainty of whether you’ll get out of the garage.
[Images: © 2017 Chris Tonn]
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The lack of discussion on pricing and how the tester ended up over $52k does this car a disservice. I was about to comment on how a BMW 340i stomps all over it at $50k and that the Alfa was grossly overpriced, until I went to Alfa's site and realized you have to check almost every box to get a Ti over that price point. For example, with sport seats (which would have addressed the lack of thigh support Chris complained about), premium sound, and the performance package MSRP is $41k. Not to turn this review into an "Ace of Base" entry, but I find the disappointing engine character more forgivable at that level.
In italy sells quite well. This engine, for now, is not available here in Europe. In general, Giulia is a good car.