2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Review - Unstable Beauty

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6 (505 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm; 443 lb-ft @ 2,500-5,500 rpm)
Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
17 city / 24 highway / 20 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
13.8 city, 9.6 highway, 11.9 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$72,000 (U.S) / $87,995 (Canada)
As Tested
$89,845 (U.S.) / $103,995 (Canada)
Prices include $1,595 destination charge in the United States and $2,595 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.

More than a few automotive publications have taken possession of an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio for a loan or test, only to have the car sidelined by mechanical or electrical gremlins of one kind of another.

You can see examples here and here.

So it was with some trepidation that I took the keys to a Giulia immediately after returning a Stelvio to my local press-fleet driver. I’d spent a week with one Alfa and had no problems; could I do it twice? Or would I be making the “uhhh lots of warning lights are on, please advise” call to the fleet manager?

Spoiler alert: The car never stuttered during its week with me. But bad reputations die hard, and I never did fully gain confidence that the Giulia wouldn’t cause me trouble. Alfa Romeo needs to fix this, and fast, because once you get over concerns about dependability, the Giulia is an absolutely fantastic car to drive.

Note: This review was originally mistakenly labeled as a 2018 model. The car I drove was a 2017 model. I regret the error — TH.

Fantastic to drive hard, anyway. It’s not something that one might want to daily, at least not in Quadrifoglio trim — it’s a focused performance machine, for better or for worse.

The Quad’s specs read like this: 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque come from a 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6 and drive the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Despite having not one but two short on-track stints in Quadrifoglios earlier this year, I hadn’t really noticed that this version of the Giulia tilts so heavily towards the performance end of the spectrum. If you’re expecting a luxury sports sedan with agile moves, think again – this is a pure sports car.

On that level, it works well. Not only is it pretty – I caught myself stealing glances at it whenever I parked within eyeshot of a window – but the exhaust snarls angrily, the handling is sharper than Don Rickle’s wit, the interior is obviously oriented towards performance over comfort, et cetera. Among the four drive modes is a “race” mode, as if you needed another reminder of this car’s mission.

That mission doesn’t include a luxury/sports balance. This thing wants to play.

When it runs, that is. As mentioned, the Giulia never quit on me, but it made all sorts of odd mechanical noises in certain situations. That, plus its reputation for unreliablity, had me concerned. Of course, these sounds could have been completely normal. Maybe they just stood out because modern cars, even sports cars, often put a premium on sound deadening, but when other Alfa press loaners have been sidelined by gremlins, one tends to be more cautious.

That caution gets tossed to the breeze once underway, thanks to the twin-turbo V6 and the Giulia’s well-tuned handling. Both have a way of making you overlook the Alfa’s flaws. It’s not shocking to report that this thing just scoots – you can blow past dawdlers with just a twitch of your right foot. Want to really piss off that neighbor who never cuts his lawn? Punch it in “race” mode and listen for the glorious backfires. Or, hell, just crawl at 10 mph in race – the burbles are still pretty pronounced. I drove in race mode even at slow speeds just to hear this thing rumble – it’s that good.

I’m a sucker for steering that’s as direct and responsive as what the Giulia offers, and while one of my track sessions was at half speed due to rain, the other was instructive in terms of how well this car carves a line. It’s simple and direct, just point and go. No extraneous weight or lost feel.

Unsurprisingly, the ride is stiff in all four drive modes – you definitely need to adjust for highway driving. It’s not brutal on long commutes, but it’s frisky enough on the freeway that if your daily drive includes the interstate, you wouldn’t pick the Giulia, at least not in Quadrifoglio guise (I have yet to drive the other Giulia trims).

Alfa blessed the Giulia Quadrifoglio with wonderful brakes – I actually stopped short of stop signs on multiple occasions because the binders brought the car to a halt with unexpected skill. That blessing doesn’t come cheap, as the carbon ceramic Brembo brakes fitted on this car are an $8,000 option.

Like the Stelvio, the Giulia is cursed with an infotainment system that is menu-heavy and not nearly as good as the UConnect system that’s available in most other FCA vehicles. The rear seat is tight to the point of being uncomfortable for adults, and the materials generally don’t feel luxurious – this really is a track-focused car, not a comfy grand tourer.

Besides reliability, build quality and material choice felt like the car’s biggest flaws. While I understand cutting weight in order to improve driving dynamics or designing a “pure” sports car that doesn’t meet in the middle of performance vs. luxury, the Giulia sometimes feels cheap in a way that a car with a base price of $72,000 shouldn’t. That may chase away potential converts from other luxury brands.

That doesn’t mean it’s stripped of options. There’s nav, Bluetooth, satellite radio, Harmon Kardon audio, forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, performance seats (deletes the heated front seats), blind-spot detection, rear cross-path detection, remote start, and push-button start, among others. It just means that some materials don’t look and feel as class-appropriate as what might be found on, say, an M5. The $400 carbon fiber steering wheel sure is nice, though.

As an overall package, the Giulia’s isn’t for everyone – and not just because of the reliability concerns. It’s a pure sports machine that doesn’t cotton to comfort. It doesn’t coddle, it’s loud, it gulps fuel, and it makes all sorts of odd noises.

All of those items in that last sentence are what give the Giulia its charm, but for some folks, those will be fatal flaws.

Which is fine. It’s easier than ever these days to build a car that compromises effectively, but sometimes a vehicle purpose-built to fulfill a mission is the more satisfying choice.

As long as it’s running, of course.

[Images © 2017 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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3 of 48 comments
  • Generaljimt Generaljimt on Dec 22, 2017

    Tim, your lack of objectivity is laughable. Your desire to promote a falsehood about reliability of Alfa Romeo vehicles is equally laughable. The incidents you highlight relate to press vehicles that were not properly prepped (software updates) and given to automotive journalists for testing. This was unfortunate, but is not at all the reality of living with the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. I know because I own one. I have in fact 6400 trouble free miles on my car and love everything about it. The current BMW products are German Toyota Camrys. Vague and indifferent steering, no soul and absolutely no responsiveness. If you had reviewed this car honestly, you would never interject your bias into your review. Sorry Tim, but the truth is the truth and this car blows BMW away....

    • Kenn Kenn on Dec 31, 2017

      "Your desire to promote a falsehood about reliability of Alfa Romeo vehicles is equally laughable." You're talking about "objectivity"? Saying of your Giulia that you "love everything about it" immediately brings your objectivity into question. In contrast to Tim's even-handed review, your blatant, over-the-top bias in favor of Alfa - after your gloriously triumphant 6,400 miles! - is entirely more laughable (like the guy here who never fails to broadcast the amazing wonders of Buick, no matter what the subject is). 'Quite obnoxious.

  • CarnotCycle CarnotCycle on Dec 23, 2017

    If I were looking for a new hi-po 4-door, this would have to be on the list to try at least. It seems more a modern incarnation of a E36 M3 saloon than the current F80; and that is a good thing. Almost all current hi-po cars try to simulate car video games much as car video games try to simulate hi-po cars. Alfa's doing something different and I do appreciate it; especially so if they offered that ZF manual option on these rides stateside.

  • The Oracle This thing got porky quick.
  • Kwi65728132 I'll grant that it's nicely kept but I'm not a fan of the bangle butt designs, and I know better than to buy a used BMW while living anywhere in the world other than in the fatherland where these are as common as any Honda or Toyota is anywhere else.
  • ChristianWimmer When these came out I thought they were hideous: now they’ve grown on me. This one looks pretty nice. Well-maintained, low mileage and some good-looking wheels that aren’t super fancy but not cheap-looking or boring either, they are just right.
  • Aja8888 Someday in the far away future, all cars will look the same, people will be the same color, dogs will be all mixed beyond recognition, and governments will own everything. That car looks like my son's Hyundai Tucson without badges.
  • Tassos Of course, what the hell did you expect? A SERIOUS, BEAUTIFUL car you can ACTUALLY USE AS YOUR DAILY DRIVER???............. NOOOOO, THIS IS TIM WE ARE TALKING ABOUT. SO HE FINDS SOME OBSOLETE POS WHICH IS 22 years old, .............AND HE PURPOSELY MISSES THE BEAUTIFUL MODEL, THE Classical Beauty E39 that ended in 2003. ...........So he uses his column as a WASTEBASKET once again, to throw the first year of BMWs BANGLED 5 series (as in the INFAMOUS CHRIS BANGLE WHO SCREWED UP THE DESIGN ROYALLY). ................................................ As Dr. Evil, Fake Doctor Jill Biden would scream at the top of her voice, so her senile idiot husband could hear her, "Good Job, (Tim)! You answered all the questions and ticked all the boxes!" ..... KEEP UP THE S---Y work, Tim!