Spoiler alert: none of these SUVs is the winner of Speed Week. Despite their best efforts, no carmaker has yet managed to engineer its way around the laws of physics. A bigger, heavier car is almost always less capable than a smaller, lighter one, and so it will remain until someone figures out how to make a chassis out of antimatter. Or candyfloss. But that’s not to say these three are here merely to make up the numbers (or because we couldn’t fit all of our camera gear in the 488 Pista). While none are quite right for the ultimate award, each is tremendous in its own way, and thoroughly deserving of a place among our favourite performance cars of 2018.
Take the Urus. Ignore, for a moment, any philosophical objections you might have to a Lamborghini SUV – especially one that borrows so heavily from the VW Group parts bin. You should also ignore the way it looks – for it divides opinion like nothing else here – and what bystanders will inevitably think of you (and mutter to themselves) when you draw up outside your children’s school or the local supermarket.
What you absolutely must not and indeed cannot ignore, however, is the way it goes. Lambo has deployed every last bit of technology at its disposal to make the Urus drive unlike any other 2.2-tonne SUV. The result is perhaps as impressive a technical achievement as any other car here – Chiron excepted.
Rear-wheel steering gives it a virtual wheelbase shorter than a Huracán’s, so it swivels into Charade’s hairpins alarmingly purposefully, and the biggest carbon-ceramic brakes ever fitted to a production car (camouflaged behind massive alloys shod with the stickiest road-legal Pirellis available) give tremendous stopping power. Meanwhile something called ‘active roll stability control’ firms up the outside suspension in fast corners, all but eliminating body roll, while proper centre Torsen and active rear differentials combine to fling you out of corners without so much as a “Dio mio! Let us just think this one through” from the computers.
I defy anyone not to fall in love with the way the G-Class rears up as you accelerate
The G-Class cannot do this. It may be built on an all-new platform (this, don’t forget, is the first ‘all-new’ G in the nameplate’s 40-year history), so the driving experience is now closer to that of a modern SUV than Scorpus’s chariot, but alongside the Lambo it still feels like a bit of an anachronism.
Prehistoric traction control you can’t really turn off cuts power with little to no warning or, it seems, provocation, so you have to be super-smooth and incredibly hesitant with the throttle. It rolls, pitches on its springs under heavy acceleration and braking, and doesn’t much like quick direction changes. And yet… it is by far and away the most likeable SUV here. I defy anyone not to fall in love with the way it rears up as you accelerate (something I’m convinced Mercedes could have eliminated but chose not to), the machine-gun noises that emanate from its side pipes and its brutish, squared-off face. This is a car that is comfortable in its own skin, that doesn’t take itself too seriously. As lovable as the old G – which in AMG form was so wayward it verged on dangerous – but in another league dynamically.
It might not be in the same realm as the Lambo, but this is still a G you can enjoy driving quickly – more so on (or off…) the road, where you aren’t going fast enough to expose its failings – something we never thought we’d live to see.
We also didn’t think we’d ever live to see Alfa make an SUV, let alone one so good we’d want it on Speed Week. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is based on the same platform and uses the same drivetrain as the fast Giulia, and you can instantly tell. It doesn’t feel in the least bit toned down or sanitised. You get the same super-sharp, super-quick steering, the same energy from the 2.9-litre Ferrari-developed V6, and, as the weight penalty is only about 60kg, the same balance and delicacy.
What the Alfa brings to this party of three is a degree of engagement and interactivity. The Lambo, though devastatingly fast, is recognisably from the “big, fast VW Group car” mould, in that it’s very locked-down. All about the speed and the grip… and the ease with which you can access them. The Alfa is a much more involving thing – more conventionally fun. Few SUVs feel quite as carlike as the Stelvio, which has a measure of daftness, like the G, but also a hint of that same kind of focus and purpose as the Urus. It treads a happy middle ground in this little cavalcade – none of whose manufacturers have completely bent physics to their will, but are getting mighty, mighty close.
The 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is a near-perfect sports sedan
The Giulia Quadrifoglio comes with a 505-horsepower, Ferrari-derived V-6
It’s loud when you want to blast through a canyon, quiet when you’re caught in traffic. The Giulia is the perfect dual-personality sports sedan.
I’m still concerned about quality issues that were spotted by other outlets when the car was first released, though I didn’t notice them myself.
There’s a lot working against the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, a brand that’s unfamiliar to buyers in a segment that’s crowded with brilliant entries. There’s a concern over reliability. It costs $87,595.
It’s a tough sell from the start.
Despite this, Alfa Romeo has built what is unequivocally the most brilliant car I’ve ever driven.
First, let’s establish what we’re working with. The Giulia Quadrifoglio is based on the Giulia I reviewed last week, but with the performance dials all pegged to the max. It gets adjustable magnetic suspension, a torque-vectoring differential, a couple of carbon fiber bits, high-performance Pirelli rubber and upgraded Brembo brakes. Most importantly, it gets a Ferrari-derived, twin-turbocharged V-6 doling out 505 horsepower.
The interior is comfortable, with tight racing buckets that grab you by the hips and hold you in for the ride ahead. Material quality is up to class standards, though nothing too exciting. It comes with quality speakers, CarPlay, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control.
The ride, thanks to the magnetic dampers, is entirely controlled and composed in daily usage. It isn’t overly loud. All in all, it’s a traditional sports sedan; completely docile and controlled without a hint of drama in daily driving.
But turn the DNA drive select controller from N — Normal — to Dynamic or Race, and the QV comes alive. The eight-speed auto prepares to deliver snap-quick shifts through the meaty, metal paddles behind the wheel. The exhaust baffles open up to allow more of the sonorous engine note through. The throttle quickens for maximum response.
Drop the hammer and you’re slamming past 60 in 3.8 seconds, rocketing toward the Giulia’s 191 mph terminal velocity. The steering is quick, but unlike most manufacturers, Alfa doesn’t make it artificially heavy to feel more “sporty.” With sticky tires and a brilliant chassis, you really don’t have to worry about finding the Giulia’s limits on public roads.
This isn’t a car that drives impressively for a sedan. It’s simply a masterpiece in any class. While the Cadillac ATS-V previously was the champion of the sports sedan class, the razor-precise and tame cornering of the Caddy can’t match the ferocious yet composed personality of the Giulia. The Cadillac wants to flatter you, the Giulia wants to bite you.
The minor complaints from the standard Giulia remain. The infotainment system can be a bit frustrating, asking you to negotiate CarPlay with nothing but a rotary dial. It also exhibited the same problem recognizing when I pressed the “lock” or “trunk open” buttons on the keyfob, which Alfa says was probably the result of low keyfob battery.
But the Quadrifoglio has one issue that the normal Giulia doesn’t: seriously frustrating brakes. A combination of poorly calibrated brake-by-wire software and racing-focused, carbon-ceramic brakes makes stopping the Giulia an exercise in frustration. It’s weirdly difficult to apply the right amount of force, meaning you’re always either jerking the car to a stop or not slowing down as quickly as you’d like. It gets easier the more time you spend with it, but the best option is to just not get the carbon-ceramic brakes. The standard pads are supposedly better.
More concerning are the reliability issues experienced by other outlets. I did not experience any of this, but you should know about what others found.
Motor Trend’s test car shut down at a stoplight and refused to restart or shift into drive, requiring a tow. Road & Track couldn’t get one to complete a full lap of a racetrack without it breaking in some way, despite multiple attempts. Jalopnik’s car threw a throttle fault code and refused to accelerate on the highway. Car and Driver’s long-term tester has spent one full month in the shop in only five months of testing, requiring a new fuel pump and differential.
It’s extremely rare for cars to break down during reviews because manufacturers are usually meticulous about ensuring their press fleets are trouble-free. While Car & Driver and Motor Trend later gave awards to the Giulia, concerns linger. Alfa, for its part, says that it took note of early-model issues and worked to rectify the problems.
“The quality and reliability of our vehicles is of the utmost importan[ce] to each and every person working at Alfa Romeo,” an Alfa Romeo spokesperson told CNBC. “All our models are getting better every year thanks to the feedback we get from our dealers and customers.”
“We’re constantly monitoring the quality of our products and we’re actively looking for opportunities to improve our vehicles,” he added. “Giulia sedans on the road today represent the very best of Alfa Romeo engineering, design and manufacturing.”
If you’re concerned about long-term quality, I suggest leasing so that the car is always under warranty.
How you should configure it
A Giulia QV starts at $75,295. The gorgeous red you see on our Giulia tester — Rosso Competizione — is a $2,200 option. Most colors cost $600, with a lot of good options available.
I’d pay the $400 for the awesome carbon fiber racing wheel, just because it looks that good. In addition, $1,200 gets you the driver-assistance features that help the daily drivability of the Giulia, while $500 lets you pick a better set of wheels than the base ones. Skip the carbon-ceramic brakes and save yourself a full $8,000.
All in, plan to spend $77,995 as long as you stick with a $600 color.
I wouldn’t buy one of these to own for a long time because I’m still worried about quality issues that other outlets noticed. I never had any problems, though. I really liked the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. I’d sell everything I own, eat nothing but Ramen and live in a hut to lease one for three years. It really is that good.
In a market where premium sedans—including premium performance sedans—abound, if you want to break through, you need to do something different, especially when, over a century of heritage notwithstanding, your cars make comparative cameo appearances. Enter the Alfa Giulia.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Which is, roughly speaking, Italian for “really fast sedan.” It lapped the Nurburgring in 7 minutes, 32 seconds, which set a record for a production midsize sedan. What’s more, it even has a trunk that you can put the groceries in.
Perhaps the third-most famous thing in the movie The Graduate (after “plastics” and Mrs. Robinson, not necessarily in that order) is the car that Benjamin Braddock, Dustin Hoffman’s character, drives: a 1966 Alfa Romeo Spider 1600 Duetto. That movie came out in 1967.
Alfa has not been much in evidence in the U.S. new car market for the past several years. It made its real return with the 2015 4C. However, know that this car, which is manufactured in the Maserati (sister company) facility in Viale Ciro Menotti, in Modena, Italy, is produced at a rate that is more akin to hand production than mass production: the assembly line allows 20 minutes per station. While most typical production plants would have the carbon fiber monocoque that serves as the skin of the car onto the front and rear chassis members with a robot, it is manually performed in Modena. And painting for those two-seaters is performed outside of the plant, so factoring that into the time required for production is further indication that this is a car that you’re unlikely to see parked in driveways up and down your street (i.e., in 2015, its first full year of availability in the U.S., there were 663 4Cs delivered; through the third quarter of 2016, there have been 411 delivered).
But now it has something new. Something that is capable of serving as a family sedan. Something with exquisite Italian design, inside and out. Something that is available with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive.
Something that has an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission (co-developed with ZF) available with column-mounted paddle shifters, a transmission with a compact package (four planetary gear sets with five shift elements [three multi-disk clutches and two brakes]) and the ability to make shifts in less than 100 milliseconds). Something that has either a 2.0-liter four or a 2.9-liter six under either a steel or carbon-fiber composite hood.
And it is there where we have to make a stop because when it comes to the engines, the Giulia is not your everyday grocery-getter.
There are three versions of the Giulia: the Giulia and Giulia Ti. The latter, Turismo Internazionale, is a higher trim level than the Giulia. Both of these models are available with an all-new, turbocharged all-aluminum engine. More specifically, this engine features a MultiAir2 valve system, four valves per cylinder with a silent chain-driven timing drive. There is a direct-mount twin-scroll turbocharger with electric waste gate actuation. The cylinder head is made with an air-quenched cast aluminum alloy and features an integrated exhaust manifold. The block is an aluminum alloy with cast-in steel liners. The crankshaft is forged nitride steel that’s been superfinished.
And it produces 280 hp at 5,200 rpm and 306 lb-ft of torque at from 2,000 to 4,800 rpm.
The Giulia and Giulia Ti can go from 0 to 60 mph in <5.5 seconds. They have a top speed of 149 mph. There is the third model, the Giulia Quadrifoglio. It has the 2.9-liter six cylinder engine. Maserati was mentioned in the context of the 4C. Ferrari needs to be mentioned in the context of the Quadrifoglio. When the engine was being developed for the Quadrifoglio, Ferrari was still a part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (it was spun off at the start of 2016). Ferrari helped the powertrain engineers develop the 90° V6, all-aluminum, 2.9-liter engine. This engine features direct-injection like the four-cylinder engine. And it is turbocharged, too, but it is a bi-turbo setup, with the turbos integrated into the exhaust manifold and featuring a low-inertia, single-scroll design. It offers 35 psi peak boost. Now it should be noted that the name “Quadrifoglio” goes back to Alfa’s racing heritage. It goes back to 1923 when factory driver Ugo Sivocci, who had made a career out of finishing second in races, decided to paint a four-leaf clover on the side of Alfa RL that he drove in the Targa Florio race. He won. Maybe it was lucky because a few weeks later Sivocci was testing a car at Monza that didn’t have the four-leaf clover painted on its side . . . and he crashed. Fatally. Since then, racing and high-performance Alfas have had the four-leaf clover badge. In the case of the Quadrifoglio, the name comes along for the ride. This diversion into history and symbology goes to the point that the 2017 Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio was taken, as all high-performance cars need to be, it seems, to the Nurburgring. And there factory driver Fabio Francia piloted the car around the track in 7 minutes, 32 seconds, making it the fastest production sedan to wend its was around the Nordschleife, and to put it amid the rankings of cars that cost far, far more than the ~$70,000 that the Quadrifoglio starts at. The engine produces 505 hp @ 6,500 rpm and 443 lb-ft of torque at from 2,500 to 5,500 rpm. The car can go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and hit a top speed of 191 mph. As previously mentioned, the Giulia—in all variants—is the sort of car that one can drive on a daily basis. Yes, even the Quadrifoglio. Almost within that context it is worth noting that even though there is “Race” as one of the four choices on what’s called the “DNA Pro Drive Mode Selector,” there is another one called “Advanced Efficiency.” While Race does things like activate an over-boost function, open the two-mode exhaust, turn off the ESC and adjust the braking, steering and transmission settings, Advanced Efficiency brings cylinder deactivation into play: the car can be powered by three of its six cylinders, which results in a fuel savings on the order of 15 percent (as it is premium fuel, that’s a good thing). In addition to which, there an engine start/stop system for the Quadrifoglio. There are some other things that the Quadrifolgio offers, as well. Such as an active aero front splitter (it is electrically actuated) that retracts when not necessary. That splitter is made with carbon fiber material. So are the roof, the rocker panel moldings, the rear decklid spoiler, and the aforementioned hood. Even the driveshaft is made with carbon fiber composite material for the Quadrifolgio. In addition to which, the sedan features aluminum front and rear vehicle frames, front shock towers, brakes, suspension components, doors and fenders. And the rear cross member is a hybrid construction: aluminum and composite. All models are based on a new architecture, “Giorgio,” that will give rise to other variants, such as a crossover and a station wagon. A word about styling. The shield-shaped front grille forms the Alfa “Trilobo.” (Given the quad and the tri, it seems as though the Italians are somewhat obsessed with numbers.) It is flanked by bi-xenon projector headlamps and LED daytime running lights. As this is a rear-drive architecture, the car has short overhangs fore and aft. There is a long hood and a short decklid. The front fenders on the Quadrifoglio feature air vents; those on the Giulia and Giulia Ti don’t. At the back, the rear fenders are more organic and less sharp in contrast to the character lines that run on the body side; this helps emphasize the rear-drive nature of the vehicle. There are quad chrome-tipped exhaust pipes on the Quadrifoglio; the other two cars have dual tips. Richard Cox, director of Alfa Romeo North America and head of Alfa Romeo Global Product Planning, said that when they were developing the Giulia, they knew they needed to come up with something different than what their German competitors have on offer. He said, perhaps only partially in jest, “If you think about most of the competition, most of them are focused on anything but the driving experience. Mood lighting, air fresheners with perfumes, those are some of the things they’re focusing on. We’re focused on the driving experience. That’s what makes us different.” And while this goes to the point of the double wishbone front suspension, a patented rear axle design with a vertical rod, a direct steering ratio (11.8:1), a chassis domain control that coordinates the vehicle’s active systems so as to provide balanced driving conditions, and more, it also involves the place where the driver is, in the cabin. At the center of the driving experience is the steering wheel, which is wrapped in leather, has a thick rim profile, and is said to be “Formula-1 inspired” (remember the Ferrari tie-in?). There are leather seats across the lineup, with an option for the Quadrifoglio of Sparco carbon fiber racing seats with leather and Alcantara inserts. The overall instrument panel has a driver-biased asymmetrical design. In the gauge cluster there is a color seven-inch TFT screen flanked by a large analog tach on the left and a speedometer on the right. The car also features, depending on trim, either a 6.5-inch or an 8.8-inch infotainment screen. Trim materials (again, vehicle dependent) are leather, wood, aluminum and carbon fiber. Cox pointed out that not only is the Giulia a new car based on a new architecture with two new engines, it is also being manufactured in an assembly plant in Cassino, Italy, which underwent a transformation with new equipment, workstations, processes and training to produce the new generation of Alfas. Source: https://www.adandp.media/articles/technology-performance-style-alfa-romeo-giulia