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New Cars Review: Tragedy is to confine the Alfa Romeo Giulia to crowded highways

The Giulia Quadrifoglio is equipped with the most powerful engine Alfa Romeo has ever made.

Jeremy Freed/The Globe and Mail

The tragedy of a vehicle like the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, along with its stablemate the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, is that it is doomed to spend most of its days on crowded expressways, humming along in a straight line, barely breaking the speed limit. Fortunately, today is not to be one of those days. Fresh off a flight to Los Angeles, I’m handed the keys to a Misano blue Giulia Quadrifoglio and directed toward one of the best pieces of tarmac in Southern California, if not the entire continental United States: the Angeles Crest Highway.

The Angeles Crest winds its way through the Angeles National Forest, rising to an elevation of well more than 2,000 metres as it switchbacks across the San Gabriel mountains. On one end are the suburbs of L.A., on the other the Joshua trees and desert of the Antelope Valley. Between them is 100 kilometres of twisty two-lane blacktop straight out of your wildest octane-soaked fantasies. This is the kind of place the Giulia Quadrifoglio was built for.

With its honeycomb mesh intake vents, carbon fibre spoiler and a set of dark grey five-spoke rims, the Giulia Quadrifoglio talks a good game from the curb. Alcantara-accented sport seats, carbon-fibre trim and red contrast stitching complete the look inside, as does the Ferrari-style start/stop button mounted on the steering wheel. Once you press that red button, however, you’ll quickly realize this sedan can back up every inch of its exotic styling when the rubber hits the road.

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The Giulia Quadrifoglio (along with the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, Alfa Romeo’s high-performance SUV) is equipped with the most powerful engine Alfa Romeo has ever made. Despite its relatively small size, this 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V-6 is good for 505 horsepower and 443 lb.-ft. of torque, giving it similar power to the V-8-powered Mercedes-Benz AMG C 63 S and considerably more than the BMW M3. Thanks to the work of those clever Alfa Romeo engineers, the rear-wheel drive Giulia manages a zero to 96 kilometre an hour sprint in a blistering 3.8 seconds, with a top speed of 307 km/h. The Stelvio, meanwhile, holds the prestigious title of fastest production SUV around Germany’s Nuerburgring race circuit, which is not bad at all for something that can haul your family out of town for the weekend.

Owning a Giulia as a daily driver can enhance your commute, as well as provide thrills on those rare occasions when an empty stretch of blacktop presents itself.

Jeremy Freed/The Globe and Mail

The Giulia gleefully gobbles up tarmac as it winds its way up the mountainsides of the Angeles Crest, the blurps and grumbles of its exhaust ricocheting off the canyon walls. It clings to the road as if by suction, never losing poise as it tempts you to add a bit more throttle. All Alfa Romeo models are equipped with three driving modes: Normal, Dynamic and All-Weather, and the Quadrifoglios are equipped with an additional Race mode. With stability and anti-slip controls turned off, the suspension stiffens, the steering quickens, that symphonic exhaust note gets even louder and the Giulia is truly unleashed. The realities of oncoming traffic, coyotes and the occasional boulder in the road make it unsafe to push the Giulia to its limits here, but with a sweeping mountain vista out the windows and Bob Seger singing Night Moves on the radio, one can nonetheless experience more than a few moments of true driving bliss.

Sadly, most Quadrifoglios will never see the Angeles Crest, and few will ever set radial-clad foot on a race track. Even so, as with cars such as the BMW M3, Audi S4 and Cadillac ATS-V, owning a Giulia or Stelvio Quadrifoglio as a daily driver can enhance your commute, as well as provide thrills on those rare occasions when an empty stretch of blacktop presents itself. Of course it’s on those daily drives when the Giulia’s shortcomings present themselves. For all of its carbon fibre and contrast stitching, the interior still at times feels cheap and plastic, without the level of fit and finish to be found in some of its competitors. Likewise, despite all of Alfa Romeo’s technological wizardry, gremlins seem to abound in these machines, leading to reports of frequent breakdowns and long stints in the shop.

Of course, on a day such as today, it’s easy to forget such pedestrian realities. With hands gripping the flat-bottomed wheel of this beautiful Italian sports car, and the road twisting off into the trees, the world becomes a remarkably simple place. Such are the pleasures of the Quadrifoglio, made so much sweeter by their rarity.

Tech specs

This 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V-6 is good for 505 horsepower and 443 lb.-ft. of torque.

FCA US LLC

  • Base price: $89,845
  • Engine: 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V-6
  • Transmission/drive: 8-speed automatic
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 13.8 city/9.6 hwy
  • Alternatives: BMW M3, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, Audi S4, Cadillac ATS-V

Looks

From its distinctive triangular grille to its aggressive five-spoke rims, the Giulia Quadrifoglio’s bold Italian styling is one of its biggest selling features.

Interior

The interior is complete with Alcantara-accented sport seats, carbon-fibre trim and red contrast stitching.

FCA US LLC

Carbon fibre accents, contrast stitching and Alcanatara seats are all standard, making for an interior that’s as fetching as the sheet metal on the outside. The quality of some of the other interior elements, however, doesn’t feel as high.

Performance

You’ll have a hard time matching the level of performance on offer here for the price. All other complaints aside, this car is pure pleasure on the open road.

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Technology

While the really impressive tech is under the hood, there’s still plenty to enjoy inside, including a 14-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system, heated seating and steering wheel, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and bi-xenon headlamps. Owing to its position wedged into the slanting dash, the optional 8.8-inch infotainment screen feels tiny, especially for a $3,000 surcharge.

Cargo

With five seatbelts and a reasonably spacious trunk, there’s definitely a case to be made for the Giulia Quadrifoglio as a practical daily driver.

The verdict: 8.0

It’s more fun for the money than probably anything else on the road, but lingering reliability issues will give some buyers cause to consider more established (read: German) alternatives.

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

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