The premium Italian auto brand Alfa Romeo, which returned to the U.S. market in 2008 after a 13-year absence, has rolled out its redesigned Giulia midsize sedan lineup for 2017, with prices starting at a surprisingly affordable $37,995 (plus $995 freight).
That’s for the base model with rear-wheel drive and a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine producing a respectable 280 horsepower and 306 foot-pounds of torque. It’s connected to a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission.
Also in the lineup are the Giulia Ti ($39,995), with the same four-cylinder engine, eight-speed automatic and rear drive; and the way-upscale Giulia Quadrifoglio ($72,000), which is practically a rocketship on wheels, with its 505-horsepower 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic.
For $2,000 more on the base Giulia and midlevel Ti, you can add all-wheel drive, which was included on our base tester.
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Believe me, though, when I tell you that you really don’t need to spend $72,000 to get a fun-to-drive Giulia sedan. Although I’ve driven both models, and the high-powered version is awesome, no doubt, the one that costs just slightly over half as much is a very satisfying vehicle.
With a few options, our Giulia base all-wheel drive topped out at $45,890 (including freight and options), which is about the same price as the Kia Cadenza midsize premium sedan I tested just a few weeks ago.
So if you winced earlier when I suggested that the base Giulia has an affordable price, keep in mind that you’ll pay nearly that much for even high-end versions of cars such as the Toyota Avalon, Honda Accord and Nissan Maxima, as well as the Cadenza, and you won’t have quite the exotic experience you’ll get with the Alfa.
The other factor is what I call a car’s “head-turning quotient.” I don’t see heads turning much when I drive up in an Accord, Cadenza, Camry or Avalon, for instance.
But everywhere I went with my Giulia with its Alfa Rosso (Red) exterior and distinctive grille and other cool styling cues, people stopped and stared, and some even walked up to take photos and to ask me about the car.
I gave the Giulia a workout over a week of driving on a mix of interstate highways and country roads, and found it to be just as much at home at each end of the roadway spectrum. On the highways, it was smooth, quiet and graceful; on the country roads, it performed like the sport sedan it’s supposed to be, taking tight curves with ease, and giving me plenty of power to pass slower vehicles in short passing zones.
Although new to most Americans, the Giulia has been around for 55 years, and has a reputation as a lightweight performance sedan. That carries on with the new line, created by Italian designers and crafted by Alfa Romeo artisans at the company’s Cassino plant in Frosinone, Italy.
The parent company, Fiat Chrysler Automotive, says that all Giulia models have a “near perfect 50/50 weight distribution,” along with class-leading power and performance.
The eight-speed automatic transmission on our tester came with the optional column-mounted paddle shifters, which allowed for gearshifts in less than 100 milliseconds, according to Alfa specifications. I was able to decide when to shift while I was enjoying some of those twisty back roads.
The paddle shifters were part of the Sport Interior Package ($600), which also included aluminum interior accents, a sport leather-wrapped steering wheel with flat bottom, bright aluminum pedals, and bright door-speaker surrounds.
The Giulia is very well equipped, even at the base price. Among standard features are the leather interior, seven-inch TFT instrument cluster screen, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking assist, backup camera, heated/power/folding outside mirrors, and an automatic engine stop-start system.
Also included even on the base model are the sport suspension, Alfa DNA Drive-Mode System, audio system with a 6.5-inch screen and eight speakers, an ambient interior lighting package, auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control, and 10-way power-adjustable driver and front passenger seats with four-way lumbar adjust.
Keyless entry and pushbutton start are standard, with the start/stop button placed in the lower right corner of the steering wheel – the first time I’ve seen that on a car.
Both of the front bucket seats were quite comfortable. In the rear, two people could sit comfortably in the outboard positions, with a third person riding not as comfortably in the middle. The rear seat has a 40/20/40 fold-down feature to extend the trunk storage capacity.
Outside, base Giulia models come with 17-inch/10-spoke aluminum wheels, run-flat tires, four-wheel disc brakes with Brembo front brakes and silver brake calipers with black script, LED daytime running lights and taillights, bi-xenon headlights, dual chrome exhaust tips, a carbon fiber driveshaft, and an engine cover with Alfa script.
Giulia Ti (Turismo Internazionale) models get 18-inch aluminum wheels, wood interior accents, heated front seats and steering wheel, an 8.8-inch wide-screen infotainment system with SiriusXM and more.
The Ti Sport adds Quadrifoglio-inspired front and rear fascias, 19-inch dark aluminum wheels, 12-way power high-performance leather seats, aluminum column-mounted paddle shifters, sport steering wheel, aluminum interior accents, gloss-black window trim surround and colored brake calipers
Nearly doubling the base price brings the Giulia Quadrifoglio, with its distinct styling and the most powerful engine ever provided in a production Alfa Romeo. Besides the twin-turbo 505-horsepower engine with its 443 foot-pounds of torque, this model also comes with a carbon fiber hood, roof and rear spoiler, adaptive performance suspension; DNA Pro with race mode; torque vectoring; a carbon fiber active-aero front splitter; carbon fiber interior accents; 3-D navigation; and more.
Although I never timed it, the Giulia with the 2.0-liter engine can go from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, and has a top speed of 149 mph, FCA says.
Fuel economy was surprisingly decent on our test vehicle, which was rated at 23 mpg city/31 highway/26 combined (with all-wheel drive). We averaged about 25.7 mpg, even with some spirited driving.
Our tester came with the Driver Assist Dynamic Plus Package ($1,500), which added adaptive cruise control with automatic stop; forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems; automatic high beams; and an infrared windshield.
We also had the sport appearance package ($1,250), which brought 18-inch sport aluminum wheels, gloss-black window-surround moldings, and custom-painted brake calipers; the cold weather package ($700), including heated front seats, steering wheel and washer nozzles; the 8.8-inch premium HD radio ($500) with Bluetooth; and satellite radio ($350).
There was no navigation system on our vehicle, which was surprising – especially since it was otherwise very well equipped. But most people have smartphones with great navigation features anyway.
Besides the red exterior, our car had the black and red interior layout.
Standard safety features included front and rear outboard side-curtain air bags, and LATCH child-seat anchors in the rear seat.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.
2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan
The package: Midsize, four-door, five-passenger, rear- or all-wheel-drive, inline four-cylinder or V-6 gasoline-powered premium sedan.
Highlights: Introduced for 2017, the Giulia is part of FCA’s re-introduction of the Italian premium brand Alfa Romeo to the U.S. market. It’s a sport sedan that seats five and has a variety of luxury features, including leather interior. It’s fun to drive, with great acceleration even with the base four-cylinder engine, and excellent roadhandling. All-wheel drive is available on the base model only.
Negatives: Rear seat better suited for two people than three.
Engine: 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder, turbocharged (base and Ti models); 2.9-liter V-6, turbocharged (Quadrifoglio model).
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Power/torque: 280 HP./306 foot-pounds (I-4); 505 HP./443 foot-pounds (V-6).
Length: 182.6 inches.
Curb weight: Not provided.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock (base, Ti); disc/disc, antilock, Brembo (Quadrifoglio).
Electronic stability/traction control: Standard.
Side air bags: Side-curtain for both rows.
Trunk capacity: Not provided.
EPA fuel economy: 24 mpg city/33 highway/27 combined (I-4, rear drive); 23/31/26 (I-4, AWD); 17/24/20 (V-6).
Fuel capacity/type: 15.3 gallons/unleaded premium (91 octane minimum).
Major competitors: BMW 3-series/5-series; Mercedes-Benz C-class/E-class, Audi A4/A6, Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, Kia Cadenza, Buick LaCrosse, Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Hyundai Azera, Lincoln MKZ.
Base price range: $37,995-$72,000, plus $995 freight.
Price as tested: $45,890, including freight and options (base all-wheel-drive model).
On the Road rating: 8.7 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer's suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.