Tom Brady’s Super Bowl fireworks weren’t the only things lighting up TV screens in February — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ran not one, not two, but three hugely expensive TV ads announcing its sleek new Alfa Romeo Giulia. In the ads, the sinuous red — of course, it’s got to be red — Italian sedan carved up scenic roadways to a pulse-pounding soundtrack amid whispered promises that “Some cars take your breath away; only one gives it back.”
The Giulia also grabbed headlines when its top-of-the-line twin-turbo Quadrifoglio model — showcasing an all-new, all-aluminum 2.9-liter V6 with 505 horsepower, 443 pound-feet of torque and a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission — set a record 7:32 lap time around Germany’s legendary Nürburgring track. That’s the fastest time ever by a four-door production sedan and 6 seconds better than the prior champ, Porsche’s Panamera Turbo. (“Quadrifoglio” means “four-leaf clover,” an insignia first used in the 1923 Targa Florio race that graced Alfa’s racing cars from then on.)
That triumph helped the 3,800-pound Quadrifoglio garner immediate and favorable comparisons to the best powerhouse sedans from Germany. Top Gear magazine even named it “Best Car” of 2016.
And just like that, the spunky Italian with that iconic grille — “trilobe” in Alfa-speak — hustled its way back into the U.S. car market with a bang. Not bad for a brand that sold its last four-door in America when “Braveheart” flickered across movie screens.
Strong as it is — 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds — the Giulia Quadrifoglio is more than a lot of go crammed into sexy bodywork. Advanced standard technology includes a 7-inch, full-color, configurable thin-film transistor instrument cluster, the four-mode Alfa DNA Pro Drive mode selector (Dynamic, Natural, Advanced Efficiency and Race), Quadrifoglio-tuned adaptive suspension, enhanced torque vectoring, Brembo brakes (14.2 inches in front, 13.8 in rear — larger ceramics are optional), an engine-cylinder deactivation system (for fuel economy), and an 8.8-inch console screen with 3-D navigation, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-path detection.
Those fortunate enough to inhabit the stylish and spacious cabin will find supple Italian leather with Alcantara (think suede) inserts and accent stitching, along with natural wood trims or carbon fiber on the doors, center console and dash. Road noise is almost nonexistent, making it easy to blow right past posted speed limits. Radar detector, anyone?
Perhaps the best news of all, though, is that there are two lesser-priced Giulia models that include a lot of the Quadrifoglio’s greatness without the $73,595 price tag. After all, not everyone needs the brute force to hammer away at every yahoo in a Mercedes AMG C63 or BMW M3 with an inferiority complex.
The base Giulia and the mid-range Giulia Ti share the Quadrifoglio’s stunning good looks, chassis control system, eight-speed transmission, and nicely appointed and super-quiet interior. The main difference — a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine cranking out 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque in place of the Quadrifoglio’s 505-horsepower monster. Another main difference: Base and Ti go for $37,995 and $39,995, respectively.
Given Alfa Romeo’s triumphant return to America with the scintillating Giulia, the big question is this: Are great looks, media accolades, high visibility, big performance and value enough to start chipping away at Mercedes, BMW, Porsche and Audi as America’s longstanding choices for high-end sedans?
It’s a strong start. And when the upcoming Stelvio SUV debuts next year, riding on the same outstanding Giulia platform, Alfa Romeo suddenly looks like an innovative contender for a big slice of the vastly lucrative American pie.