► First drive of the new Alfa Romeo Giulia
► CAR tests both the 503bhp QF and 2.2 diesel models
► A four-door Ferrari? You'd better believe it
If the regular Giulia Quadrifoglio isn't exclusive enough for you, then an Alfa Romeo Racing limited edition model should be just what you're after. Limited to just ten units in the UK, it's set to cost a whopping £89,500. For the extra outlay you get an Alfa Romeo Racing livery, an Akrapovič titanium exhaust and Sauber Engineered Aero enhancement Package.
Power is also up from 503bhp to 513bhp, while 19-inch dark alloy wheels, carbon fibre detailing, Sparco racing seats and a leather and alcantara steering wheel with yet more carbon inserts – naturally. We're used to seeing special edition models change little and charge the earth, yet nobody can accuse of Alfa of not making an effort with the F1 inspired Giulia Quad.
You're certainly not going to confuse it with a regular model, that's for sure.
We only got a brief go in the car (up the Goodwood hillclimb, in fact), but can safely say it feels a small but notable step up from the 'regular' Giulia Quadrifoglio. OK, so the extra 10bhp doesn't make that much difference, but the exhaust certainly has more of an edge to it, while the carbon fibre detailing and F1-esque livery are hard to miss. What's also lovely is that the gearlever has had the carbon treatment, too, meaning the disappointingly cheap-feeling plastic surround is now replaced by something far more fitting.
The important bit, however, is that this special edition doesn't take anything away from what is an already fabulous super saloon. Even on our short drive, it was obvious that the Giulia Quadrifoglio is still a benchmark five-door fireball. The poise, agility and speed were all still there, just helped out a touch by more carbon fibre and a fruitier exhaust.
Keep reading for our review of the standard, still very gorgeous car.
What’s all this four-door Ferrari talk?
It’s more than talk. The Giulia Quadrifoglio (Cloverleaf) was engineered by a team led by ex-458 creator Philippe Krief, is powered by a twin-turbo V6 that’s essentially a cut-down 488 GTB V8 and sends its power exclusively to the rear axle of a new chassis via a torque-vectoring differential.
When the Giulia was first revealed, Alfa’s engineers claimed the Maserati V6 used in the Ghibli S would have caused packaging problems and wouldn’t have produced the required power reliably, so lopped a couple of cylinders off the Ferrari V8 to create a very special 2.9-litre V6 with 503bhp and 443lb ft.
Other markets get a choice of manual or auto, but the cost of engineering the stick-shift to work with right-hand drive wasn’t considered worth the hassle. Don’t lose any sleep over that: it’s pretty clunky anyway, and the excellent ZF auto we do get has eight rather than six gears giving you even more opportunities to chase the redline.
Despite downgrading the crank to a more conventional cross-plane variety, this engine loves to rev. It doesn’t scream exactly through those quad tailpipes, but switch the drive mode selector to the fourth mode, Race (regular Giulias just get the regular Alfa Drive, Natural and Advanced Efficiency settings), and it growls like an Italian union rep asked to work a bank holiday. Alfa says 3.9sec to 62mph and a 191mph top end. Not slow, then.
So it gets the straight-line stuff right. Any other ticks?
How about all of them? Great brakes (okay, ours had the optional ceramics), excellent driving position and sports seats, and fabulously exploitable rear-drive handling.
Unlike its German rivals, the QF doesn’t want to slew into oversteer at the merest brush of the throttle. Sticky P Zero Corsas let you lean hard on the front end to tuck the nose into a corner then transfer load to the rear as you arc through it. You can tease the back end, trimming your line with the right pedal, choosing to keep things neat or (in Race mode, which disengages the ESP) lob a smoke grenade at the apex and disappear in a cloud of tyre vapour.
The 156 and 159 had famously abysmal turning circles, but the rear-drive layout gives huge steering articulation on the QF that’s as handy in city traffic as when recovering the unrecoverable slide on track.
Quadrifoglio-style drifts on every corner then?
Sadly not. You can’t switch the ESP out, but Alfa has got the important things right. The steering is quick and precise, the turn in is crisp, and that 50:50 weight distribution makes for a nicely balanced chassis. Provided you don’t push too hard, where it starts to roll and then understeers, it’s good fun to drive. Can’t speak for the ride though. Our drive was limited to Fiat’s Balocco test track.
The Giulia has been a long time coming, arriving almost four years after Alfa sold its last 159s, and while we’ll have to wait for a road drive before delivering a definitive verdict, it seems it was definitely worth the wait.
The diesel version finally gives Alfa a class-competitive, if maybe not quite class-topping, fleet saloon, but the Quadrifoglio is downright spectacular.
Check out our Alfa Romeo reviews