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There is only one place to start with the Alfa Romeo Giulia QV, and that's at the end.
As one of the most highly anticipated new car arrivals of the year, and a car that, through the weight of expectation, bears the burden of reviving enough passion for the fabled Italian brand to spearhead a challenge against the German triumvirate in the luxury segment, here's the burning question: is it good enough?
The short answer is a definitive yes. It's very, very good actually and signals that Alfa Romeo is back to its best, creating a genuine sporting sedan that is fast, engaging, full of character and a worthy alternative to the BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63 S it has in the cross hairs.
Starting with the basic underpinnings, the structure was designed with the high-performance QV as the priority (there's also a range of more mainstream Giulias) and as such features a mix of hot-formed steel, aluminium and carbon fibre to create a chassis that Alfa claims is the stiffest in its class and, w
ith a kerb weight under 1500kg, is among the lightest. Sitting under the carbon-fibre bonnet is a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 that has the highest
specific output in the segment, eclipsing the M3's maximum outputs and matching the peak power of the C63 S despite its smaller capacity, with 375kW produced at 6500rpm and 600Nm of torque generated between 2500-5500rpm.
With modern fuel-saving functions such as cylinder deactivation (which allows it to run on only three cylinders at cruising speeds) and stop-start, Alfa says you can have your cake and eat it too with the Giulia QV netting a respectable combined average consumption of 7.2-litres per 100km.
Hooked up to an electronically controlled rear differentiaThere are some areas that need a bit more polish (which I'll get to), but as far as harnessing its power within a chassis that is brilliantly balanced – completely chuckable and playful when taken to the limit and serenely composed and comfortable at normal speeds – the QV is a rewarding, enjoyable and engaging car to drive.
But those are just numbers. The important question is how do they translate into the real world? After a series of unfiltered, fast laps around Alfa Romeo's Balocco test track outside of Milan, where the car was developed, the Giulia QV is not only fast in a straight line but could just re-set the bar as the best driver's car in its class.l with torque vectoring via an eight-speed automatic transmission, Alfa claims the Giulia QV can accelerate from 0-100kmh in 3.9 seconds, has a top speed of 307kmh and can lap the fearsome Nurburgring in under 7mins and 40 seconds – each of which are new standards for compact four-door sedans.
While peak torque is delivered higher in the rev range than its rivals, there is minimal turbo lag when it gets underway and a smooth, refined power delivery. Combined with the conventional torque-converter automatic, it ensures the Giulia QV is effortless in everyday situations.
At the other end of the driving spectrum though – with the rotary drive controller set to the QV's unique Race mode (there's also Auto, Normal and Dynamic) which sharpens the throttle response as well as tightening the adaptive suspension and switching the stability control off – the engine spins up so quickly through its immense mid-range that it is easy to snag the 7000rpm rev limiter before you know it.
While the engine delivers plenty in the way of performance to tickle the senses, it doesn't have the best soundtrack in the business – which is something of a letdown from Alfa. Its bi-modal system is loud under heavy acceleration, but the turbos cut into its induction note, it drones at constant speeds and there's none of the crackling and popping when you back off the gas – or the deep-chested V8 bellow - that makes the C63 so characterful no matter how fast you drive it.
The automatic, too, is nicely matched for 90 percent of the time, with smooth shifts and intuitive logic that ensures it is in the right gear for the right environment when left to its own devices, but it's a bit slow to react to inputs through the oversized, column-mounted paddle shifters in manual mode when taking it to the limit.
At the absolute limit, the front-end feels more natural than an M3 with nicely weighted steering that, with only two turns from lock-to-lock, requires fine inputs as it is not only razor sharp but nicely progressive through the ratio. At the back end, the electronic differential also harnesses its prodigious power better than a C63, generating great traction to rocket between the bends or lurid, easily controlled slides when called for.
What's more, the Giulia is more than just a one-trick pony. From a packaging perspective, it has a great driving position with good adjustment through the snug-fitting seat and steering wheel, decent vision thanks to slim A-pillars and plenty of interior space with more than enough rear space for two adults to travel without any restrictions.
The cabin is also well appointed with a leather-topped dash, clear instruments and a simplicity to the dash layout that makes accessing its functions easy to navigate. The 8.8-inch multi media screen, which incorporates audio, sat nav, vehicle settings and connectivity systems, isn't as comprehensive as others in the class but nor does it lack the basics expected from a compact luxury contender.
There were some minor quibbles in the final fit and finish of some panels and the overall ambience and quality of materials in the cabin isn't as high as it the Germans, but nor is it that far off the best in the business.
In the end, the Giulia QV lives up to the promise that Alfa Romeo can produce a genuine alternative to BMW and Mercedes. Believe the hype; the Italian brand is back to its best with a muscle car that rekindles the spirit and driving enjoyment it has been missing for decades.