The return of Alfa Romeo to the U.S. market has long been anticipated by the Alfisti. But with the arrival of the new Giulia sedan, even those with little or no inkling what the Italian marque has to offer should find the wait to have been worthwhile. Arriving in showrooms now, this distinctive Alfa will launch here with the high-performance Quadrifoglio Verde (QV stands for Green 4-Leaf Clover) variant, a dedicated rear-drive model boasting 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque from its Ferrari-developed 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6. Then in the coming months, we’ll see Giulia and Giulia Ti with 280 horsepower from a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, which can drive either the rear or all four wheels. All are equipped with 8-speed ZF automatic transmissions.

While from some quarters, particularly from the rear, the Giulia’s body might be mistaken for the curvaceous yet muscular BMW M3, the face of this compact sport sedan is unmistakably Italian, thanks to the large triangular grille which is as recognizable in Europe as the BMW twin-kidney. The high output QV has a more aggressive look thanks to larger 19-inch wheels and tires, a movable front aerodynamic splitter and a decklid-mounted carbon fiber spoiler, the latter is which part of a sport package you can opt for on the 4-cylinder Giulia models.

Italian flair inside and out

The stylish exterior cues carry over to the Giulia’s interior that features a large flowing dash with a center instrument panel featuring electroluminescent gauges and a center-mounted 8.8-inch display screen that’s discreetly tucked into the dash on QV and Ti models. This approach is the direct opposite of the iPad-on-edge slapped atop the center stack that we’ve seen in a number of upscale German competitors like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.

The QV and Ti are more sporty and expressive than the standard Giulia, but buyers of the latter 4-cylinder model need not feel shortchanged since the interior design, quality of materials and craftsmanship is similar across the entire line save for a slightly smaller 6.5 inch center display. The only upgrade that makes a noticeable difference in trim level is the optional sport seat on the QV and Ti, which has much more aggressive side bolstering.  

The equipment list is fairly comprehensive for the Giulia, which includes Brembo disc brakes, 17-inch alloy wheels, leather interior, dual-zone climate control, push button start mounted on the steering wheel, back-up camera with cross traffic detection, park sensors, keyless entry, advanced brake assist and 6-way power seats. Step up to the Ti model and you get 18-inch wheels, heated seats and steering wheel and gray wood interior trim. The Sport package adds the 18-inch wheels to the Giulia, 19-inch wheels on the Ti, front and rear sport fascia, a leather-wrapped sport leather steering wheel and aluminum sport pedals.

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DNA all the way

The Giulia’s Italian DNA is expressed in its driver mode system of the same name. The performance setting is Dynamic, normal is called Natural and the economy mode is A for advanced efficiency. The QV model has a fourth, Race setting, which minimizes the intervention of the stability control system.

Out on the open road in the Giulia QV, the Dynamic mode proved to be too taut, even for the relatively smooth Northern California two-lane roads. The suspension picks up even the slightest imperfections, though the steering response and handling are razor sharp. Natural brings a more relaxed ride without sacrificing the excellent feedback and linear action of the steering. Best of all, even in Natural, if you stomp on the accelerator, a bypass in the exhaust opens up to release a high-pitched wail from the twin turbo V6. Advanced Efficiency will probably deliver slightly better fuel economy, but at the expense of some crispness in the throttle and shifts from the 8-speed automatic. Besides, if efficiency were the point here, why opt for the QV at all, since the standard Giulia would be a much better fit?

Where the QV really comes into its own is on the race track. We had an opportunity for some hot laps at Sonoma Raceway and the hottest Giulia did not disappoint. The car is quick, agile and handles at the limit and beyond, allowing for some tail-out cornering if you dare to put it in race mode. The potent V6 enables the car to sprint to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 191 mph. The transmission in manual mode can be paddle shifted and holds a given gear until you choose to change up (it will bounce off the rev limiter if you’re late with an input). It also does an admirable job of learning your driving style and delivers intuitive automatic gear changes with authoritative blips of the throttle on downshifts.

The 2.0-liter formula: relaxed, yet sporty

While the QV is happy hanging it out on the ragged edge, the standard Giulia and Giulia Ti offer plenty of balanced performance from its turbocharged 280 horsepower 4-cylinder package that boasts 306 lb-ft of torque. Alfa says the Giulia is capable of 0-60 mph acceleration of 5.1 seconds and a top speed of 149 mph. Best of all, it is a tidy and solid sport sedan that’s relaxed in its ride, yet firm enough to give a truly spirited driving experience.

These abilities come from the fact that the Giulia was designed from the ground-up on the new Giorgio platform with the Quadrifoglio Verde model in mind. As a result, the base and Ti versions benefit from a 50:50 weight distribution and a lightweight carbon fiber driveshaft that is used across the range. In addition to the aforementioned Sport package, the standard model also offers the Lusso package, which infused the car with such trappings and dray gray oak or light walnut wood accents, 18-inch 10-spoke aluminum wheels, premium leather with Cannelloni Design seats, 8-way power front seats with 4-way lumbar support, leather-wrapped dash, upper door trim and steering wheel. There’s even an air quality system included.

Pricing for the Giulia is expected to start in the low $40,000 range, and top out in the $70,000 bracket with the QV. For those looking for something that’s different and yet has the chops to give the German entries more than a run for the money, the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia is a welcome entry to the high performance sport sedan club.


 

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