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Cars 2018: Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Review

The English translation of quadrifoglio is four-leaf clover or cloverleaf, but when it’s applied to the 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia, quadrifoglio means speed. The storied automaker launched in Milan, Italy, in 1906 and quickly started racing its products and building high-performance street cars. Its first racecar hit the track in 1911, and Enzo Ferrari was its star race car driver in the early 1920s. In 1923, in a superstitious move after a run of bad luck, Alfa added a four-leaf clover to its race cars — and won the next race. The symbol has appeared on every Alfa racecar since, and the nameplate first appeared on a high-performance street car back in 1963, a special version of the Giulia coupe.

Today, the 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is the most powerful, most expensive and the most desirable member Giulia lineup. It’s also one of the quickest, fastest, and best-handling sedans in the world, competing with the BMW M3, Mercedes-AMG C 63, Audi RS 5, and Cadillac ATS-V.

Racetrack Ready

Alfa Romeo is now part of the Fiat Chrysler automobiles, the same company that owns American brands Dodge, Jeep, and Chrysler. Alfas are still built in Italy, and the brand returned to selling cars in America in 2014 after a 20-year absence. Today its small line up is made up of the mid-size Giulia sedan, the mid-size Stelvio SUV, and the two-seat 4C sports car.

It offers two high-performance Quadrifoglio models: the rear-wheel drive Giulia and the all-wheel drive Stelvio. Both have been tuned on many of the world’s racetracks, including the infamous north loop of Germany’s Nurburgring, a track considered the most extreme and dangerous in the world. Both are also powered by a twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 pumping out an incredible 505 horsepower, which makes the Giulia Quadrifoglio the most powerful sedan in its class. Alfa’s engineers also added a sport-tuned suspension, bigger brakes, and larger wheels and tires. A manual transmission is not available; instead, its smooth, high-revving V6 is backed by an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.

High Base Price, No All-Wheel Drive

Pricing for the 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio starts at $75,295, including $1,595 for destination, which is about twice the price of the base 280-hp Giulia. A Mercedes-AMG C 63 S costs about the same as the Alfa, but the Audi RS 5, which is the only car in the segment with all-wheel drive, is a few grand less. The BMW M3 and Cadillac ATS-V offer much less power but undercut the Alfa by more than $10,000. The Alfa’s standard features include heated power front seats, Bluetooth, navigation, a Harman Kardon premium sound system, leather and suede upholstery, 19-inch wheels, and a driver-adjustable suspension.

Our loaded test vehicle was equipped with a few pricey options and packages that drove its sticker price up to over $90,000. These extras included carbon ceramic Brembo brakes, which cost an incredible $8,000; carbon fiber Sparco racing seats for $3,500; and a carbon fiber steering wheel for $400. Although all-wheel drive is an option on the other Giulia models, it isn’t offered on the Quadrifoglio.

Quicker Than the Competition

With more horsepower than any of its competitors and one of the lowest curb weights in its class, the Giulia Quadrifoglio is quicker than its rivals. With a 0-60 mph run of just 3.6 seconds, the Quadrifoglio is among the speediest sedans in the world at any price.

However, the performance of the Mercedes-AMG C63 S, which is powered by a 503-hp twin-turbo V8, is just an eyelash behind the Italian. The Mercedes and the 450-hp Audi RS5, aided by its all-wheel drive traction, offer 0-60 mph acceleration of just 3.7 seconds, but the Cadillac ATS-V and BMW M3 are a blink or two behind. Though they are the only cars in this class to offer manual transmissions, they’re also the slowest, with the Caddy needing 3.9 seconds to hit 60 mph and the lighter BMW taking a full 4.0 seconds.  The Alfa’s ultimate top speed of 191 mph also leads the class.

Fast and Comfortable

Neck-snapping thrust and serious terminal velocity are a large part of the Giulia Quadrifoglio’s appeal, but this super sedan brings much more to the table including a well-balanced chassis, incredible handling, and everyday comfort. Whoever tuned the Alfa’s suspension should get a year’s worth of calzones and cannolis for their outstanding work. Despite its standard 19-inch wheels and high-performance Pirelli summer tires, the Alfa is the best-riding sedan in its class, with a smooth, even supple ride over all road surfaces. You feel the road and the handling is sporty and responsive, but this four-door sports car won’t beat you up on the way to work.

In the city, the Alfa’s unique brake-by-wire system takes some getting used to. At first, the pedal feel is odd, which makes smooth stops difficult. Also, the steering feels a little abrupt off center at first. But you acclimate to these quirks quickly. In the hills, in the twists and turns, this is possibly the best sedan in the world, with incredible grip, powerful heat-resistant brakes, and absurd power.

Handsome Italian Design

Alfa Romeo has been building cars for over 100 years and — to our eyes — there have only been, like, three ugly ones. The 2018 Giulia Quadrifoglio is not one of them. Perfectly proportioned with a hunkered-down stance and voluptuous curves, the Giulia is a stunner. And that unique Alfa grille never goes out of style.

The Quadifoglio’s bodywork has a little more attitude and aerodynamic augmentation than the standard Giulia, but Alfa didn’t overdress the sedan with silly scoops and oversized spoilers. They’re there, but they’re subtle and tasteful. Very Italian. And, of course, there’s a cloverleaf on each front fender. From the rear, you can really admire the Alfa’s beefy set of high-performance tires, its four massive chrome exhaust pipes, and its small carbon fiber decklid spoiler.

Interior Pros and Cons

Like Ferrari, Alfa puts the Giulia’s red “engine start” button on the steering wheel. It’s a cool touch, and it’s also the first clue that this sedan doesn’t follow the usual ergonomic handbook. Alfa also mounts the paddle shifters on the steering column instead of the wheel itself, which is unusual. To compensate, they’re oversized, making them easy to locate when you’re looking for a gear mid-corner. The clear and concise analog gauges are classic white-on-black, however, and the driving position is perfect. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is just the right girth, and the standard heavily bolstered sport seats are firm and comfortable. Our test car’s optional carbon fiber seats were also well-shaped with even more aggressive bolstering, but they’re expensive and don’t seem necessary except on the racetrack.

There’s also an abundance of carbon fiber trim on the console and dashboard, and the Quadrifoglio’s interior is well-assembled. Visibility is excellent, the standard automatic climate controls are simple, and the large knob on the console to adjust the response of the suspension, steering, and transmission is well-placed. Unfortunately, the Alfa’s infotainment system is dated and often frustrating to use compared to others in this class. It’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but onboard Wi-Fi isn’t offered.

Largest Trunk in this Class

Cargo space is large for this class. The Guilia offers 13.0 cubic feet of trunk space, which is the same as the Mercedes but more than the Cadillac and the BMW. Unfortunately, the Quadrifoglio’s rear seat does not fold to expand that capacity like it down in other Giulia models. Also, storage inside the Alfa’s interior is limited. The center console bin and its door pockets are small. The two front cupholders are well-sized, but they’re questionably placed ahead of the shifter, and tall drinks can interfere with the dashboard controls.

Considering the Alfa Romeo’s class-leading horsepower and performance, its fuel economy is surprisingly good. The Quadrifoglio is rated for 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, which is about the same as you get in its competition. I averaged 19 mpg in a week of spirited mixed driving around Los Angeles.

A Top Safety Pick

Despite its stiff sticker price, some of the Alfa’s high-tech safety systems are extra-cost options. Our test car included the optional Driver Assist Dynamic Package. It’s a strong value at $1,200, adding adaptive cruise control with automatic braking, automatic high beams, and a lane-departure warning.

A backup camera is standard, as is a blind-spot monitoring system, parking sensors, rear cross-traffic detection, and a forward-collision warning system, which will add additional brake force for you but will not instigate braking on its own. Missing from the list is a top-view camera system that would provide a 360-degree bird’s eye view of the sedan. Still, the Giulia is a Top Safety Pick of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Final Thoughts

Yes, there should be less hard black plastic in the Giulia’s interior. And yes, its infotainment system lags behind its competitors. And yes, the Quadrifoglio is significantly more expensive than some of its rivals. But in many ways, this Italian sports sedan is the new benchmark for small high-performance luxury cars.

The Quadrifoglio is fast, functional, and sexy. It feels special. It looks special. And you’ll never grow weary of its extreme performance. It’s the only compact sedan sold in America that drives with the passion that Italian cars are famous for. La bella macchina. If you’re an enthusiast looking for a small high-performance luxury sedan, the 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is an exceedingly desirable choice.