For a long time it's been a three-way battle in the high-performance sports sedan segment between the BMW M3, Cadillac ATS-V and Mercedes-AMG C63. All bring remarkable capabilities and a healthy dose of luxury to the table, but the class gained a new entry last year. With 505 horsepower and gorgeous Italian style, the new Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio has certainly caused quite a stir.
The Giulia benefits from a healthy carbon fiber diet; the hood, active front splitter, roof and rear spoiler are all made of this lightweight material. A unique rear splitter and Quadrifoglio four-leaf clover badges visually set the most potent Giulia model apart from base cars. Add a standout coat of Misano Blue Metallic paint, and this thing garners plenty of attention at gas stations and in parking lots, requiring you to spend extra time explaining to admirers that not only is Alfa Romeo selling cars in the US again, but that they're awesome.
Power comes from a Ferrari-derived 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine, spitting out 505 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque to outmuscle the M3 (425 horsepower), ATS-V (464) and C63 S (503). A ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic gearbox beautifully pairs with this ferocious engine, helping the Giulia get to 60 miles per hour in just 3.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 191 mph.
To improve handling reflexes, the Quadrifoglio receives an adaptive suspension, torque vectoring rear differential, 19-inch wheels wrapped with sticky Pirelli P-Zero tires and Brembo steel brakes. For strong and fade-resistant brake performance, my test car wears the optional carbon ceramic setup.
With 505 horsepower and an upgraded suspension, you might think the Giulia Quadrifoglio is solely focused on track performance, but that's hardly the case. In fact, it's quite good on everyday roads -- the car's "Natural" setting offers a well-damped ride, quick steering that's not overly twitchy and a smooth drivetrain capable of returning an estimated 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. The only hiccup is the stop/start system that at times makes for jerky launches, causing me to manually disable it every time I start the car.
Cabin appointments are generally nice, with large portions of leather-wrapped surfaces, carbon fiber trim and super supportive leather and Alcantara front seats, but there are some glaring sore spots. Some of the switchgear (namely the window switches) feels hollow and cheap, rear legroom is tight, and even though there's 18.5 cubic-feet of space in the trunk, the rear seat backs don't fold down, meaning you won't be able to move longer items.
An 8.8-inch infotainment system comes standard with onboard navigation, a 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The interface is fairly intuitive; use the center console control knob to make selections and toggle between menus, but be warned, the system's response to commands often takes a noticeable second. Three USB ports are on hand to connect and power your smart devices, including one that's conveniently located on the back of the center console, great for rear passengers.
To keep you safe, all Quadrifoglios have blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and a backup camera with rear cross-traffic alert. An excellent adaptive cruise control system is available, making road trips a breeze, and lane departure warning is an optional add-on as well.
Where the Quadrifoglio really shines is out on your favorite twisty road, or for my testing purposes, GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Michigan. Things really come alive when you press the car into "Race" mode, which not only dials in the most aggressive drivetrain and suspension settings, but turns off the stability and traction control.
Down straightaways, the engine is abundantly powerful throughout the rev range and spits out a mean, intoxicating exhaust note. The transmission quickly swaps cogs in both full-automatic and manual modes, and is especially lovely to control via the large, column-mounted, aluminum shift paddles. Down GingerMan's back straight, the Giulia feels solidly planted at 125 mph and the carbon ceramic Brembos maintain crazy strong and consistent stopping performance throughout an entire day of track thrashing.
But the best part of the Quadrifoglio is its steering. This sedan responds immediately to inputs and offers gobs of feedback to let you know exactly when the front tires are approaching their limits of grip. That in mind, it's no surprise that turn-in is instant, composure and grip through corners is high and transitions are handled beautifully thanks to the balanced chassis, torque-vectoring rear differential and wide 245/35 R19 front and 285/30 R19 rear tires.
Outside paint colors and a few different wheel choices, there aren't too many options boxes that you can check when ordering a 2018 Giulia Quadrifoglio. The big-ticket options are the $8,000 carbon ceramic brakes, $3,500 Sparco carbon fiber seats and $1,200 driver assist dynamic package that adds adaptive cruise and lane departure warning.
As tempting as the brakes and snazzy seats are, I would forego those to keep the price tag somewhat in check and just add the $600 Misano Blue Metalic paint. That will have my car wearing a price tag of $75,895, including $1,595 for destination, which is a little easier to swallow than the $85,995 of the car you see here.
The 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio starts at $75,295, giving it the highest cost of entry among its direct competition; the BMW M3 begins at $67,495, Cadillac ATS-V at $62,590 and Mercedes-AMG C63 at $67,095. Factor in the not-as-nice interior and unrefined infotainment system and it's easy to see why the Giulia is often a tough choice.
But in this class, what's arguably most important is how great a car drives, and there, none of the competitors can best the Alfa. To me, the extra money and interior shortcomings don't matter so much if the Giulia Quadrifoglio is the new standard of performance sport sedans.