The Alfa Romeo Giulia is all about being striking. And Alfa Romeo needs it to be, considering the Italian brand hasn’t marketed a four-door, five-seat car in the U.S. since 1995.
The Fiat-Chrysler subsidiary needs to make a splash in the ultra-competitive segment that includes the BMW 3 Series. To that end, Alfa isn’t trying to be a better BMW than a BMW, but rather offer additional class and style against models that have become commonplace over the years.
Unless they’re devotees of the Italian brand, most Americans will be unfamiliar with the Alfa Romeo’s trademark grille and wonder why there are four-leaf clovers on each front fender. The Giulia is very steeped in tradition for Alfa Romeo, which is something that will please fans but probably be lost on those looking for another sports sedan.
Mind you, here at the Los Angeles Auto Show and back at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, only the high-performance and low-volume Giulia Quadrifoglio has been shown. Armed with its turbocharged V6 that puts out 505 horsepower, it’s a rival for the BMW M3 and intended to be more aggressive than that.
With lots of emphasis on its rear-wheel drive, 50/50 weight distribution, six-speed manual and Ferrari-derived engine, the Giulia Quadrifoglio is all about performance and creating the ultimate (Italian) driving machine. OK, that part might be BMW-aping. Unlike the constant push to one-up other automakers with technology, the Giulia is more about using lessons learned from racing to better to connect the driver to the road through the car.
Some of what Alfa insists makes the roughly $70,000, high-performance Giulia so special will filter down into the base Giulia that’s expected to start around $40,000. Those cars will get a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 276 horsepower, which is significantly more than what BMW puts in a 328i or Mercedes-Benz in a C300. Alfa Romeo says even this car will do 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, which was Corvette territory not that long ago.
Is it worth holding out over a BMW or Mercedes that you can have now? It is if you value exclusivity in a premium car, which is what Alfa Romeo is counting on. The Giulia will be an emotional purchase more than anything else, but it could win over buyers from established brands who are tired of seeing cars just like theirs on every corner. And if you spring for the Quadrifoglio, it’ll tempt owners to tell their friends they just bought a four-door Ferrari.
What remains to be seen, and won’t be for several more months now, is whether the Giulia is distinctive and competitive, and doesn’t have to rely on looks and charm to outweigh deficits against the current class leaders.
Expect to see the Giulia in low-volume Quadrifoglio trim next summer as a 2017 model, with the more common models going on sale toward the end of 2016.