Have you ever been at a get-together, and it’s ok, but kinda snoozy?
You know just about everyone; the talk is the same stuff it always is.
Then someone new shows up that’s fun, different and interesting, and all of a sudden, you’re glad you were there.
Meet the Alfa Romeo Giulia – the life of the party.
You may know Alfa Romeo. The last time the brand sold a vehicle here was in 1995. But this is a famous brand with an amazing heritage. Alfa was the first car to win the World Automobile Championship in 1925, and followed with a win in the first F1 championship. Heck Enzo Ferrari started as a race driver for the brand in 1921.
Even more so, Alfa is bona fide in making awesome road cars. Even though their presence was small here in the US, we did have Dustin Hoffman tooling around in a Duetto convertible in The Graduate in 1967. Pretty cool. But frankly, Alfa never became the name here that it did elsewhere.
But if you love the joy and style that Italian brands bring to –well, mostly everything – it’s been getting better lately. Especially for those of us who have real world budgets. First Fiat came back, and now Alfa is here. So, let’s get the party started!
La meccanica delle emozioni
Catchy, eh? It’s Alfa’s motto, which translates to “the mechanics of emotion”.
We say Italian design, and you say, elegant, exciting, passionate. And one look tells you the Giulia is all that. At the front is the iconic V-shaped grille, that is probably the largest ever on an Alfa, but surprisingly not so huge compared to the monstrous maws we’re seeing on everything from Audi to Lexus.
Slender LED lamps, large intakes, and a rounded line with a scooped-out midsection catches the eye. If that wasn’t enough, our tester wore a bright, bold color called Misano Blue, featured optional sport fascia front and rear, and sat menacingly crouched over optional 19-inch, 5-hole alloys. All the better to see the bright red painted brake calipers. OK, our tester was not for the wallflowers.
Which should help it stand out in a massive class including the BMW 3 series, Audi A4, and Mercedes C-Class. All those are handsome sedans, but the Alfa is a custom-cut Armani suit in a world of more conservative duds.
While that is the name of one our favorite Gelato places, in this case, we mean the Giulia’s beautiful interior. Open the door, and the waft of fine leather hits you. Our tester had the optional Ti leather package, that adds a leather dash and upper doors to the leather sport seats, and it’s elegant – a pleasure to the eye, the touch, and the nose.
The two-tone black over ice on the dash runs across the door panels, and brightens up the interior. Here Alfa does a masterful job of making the Giulia feel unique without being so different it befuddles.
There’s a good Audi-like sensibility to the design of the switchgear, and a large 8.8-inch info-tainment display with a tasteful scripted font that looks especially nice. All the modern cons like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, while our tester enjoyed the 14-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system. Large knobs on the center console make access painless.
A couple of ergonomics stand out. The start/stop button is hung below the left-hand spoke of the steering wheel (very Ferrari-ish and kinda cool), and the optional paddle shifters are so large, you have to make a concerted effort to get your hands around them to reach stuff like the turn signals (not so cool, but you get used to it.)
It may be the sweeping design, but the interior of the Giulia feels a bit more intimate than the Audi or BMW. Not small, just a little cozier. The optional front sport leather seats are multi-comfy and the rear seats are competitive for the class. A nice touch, the rears seats fold flat, and create a good size cargo hold.
To the Autostrada we go…
While the Alfa lives comfortably in the land of the Bavarians, it takes a more Southerly route when it comes to performance. Like most fine European machines, the Giulia doesn’t try to impress you all at once – it saves some of charms so that it grows on you over time.
Well, we’ll take some of that back. The 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder starts with a healthy braap that makes you feel all tingly. It’s a little powerhouse, too, serving up 280 hp. Torque is a rich 306 lb-ft, served up at a nice low 2,000 rpm.
While it’s acceleration is about average for the class, it feels fast, and in D mode (the most aggressive of DNA- yes, DNA settings) the shifts have a lot of punch, and throttle response is terrific.
The Giulia has a high pulse rate – it always seems to want to cruise 15-20 mph over the posted limit – and feels happy doing so. It’s in the DNA.
Speaking of the DNA drive modes, while we liked the snappiness of the D, we stayed in N, the standard mode most of the time. It’s a nice blend of zippy and comfort.
Also in D mode, the steering feels extremely over boosted – a quick twitch of the wheel will fling you into the door panel. Fun for the autocross, but a little exuberant for the street. All this, and we also had All Wheel Drive for extra grip!
No, we’ll stay with N, where the steering gives you a lovely feel, and impressive precision – making tapping those little raised corner dots fair game. Ride is sporty too – but never harsh, even on those nice 19-inch alloys.
We spoke of the Alfa revealing itself, and only after some stick time do you realize how alive, vibrant, and engaging the experience is. It grows on you. And you realize that while the German brands have an air of competence and control, it’s Alfa that brings the “brio” – a vivaciousness that’s so uniquely Italian. And entirely delightful.
How much for this sweet little Gelato?
Well, that depends on the flavor, and the size of the serving…You can start with the Giulia at $38,195. Opting for the Giulia TI AWD brings you up to $41,995, and opens up a world of options for your perusal.
Our tester had the Ti Sport Package, which includes those handsome 19-inch alloys, special fascia, sport leather seats, sport steering wheel, paddle shifters, aluminum interior trim and more for a reasonable $2,500. We also had the Ti Leather Package for $995, Driver Assist Static ($650) and Dynamic ($1,500) packages – basically, all the state of the art safety stuff you want – plus the Harmon Kardon Audio system ($900), 8.8-inch display with 3D navi ($950), and Misano Blue Metallic paint ($600). Add in destination ($1,295) and you ring the bell at $51,385.
Building a comparable 3-series got us within a couple hundred bucks, so we’ll say the Alfa is competitive – just where they’d want to be.
A last word of advice –if you’re concerned about reliability issues, we’d say a lease is the smart bet. And if you have a trouble-free one, or just fall madly in love – and with an Alfa, that’s a very good possibility –buy it out afterwards.
So here you get everything you want in a sport sedan, plus a little extra in style, performance, and personality you won’t find anywhere else.
We loved our time with the enchanting Alfa Romeo Giulia.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.