Does anyone do drama like the Italians? It wasn't enough to just to unveil the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio with the bit of disorganization that can come with debuts in Italy. They also trotted out famed tenor Andrea Bocelli, who sang "Nessun Dorma" from Giacomo Puccini's Turandot. This threatened to bring a tear to the eyes of hardened journalists just as the car was driven out for the first time.
It's been two decades since Alfa Romeo halted sedan sales in the U.S. and about a half decade since work began on the new Giulia. Designs were rejected, the project rebooted and placed in the hands of so-called "Skunks," a reminder of Lockheed Martin's seven decades of behind-the-scenes toil in its Skunk Works.
Where most automakers debut a new model in its base form and later add the performance versions, Alfa is doing the opposite, leading with its hero version sporting that Quadrifoglio moniker.
Here are a half-dozen things you need to know about this anti-BMW, anti-Mercedes, anti-Audi, and anti-Cadillac:
The engine and its enemies
How's this for heritage? Ferrari tuned, but didn't supply,the Quadrifoglio's all-aluminum, 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6. Alfa is claiming 510 metric hp, which translates to 503 (SAE) hp in the U.S. We did not get a torque number, but Alfa contends there's enough oomph to get the sedan to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds. Also in the package is cylinder deactivation to improve fuel mileage and a nicely nasty exhaust note.
The enemies, according to Alfa Romeo? The BMW M3 with its 425-hp, 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six (good for 0–60 mph in 3.9 seconds); the Mercedes-AMG C63 S with its 503-hp, 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 (0–60 mph in 3.9 seconds); and the Audi S4, making 333 hp from a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 (0–60 mph in 4.9 seconds).
And an American pair apparently ignored by Alfa Romeo: The Cadillac ATS-V with its 464-hp, 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6 (0–60 mph in 3.8 seconds), and its larger sibling, the CTS-V with a 640-hp, supercharged 6.2-liter V8 (0–60 mph in 3.7 seconds).
We received no information about the Quadrifoglio's gearbox, but the show cars appeared to have six-speed manuals. If an automatic is not offered in the U.S., though, consider that a self-inflicted wound on Alfa's part.
There will be other engines to go with the standard Giulia: In the U.S., we'll see a four-cylinder and a 3.0-liter non-turbo V6.
Shape, style, and carbon fiber
In this class, aggression often replaces beauty, and the Giulia Quadrifoglio is no exception. Note the short overhangs front and rear and the BMW M3-ish outlets on the front fenders, which exaggerate the aggression further.
Naturally, the design leads with a version of the classic Alfa grille, flanked by broad-mouth openings. Below the grille is an active-aero lip spoiler, along the sides are aggressive sills, and the trunk is capped with a decklid spoiler. Below the bumper are a diffuser and four exhaust pipes. We expect most of these design elements will not be on the standard Giulias.
While the fenders and doors are made of aluminum, the hood, roof, and prop shaft are done in carbon fiber—all the better to trim weight.
We weren't allowed inside the Alfas with their darkened windows, but thanks to the wonders of digital photography and 52,000 ISO we got a look. It appears to be very much a driver's design, with well-hooded instruments and proper knobs for most controls. Several controls are on the steering wheel, including the start button, a la F1. The seats appear to have carbon fiber shells and proper side bolstering. We're told interior materials include carbon fiber, wood and fabrics.
Gripping the ground
A performance Alfa ain't an Alfa if doesn't handle properly. The Giulia Quadrifoglio has 50/50 weight distribution and is claimed to be better than the competition in torsional rigidity. At the front is a double wishbone suspension and what Alfa calls a "semi-virtual steering axis"—which is claimed to improve steering by keeping a constant caster trail while cornering. At the back is a multi-link design, both ends using major aluminum elements.
Another part of the handling package is torque vectoring via a pair of clutches that mete out torque to the wheels individually. Also included is an Integrated Brake System and overall control from the wonderfully named Chassis Domain Control. One of those center console knobs allows the driver to choose between Dynamic, Natural, Advanced Efficient (i.e. eco-friendly), and Racing modes.
Carbon-ceramic brakes ride inside 19-inch wheels mounted with Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires.
What's in a name?
Considering most Americans are used to seeing Giulia as Julia, that's one the automaker can easily spell out for them. But Giulia is simple compared to Quadrifoglio, which is roughly "kwah-drih-FOH-lee-oh." That is, incidentally, the four-leaf clover emblem worn by Alfas since the 1923 Targa Florio. We sometimes despair that alphanumeric names have replaced actual names, but at least M3, C63, and ATS-V are pronounced about the same from Kennebunkport, Maine to Beaverton, Oregon. But Quadrifoglio? Lots of luck, Alfa.
It will be interesting to see if the names Alfa Romeo, Giulia, and Quadrifoglio register in the U.S. or if the marque's highly regarded history will mean anything in 2016. Alfas have long been major players in the vintage scene, with many owners and fans pledging allegiance to the brand. That's a starting point, but will it be enough?
Last year, Alfa Romeo sold around 74,000 cars worldwide, but FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne plans to sell some 400,000 annually by 2018. The U.S. is supposed to contribute 150,000 sales to that 2018 total. Helping will be another eight Alfa models to be launched by that deadline. Expect a full lineup of small and large vehicles, , of course, an SUV.
That offensive begins with the Giulia, and one has to admire Marchionne's confidence as he marches ahead with Alfa Romeo as a lead brand for FCA.
Expect Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglios in dealerships in early 2016. Prices are unknown, but the BMW M3 starts at $62,995 and you can easily pump one over $70,000. Would you pay that amount for the distinction of parking your Alfa Quadrifoglio next to an M3 or a C63 at cars and coffee?