My socks are squelching inside my sneakers – the grass is that damp around the forested outskirts of the Nürburgring.
It’s September 2015 and as bizarre as it sounds, a pilgrimage to petrolhead Mecca two years ago is where my story about the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde starts. I’m placed at a viewing spot at the incredibly tricky Bergwerk corner, the fast, balls-out right-hander that leads on to the Nordschleife’s back straight. This needs to be taken flat-out to carry maximum speed through the next long uphill section to secure a great lap time.
Before I even see the Giulia hover into view from behind a blind crest, a potent turbocharged six-cylinder din pulverises the dense air. Then, like a streak of white lightning, a camouflaged Giulia QV blitzes past me, completely in control – sheer speed, not a hint of its pilot lifting off the throttle for a nanosecond. That very car (definitely on a drier day) went on to set the four-door-saloon ’ring lap record – 7min 32 sec – besting Mercedes-AMG, BMW M and even Porsche in the process. And now, two years later, I get to drive a kwa-dre-foh-lee-ohh myself. Goosebump overload in five … four … three…
The venue for this auspicious drive feels much like home turf for the Alfa, Johann Rupert’s private test track at L’Ormarins – well, home turf based on the handful of pristine classic Alfas in his Franschhoek Motor Museum, anyway.
Lined up in the staging area adjacent to the proving ground, two QVs scream elegance and menace in equal measure. I’m struck by how incredibly low to the ground they sit, modest 19-inch wheels shod in sticky Pirelli rubber filling up the wheel-arch width to the max. Beneath them, the weapons-grade carbon ceramic brakes look like they’ll lap up punishment all day long. Then there are also the four massive exhaust pipes book-ending a rear diffuser that works with an active chin spoiler (that extends, handily, at 180 km/h!) to create genuine downforce – just what you will need to tackle Flugplatz without lifting off. And let us not forget this car was developed by former Ferrari engineer Philippe Krief, so there’s more than a little authenticity to the sentiment that this is a sort of four-door Ferrari.
That’s also because the QV’s twin-turbo V6 engine shares Ferrari DNA – same vee angle, same bore size – simply lopping off two cylinders from the California 488’s full-pants V8, which incidentally, was good for packaging, without compromising on class-leading outputs – 375 kW/600 Nm with only the Merc-AMG V8 out-torquing it by 100 Nm. More Ferrari influences are evident on the steering wheel, too, which fits the palm of your hands beautifully and has a distinctive red starter button.
The rest of the QV’s cabin is unerringly austere, because when you’re scything through the complex turns at Brunchen, you probably don’t want any chintzy trim pieces distracting you. I thumb the starter button, blip the throttle and she bursts to life with an intense, gravelly, bassy sound.
There’s a similar intensity to the drive. Within moments of setting off, I am all of a sudden barrelling into the first fast third-gear right-hander. The last time I tried to go around it, a Merc SL with Active Body Control spat me off the circuit. In the Alfa, I tear through at full throttle like an absolute animal. Hooked up, tied down, on rails however you choose to describe it. The engine is tearing through its revs in a like-minded fashion. It’s more six-cylinder paaaarp than V8 howl, but I like it. And, more importantly, the response is stellar, without the merest hint of turbo lag. It entertains you all the way to redline, too, pushing out its max power at 6 500 rpm, before you snap another shift of the cool aluminium paddle from the impressive eight-speed ZF ’box.
Wow. We are flying now, down the back straight, where marshals wisely took it upon themselves to set up a chicane to slow the whole shooting match down – the QV’s top speed is 307 km/h, after all – before a big braking zone into the tight hairpin. I slither through it with just a twitch of oversteer, just as you’d expect from a vehicle with perfectly distributed 50:50 weight balance.
The most impressive factor is the trick torque-vectoring rear differential that deploys power on to the road the instant I’m back on the throttle. Alfa Romeo SA let us loose with the DNA selector set to Race, which disengages ESP, but that rear end is chomping down hard, no hooning oversteer here. The steering rack is also incredibly fast, but not so much so that it unsettles progress through the series of torturously fast sweepers that follow. Here, it’s solid, poised … stunning. Only a handful of performance cars truly feel like this – and they are the ones hewn from a sort of primordial Nürburgring juju that can only be attained after hundreds of laps driven around the world’s most demanding proving ground.
As quickly as it started, it’s all over. On my cool-down lap back to the staging area, I’m overcome by one thought – ‘the car the Germans have feared for all these years has really come along and done it!’
The Giulia QV is that perfect Alfa Romeo – one not only brimming with passion and charisma, but also infused with dynamism and genuine technical prowess. It’s worth every penny of its R1.4 million price tag. The only issue – as it should be with the very best cars – should be getting hold of one. All 46 launch editions are sold, and all of 2017’s allocation are spoken for as well. Let the bidding war begin.
In a nutshell:
Italian passion and Germanic levels of precision come together in an unstoppable package. It’s Nürburgring-approved, too.
Finding the ways and means of getting your hands on one.
- Engine: 2 891 cc, 6-cylinder, twin-turbo
- Power: 375 kW @ 6 500 rpm, 600 Nm @ 2 500 rpm
- Performance: 0–100 km/h in 3.9 sec, top speed 307 km/h
- Tyres: 245/35/R19 front, 285/30/R19 rear
- Economy: 8.2 ℓ/100 km
- Transmission: 8-speed auto
- CO2 emissions: 189 g/km
- Price: R1 400 000
BMW M3 DCT
Six-cylinder engine lacks character but athletic M-car handling still makes it the benchmark sports saloon. Well, until now. 0–100 km/h in 4.1 sec, top speed 250 km/h,
power 317 kW/550 Nm, price R1 191 200
Mercedes-AMG C63 S
More of a sports luxury saloon in this company. Its V8 is phenomenal – as is its cruising pace – but the Italian will carve circles round it. 0–100 km/h in 4.0 sec, top speed 250 km/h, power 375 kW/700 Nm, price R1 351 700