After the QV storm… comes the calm. After the brawn… comes the intellect. Meet the Alfa Romeo Giulia Super that’s courting sensible Mercedes money. Do the Italians have a winner on their hands?
Let’s get one thing straight. It’s all well and good roping in the guy who engineered the breathtaking Ferrari 458, get him to bring along the engine blueprints from Maranello, have him produce a money-no-object sports saloon like the Giulia Quadriofoglia Verde, charge a million-and-a-half Randelas for it, and then bask in the limelight of a segment turned inside out. It’s a whole other thing making a great mass-market car. After all, tyre-shredding, white-knuckle excitement can only take you so far. This is Alfa Romeo’s ultima sfida (ultimate challenge), for while it may have vanquished all-comers with its super saloon, that’s not where the real volume lies. To succeed on a grand scale Alfa Romeo must forget about passion and soul for just a second and ensure fundamentals like fuel economy, practicality, reliability and connectivity are weaved into its Giulia’s armoury.
However, the Italian firm seems to refuse such dower sentiment. Dynamics, and more importantly, the visual representation thereof are of utmost importance here. That’s why they ditched the Giulietta-based front-wheel-drive platform, favouring instead rear-wheel drive so even the base car could run toe-to-toe with the much-vaunted BMW 3 Series. And that’s also why the visuals, full of Italian elegance on our Giulia Super test car, instantly render you so smitten. It’s sleek, as if the cabin’s leaning back over the rear haunches to fully enunciate its right–wheel-driveness. Squint hard and there’s a passing nod to the Maserati Ghibli to its aesthetic. No mean feat when our Super starts life at R625 000, and the big-brother Mazza asks a cool R1.6-million from its keeper. The Super is drizzled with a host of nice-to-haves confirming its status as a premium-conveyance: like a speedier-themed body kit, chromed exhaust pipes and 17-inch alloys (the Base’s 16-inch wheels are laughably small). Safe to say, in the metal, Giulia is a total original; one to melt even the coldest, most cynical Beemer and Wa’Benzi fans’ hearts.
But there’s no comparison between seeing a leopard in captivity versus seeing one in the wild. This Alfa’s shape is next to nil without motion. Parked-up on the side of the road, kicking its tyres, it’s an expression of style, but allow its sensuous curves to flow with action through your viewpoint and only then does one truly become beholden to its beauty. Best of all, to it’s as if this motion infects the cabin in the form of emotion, like some sort of potent Italian juju. It’s not easy to explain; but BMWs feel a certain way – a great way; a precise way – but there is different atmosphere to Alfas altogether. It’s a sense of excitement, a quickening of the pulse, a certain rhythm in driving it that’s just indulgent. I know all this because while it cruised on the motorway quietly and overtook effortlessly; now on one of my favourite stretches of twisting Overberg road it is transformed.
“The visuals, full of Italian glamour, instantly render you smitten”
The first takeaway is the immediacy of the steering (faster lock-to-lock than its competitors) and the absence of any front-wheel-drive scrabble as torque is appropriated to the road just so by the rear wheels. At anything above moderate speeds the steering is a tad over-light, but that also gives the sense of it casually tossing aside its kerbweight. Courtesy of double wishbone suspension there’s agility here, like it can do things other rep mobiles cannot. Just perfect for moments like this where I’m tucking its chiseled nose between sheer rock faces and stark canyon drop offs, prodding the throttle to a slug of torque from its turbocharged motor.
147kW/330Nm is deployed in a composed, entertaining manner; never skiddy or frenzied, like you’ll rarely edge the rear tyres out of line on the road unless it’s wet. And ESP cannot be deactivated completely anyway, so it’s good to know you’re always safe. The eight-speed ZF transmission, identical to that in the BMW 3 Series, is refined and magnificent; whether you take on gearshift duties yourself with the paddles or twiddle the DNA rotary knob between Eco and Dynamic and let the tweakable shift-map do its own thing. Even the four-cylinder engine – hardly the most emotive of powerplants – has a lovely gruff noise at low rpm and revs determinedly all the way to redline. 0-100kph in 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 235kph only underlines this Alfa’s intrinsic sporting pretext.
Fun and fluid as it may be, compact sedans need to be about more than just dynamism; the cabin needs to be a refuge from/and a conduit to the always-connected world we live in; and I’m happy to report the Giulia Super doesn’t drop the ball here. The seats are part leather, part cloth and the cabin execution on the whole is smart; only bested by an Audi A4 specced with Virtual Cockpit – but that pretty much beats anything these days. The larger satellite navigation screen gives the fascia a look of substance; otherwise two twin-circular gauges in front of the driver are conventional, almost traditional. The pulsing starter button on the steering wheel is a special touch, evoking that link to sister-company Ferrari yet again.
In my estimation that’s no coincidence. Like any expression of national pride, Alfa is genuinely fostering a bond with the great Italian supercar marque. In doing so the Giulia Super displays a skillset that puts it on par with the refinement and quality from the Germans. It’s in the realm of styling and dynamic appeal that the emotive Italian encourages enormous partisan loyalty amongst enthusiasts. Why partisan, you ask? Well, it might surprise you to hear – as it did me – that thanks to the legacy of decades of local production, South Africa is the country with the highest number of Alfa Romeos on the road after Italy. Translation: that’s a whole lot of Alfisti clamouring for this charismatic new addition to the market place. This is indeed the mass-market winner Alfa Romeo has been dreaming of.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Super in a nutshell
Engine: 1 995 cc, 4-cylinder, turbocharged
Power: 147 kW @ 5 000 rpm, 330 Nm @ 1 750 rpm
Performance: 0-100 km/h 6.6 sec, top speed 235 km/h
Tyres: 17-inch aluminium
Economy: 6.0 l/100 km
Transmission: Eight-speed ZF automatic
CO2 emissions: 138g/km
Price: From R686 900