2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super Review – Preview Drive
Paul Horrell’s preview drive 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Alfa’s terrific new saloon shows well in four-cylinder form. It does stuff you’d hope an Alfa can do: it rocks a great petrol engine or a very good diesel, it looks terrific and its handling is super-engaging. But against your prejudices, it also feels well-made, is refined and roomy.
2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super
PRICE $64,195+ORCs for petrol and $65,895+ORCs for diesel WARRANTY 3 years/150,000km ENGINE 2.0L turbo petrol or 2.2L turbo diesel 4cyl POWER 147kW at 5000rpm (P) or 132kW at 3750rpm (D) TORQUE 330Nm at 1750rpm (P) or 450Nm at 1500rpm (D) TRANSMISSION 8-speed auto DRIVE rear-wheel drive BODY 4643mm (L); 1860mm (W EXC MIRRORS); 1436mm (H) TURNING CIRCLE N/A TOWING WEIGHT 1600kg (braked) KERB b 1429kg (P) or 1445kg (D) SEATS 5 FUEL b 58 litres (P) 52 litres (D) SPARE no THIRST 6.0 L/100km (P) or 4.2 L/100KM (D) combined cycle FUEL petrol or diesel
ALFA ROMEO HAS had any number of false starts before and immediately after the Chrysler merger. Remember its alliance with Saab? Or the time they proposed building a range based on the Chrysler 300? Well that’s all behind Alfa now.
What is it?
The Giulia, like the Stelvio SUV that’ll be shortly following it onto the market, sits on an all-new platform. Built in a totally refurbished plant, it has all-new engines, electronics, seats, infotainment, chassis and the rest. In fact the only major familiar part is the ZF eight-speed auto, which is all but industry-standard.
The exterior design is by common agreement gorgeous – swoopy and modern but timeless and definitely Italian. Most visible panels are aluminium, and they are girded by an understructure of a combination of strong and light materials, good for a sense of solidity as well as the five-star NCAP crash-test performance.
What’s the interior like?
This is a four-door saloon built to tackle the BMW 3-series, so that gives you some context about its size. In front, you have a comfortable driving position, but a relatively tall console so you’re snugly enveloped and feel part of the machine. The shapely seats have electric adjustment of position and contour – they’re part of the Veloce option pack fitted to the test cars.
In the back, there’s adequate room for a pair of adults and the seat is nicely shaped for them, but because it’s rear-drive, there’s a big transmission tunnel and little foot-room for a third someone sitting in the middle. A pair of rear eyeball vents keeps everyone cool.
The 480-litre boot is class-competitive for a saloon like this. And the backrest folds in a 40:20:40 split. Need more versatility? There won’t be a wagon. Alfa planned on making one, but then decided the related Stelvio SUV was dynamic enough that it’d do the job instead.
Ahead of the transmission lever are cupholders under a sliding cover, and the centre armrest as a storage bin underneath. A USB port in the front feeds the entertainment system and charges your device, and there’s another in the rear, plus a third in the cubby under the front armrest.
If you live where it’s cold, note the steering wheel as well as the seats are heated.
In front of the driver are two deeply hooded main analogue dials, a layout invented by Alfa decades ago: it’s stylish and it keeps the sun off the warning lamps. Between them is a digital display that you can cycle through readout of trip computer, simplified navigation arrows, phone, and stereo.
To the left of that, above the climate controls, is another screen. It serves the phone pairing, music via radio or USB, and navigation. It’s a relatively unambitious setup for this class of car, but it works well enough and is easy to find your way around. It’s not a touch screen: you use a big controller knob down in the centre console
If on the other hand you want Google Earth views, or ‘find me a coffee’ voice-directed searching, or the ability to dictate SMS messages on the go, or internet radio or location apps, then you’ll have to look elsewhere. But actually those things, available in rival cars, are mostly an expensive route to distracting frustration. Just ask your passenger to do it on their phone. Or pull over and do it yourself.
The whole cabin’s style is well-matched with the exterior: extrovert but not too fussy. And it’s mostly well-made too. The materials help the impression of craft. For instance, the dash-top is wrapped in leather. The test cars’ trim level, called Super, brings the choice of surprisingly tasteful red or dark tan seats and door trim, plus a more questionable beige. But everyone will go for the default black. They always do.
What’s it like on the road?
You’d expect terrific engines from Alfa, and you get them. The petrol is fizzy and responsive, revving smoothly to its red-line, but annoyingly that line is just 6000rpm. The auto-box generally chooses ratios decisively, but if you want to over-ride it you get to use the lovely big, clicky aluminium steering-column paddles. They bring a real sense of occasion to the operation.
The diesel is also good for its kind, with a useful rev band of 1500 to 4500. But it’s not quite as quiet as Audi’s counterpart, nor as responsive as BMW’s. Like the petrol it uses the auto-box well.
The brakes have a firm, positive pedal, and the grabby low-speed deceleration we noticed on the early-build Stelvio and the carbon-disc Giulia QV has been alleviated here.
This is a wonderfully keen car in bends. There’s no slack in the steering and it needs only a small roll of the wrists to have the front wheels bite decisively into the arc. Body roll is almost absent too. Everything you ask for happens promptly and proportionally.
Massive traction for the back tyres means it never gets unsettled on dry roads, and the ESP system keeps a tight reign on things when the surface is poor. Oh and our test cars had an optional limited-slip differential, part of the Veloce pack, to build traction even more.
You have the choice of ‘dynamic’, ‘normal’ or ‘advanced efficiency’ (DNA, geddit) driving modes. Switching between them alters the response of the accelerator pedal, auto gearshift points, steering weight, ESP thresholds, instrument lighting colour, and a whole lot more, altering the way the car feels.
But it’s not transformative: the normal setting is just fine, and lets you extract the best from the car in nearly all circumstances. The Veloce pack adds adaptive dampers, but they’re mostly too stiff in D mode unless the road is very smooth. So I usually use the auxilliary switch to run the damping in N even while using the other settings in D.
It might be a quick-acting chassis, but it isn’t flighty. Unlike many cars with high-geared steering, there’s little nervousness, so you can easily be smooth with it on bumpy corners, and it confidently holds a straight line on highways.
And the ride isn’t punishing. Sure, it’s firm, but it’s consistent across speeds and surfaces, and doesn’t shudder or crash or wobble about the place. Wind noise is kept fairly low too, again helping long-distance travel.
What about safety features?
This is a five-star car by current NCAP ratings. The Giulia’s 98% score for front-seat crash safety is the highest ever recorded by Euro NCAP. Child protection was also strong.
Don’t carry a big brood of small kids, as child seats can’t be mounted in the centre rear, and there’s no ISOFIX at the front passenger position either. But belted seats can go in the front as there’s an airbag cut-off switch.
The Giulia has collision mitigation braking systems designed to work both at city and out-of-town speeds, and when tested by Euro NCAP they did indeed avoid a crash when a dummy pedestrian stepped out, or when a car in front braked hard, provided the Alfa wasn’t following too closely. Details are all on the downloadable report HERE.
Apart from its frontal warning and braking systems, the Giulia sold in Oz gets as standard a reversing camera, which could be a lifesaver if there’s a child playing behind the car. Or a bodywork saver if you just reverse into a pile of bricks.
Lane departure warning is standard, but there’s no lane assist even as an option, so this car is a long way short of the near-autonomous cruising of some rivals. Active cruise control does ease a long-distance trip if you use it sensibly and don’t just sit in the outside lane.
At Super level (but not on the base model), radars are fitted in the rear bumper that enable blind-spot warning on highways, and cross-path traffic detection when you’re reversing into the road.
Why would you buy one?
Because you don’t want a BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, or Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The Giulia is safe and comfortable to ride and good to drive. The interior is beautiful and the thing feels well built. The pricing of this Giulia Super is also very competitive.