Range Finder

There’s a Giulia for every Alfa Romeo enthusiast, and they each carry traces of the mighty Quadrifoglio’s performance genes

GIVEN THE avalanche of acclaim generated by the ballistic Quadrifoglio, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the Giulia range is anything but a one-hit wonder.

Alfa Romeo’s investment is only going to deliver with a broad and well-balanced line up supporting the halo model and when Giulia deliveries kick off here in February, buyers get to choose from five models across four equipment levels with no fewer than three new petrol and one diesel engine.

If you find choice overwhelming, console yourself with the fact that all Giulias will come with eight-speed transmissions and all have been awarded five-star EuroNCAP ratings. Easy. The entry-level model, simply called Giulia, gets a generous run at the equipment list, with leather, satellitenavigation, dual-zone climate air-con, a 6.5-inch colour touchscreen, 18-inch wheels, autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning and forward collision warning as standard.

Its big advantage over rivals like the BMW 320i, Mercedes-Benz C200 and Audi A4 2.0 TFSI is the turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol four. With a hefty 147kW/330Nm under its belt, it decisively outguns all three German cars in both power and torque. The sprint to 100km/h is polished off in just 6.6 seconds. Advantage Italy.

Wheels was able to grab a quick steer of pre-production versions of the base Giulia at the launch in Italy and despite wearing run-flat tyres, the Giulia’s ride is supple and isolating while providing an agile and sporty platform, helped by perfect 50/50 weight distribution. The electric steering is a touch sticky off centre but is nicely weighted and quick. And the turning circle – the traditional Achilles heel of frontdrive Alfas – is a pert 10.8m on this reardriver, despite its long 2820mm wheelbase.

The 2.0-litre engine revs crisply, is refined, and has little discernible turbo lag. Alfa claims fuel economy of 5.9L/100km.

Feeling flush? The Giulia Super throws active cruise control, an eight-way electric driver’s seat, blind spot monitoring, and more leather into the mix and is offered with a choice of 2.0-litre petrol or a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four with 132kW and 450Nm which sips just 4.2L/100km.

The Giulia Veloce, as its name suggests, is a quicker model again thanks to a more powerful 206kW/400Nm version of the petrol four and it sprints to 100km/h in a claimed 5.8 seconds. As befits its more focused remit, the Veloce gets alloy pedals, sports seats, adaptive dampers, limited-slip differential, 19-inch Veloce alloys, uprated brakes and a premium sound system. Then you step up to the Quadrifoglio. We know all about that one.

Fiat Chrysler’s Australia president and chief executive Steve Zanlunghi is bullish about Giulia’s prospects Down Under and says Alfa Romeo is targeting BMW with the Giulia. “We’re looking to establish it as a premium contender, that’s where we’re looking to price the vehicle,” he says.

Alfa Romeo plans to have 18 dealers Australia-wide by the end of 2017 and its pitch to buyers will be based on Alfa’s 107-year Italian heritage and its reputation for building seductive, sporty cars. Zanlunghi doesn’t feel any particular need for the hard sell. “We want [buyers] to get in, see the car, drive it and compare it to the competition. We think the product will stand up for itself,” he smiles.

It’s a story we’ve heard before with Alfa sedans. This time it has a convincing ring of truth about it.

HIGH PASS FLYER

ALFA ROMEO’S $7b ‘Giorgio’ platform that forms the basis for the Giulia shows another string to its bow, underpinning two new SUVs, the first of which is the Stelvio. Named after the Stelvio Pass, a high col in the Italian Alps draped with 75 hairpins of tarmac, Alfa’s first foray into this genre arrives in Australia in 2018.

The compact Stelvio is an unashamedly sport-oriented crossover vehicle and, like the Giulia, there’s a rangetopping Quadrifoglio version that tears up the playbook. Pop the bonnet and there’s the same 375kW twin-turbo V6 driving all four wheels via an eight-speed transmission. If this is all a bit fortissimo, try the 206kW 2.0-litre turbo petrol version.

The Quadrifoglio sends 100 percent of drive through the rear wheels until it predicts a loss of traction and there’s a torque vectoring rear diff to guarantee maximum attack at the limit. With a race mode that cracks through upshifts in 150 milliseconds, huge carbon discs, aluminium suspension componentry and a carbonfibre driveshaft, it’s not one for the Birdsville Track. Think of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio as an ultra-high performance sports wagon with a healthy dose of atitude and you’ll understand why the queue for one is getting longer.