We tested the Alfa Romeo Giulia: driving is believing…

We all know that the Giulia is an absolute champion on the German “Green Hell”, the Nürburgring. That in terms of handling, it really sands out. The Giulia Quadrifoglio has been elected “Sportscar of the Year” by the specialist magazine AUTO BILD SPORTSCARS. After a test with this beautifully proportioned sedan, we can only agree…

We drove here the 2,2 liter Diesel version: does it have the charm, refinement and panache to make the Giulia remain a true Alfa?

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Giulia is continuously being honed to become the 4-door sedan embodying the absolute pinnacle in sportiness and panache. To start with, let’s just focus about its looks. Our test car came in an absolutely beautiful metallic green, with matching beige interior. This good-looking color combination was further enhanced by light alloy wheels, making this Giulia have the taut and elegant stance it so befits.

The seats are excellent, really wrap around you and behind the wheel a good seating position is soon found. In the back is enough legroom, and this Giulia is a comfortable four-seater by any standards.

The large and beautiful round dials for speed and revs are still analog, and have timeless beauty. In our opinion, Alfa should never change them. They are classic and are eminently readable. To the eye, they are just perfect. In the center of the dashboard sits a well styled and beautifully integrated touchscreen, with all the state-of-the-art driving aids, infotainment and connectivity. More about this later.

We love the clean styling of the dashboard, with its tasteful wooden panels and a well-shaped center console, with the lever of the 8-speed auto box sitting in an insert which is also adorned by the Italian “tricolore”. Here you find also Alfa’s famous DNA button, letting you select between three driving modes, going from “sporting” to “normal” and then adapted to wintery surfaces and driving conditions.

On both sides of the steering column sit two very long gear change paddles, so characteristic of these pur sang Alfa’s. I like heir long length and width, so you can always easily reach and touch them, even under the most frantic cornering. Moreover, they look beautiful too. 

Diesel power…

We tested the Giulia with the least powerful version of the 2,2 liter four cylinder Diesel unit, which has proven itself totally in the FCA Group, and is found under the hood in many model ranges. The Giulia comes indeed with more powerful Diesel versions of this engine to up to 154 kW, but our 2143 cc engine developed exactly 100 kW at a quiet 3250 rpm. For any engine, and certainly a Diesel engine, it is the sheer pulling power which counts, and this is found in the torque curve. Here one sees that the 100 kW version of this engine produces a hefty 450 Nm at 1750 rpm, and this is exactly as much as its more powerful sisters. So when accelerating from lower speeds, this 100 kW unit produces the same punch, and helped by the alert 8 speed transmission, this Giulia feels and actually is just as agile. All out performance is quite credible with a 0 to 100 acceleration in some 9,5 seconds, and top speed is a good 210 km/h.

When testing the Stelvio, we already told you about the sporting merits of the Giorgio platform and suspension. One has to steer the Giulia through fast and slow curves to believe it. It is so wonderfully precise and totally well balanced and neutral. It is a wonderful Gran Turismo chassis, sits so miraculously well on the road, hugs every corner. Steering around straight urban corners or roundabouts makes you appreciate the nimbleness and light-footed panache of the Giulia. It is a thoroughbred; you feel it every meter you steer it. 

The Giulia is a wonderful companion when you decide on a European trip, taking it through the Alps to its Mediterranean homeland, for instance…

But also, a long or short urban commute will not tire you. The good seats, excellent ventilation/airco, DAB radio and all the driver assistance systems will soothe and relax you even in the tightest traffic.

Level 2 automated driving…

The Giulia is a fully fledged “smart” and connected car, fully tuned in to what modern day customers come to expect from a premium sedan. What to think a complete set of ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) features, offering the highest level of autonomous driving which still leaves plenty of room to have pure driving pleasure. This is level 2, achieved by definition of the amount of control the car takes over from the driver, like the accelerator, brakes and steering under certain conditions. This level makes full use of electronic systems which however still require continuous monitoring by the driver, at the same time providing the support of greater comfort on long journeys. As said, the driver always remains in control, and has always his/her hands on the steering wheel.

The main driver assist systems present in the Giulia – and by the way also the Stelvio – are:

•             Lane Keeping Assist: detects whether the vehicle is veering outside its lane without any direction indicators being activated, and alerts the driver using visual and haptic signals. It actively intervenes to steer the vehicle back into lane;

•             Active Blind Spot Assist: monitors rear blind spots, reports any approaching vehicles and corrects steering to avoid a collision;

•             Active Cruise Control: automatically adjusts the car’s speed to maintain a safe distance from the vehicles in front. In conjunction with the traffic sign recognition system, this technology adjusts the speed to within the set limit, for a more comfortable drive;

•             Traffic Sign Recognition and Intelligent Speed Control: this system uses the on-board camera, recognizes traffic signs, reports them on the display, and alerts the driver of the current speed limit.

The system then suggests the driver reduce their speed to the limit detected. If the driver accepts, the cruise control settings are automatically adjusted;

•             Traffic Jam Assist and Highway Assist: To complement Active Cruise Control, these systems monitor lateral positioning, keeping the car in the middle of the lane in heavy traffic (Traffic Jam Assistant) or on the highway (Highway Assist), while also adjusting the speed according to the current limits;

•             Driver Attention Assist: this function constantly monitors the driver’s attention levels, and if necessary, alerts them if they might need to take a break.

Economy, the wonders of a Diesel

The ZF built 8 speed transmission, which is a perfect example of alertness combined with a smooth power flow, comes with a very intelligent, sensitive and subtle coasting function. Lifting the throttle from medium to high speeds, will decouple the engine from the gearbox, which then settles into an idle while the car further coasts along, using its kinetic energy to the full. When you get the hang of it, you can use this feature much to your advantage in urban boulevard traffic with its ever-varying speeds.

Anticipative driving where you concentrate on coasting instead of braking brings you wonderful consumption figures; around 6 liters/100 km is easily achieved here. Cruising on secondary roads at the legal limits gets the consumption down to 5 liters, motorway cruising at legal limits is below 6 liters/100 km. CO2 emissions are also rather creditable with 127 g/km. Never forget, this is a car with a kerb weight of 1465 kg…

We know, E-cars are all the rage, but then again, just look how good Diesels have become. This Giulia is only whispering at speeds up to 175-190 km/h… and remains then even below 10 liters/100 km, also thanks to its excellent aerodynamics of course.

Conclusion

This Giulia has it all, if you like a car with character. The Diesel engine makes this Giulia also frugal, making it fit for high annual mileages and long trips. This Alfa retains its zest and panache, even in the lowest powered Diesel version, and merits a long hard look from you, if you are opting for a Diesel.

Of course, there are the petrol engined gems, and last but not least the Quadrifoglio, which makes Alfa Giulia driving an absolute dream. We hope soon to lay our hands on one, and tell you about our experiences behind the wheel of this absolute Gran Turismo champion.  But don’t miss this one!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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