A Day Out – Alfa Romeo Style

In Car Reviews by Peter Nunn

Calling all drivers: if you’re a fan of Alfa Romeo’s stunning Giulia Quadrifoglio sports saloon (and let’s face it, there are quite a few around who are), then there’s some good news ahead.

Alfa Romeo, you see, has brought in a round of changes to improve the appeal of its extraordinary super-saloon for the 2020 Model Year. 

That’s to say that as if 510PS, 600Nm and phenomenal on-road performance somehow weren’t already quite enough….

OK, so nothing too major with the latest batch of updates, it has been said (centred mainly around improved interiors, better infotainment and some bright, fresh retro colours). 

Changes that are all worthwhile and welcome nonetheless, that also apply to the standard Giulia line-up and to the Stelvio, Alfa’s high riding SUV that continues on its mission as the interesting Italian-speaking alternative to all the usual premium SUV suspects out there.

So that’s set the scene. Now let’s move to a green and exceedingly scenic part of rural Buckinghamshire where, a few weeks back, Alfa Romeo set up camp for a major media session to launch the new Giulia Quadrifoglio and Stelvio Quadrifoglio models. 

First, however, a surprise… Alfa Romeo, as a marque, celebrated its 110 birthday this year and as a cool birthday present to itself, Alfa has developed a spectacular new top-end Giulia GTA series: lightened, hardcore, ultra-fast versions of the Giulia Quadrifoglio that we can imagine hail from another driving dimension.

No question, the GTA nameplate has a special place in Alfa Romeo’s Hall of Fame. Back in the ‘60s, Autodelta, Alfa’s racing arm created a dedicated series of trick, lightweight versions of Alfa’s delectable Sprint GT coupe for racing.

These were dubbed GTA, the ‘A’ standing for ‘Alleggerita’ (or lightweight) and they proved highly successful and remain much coveted today. 

Indeed, Alfa Romeo had brought along just such a car. This was a 1966 1600 Sprint GTA, ex Jochen Rindt (the 1970 World Champion), beautifully restored by Alfaholics who describe it as the most original, historically significant 1600 GTA in existence. Absolutely immaculate, it looked amazing and off-the-wall desirable. 

Back to the 2020, and there are two versions of Alfa’s new steroidal super-saloon, the GTA and even more extreme GTAm, the latter with two racing seats, roll bar, six-point harness and no rear seats at all. This was the car on show, making its first-ever public appearance in the UK, and some machine it is.

Boasting 540 ps and with use of ultra-light materials saving 100 kgs over the Giulia Quadrifoglio, the GTA/GTAm series will be limited to just 500 units. And with prices ranging between €176,500 and €181,500 respectively, it’s likely to be for serious students only. 

Out on the road first with the MY20 Giulia Quadrifoglio. The stand-out here, from the first mile, is the dynamic performance. This absurdly, fabulously quick car, beautifully set up with outstanding poise, firm body control and instant response. 

It’s a compact four-door Ferrari in all but name, that’s easy to place on the road, with staggeringly high limits, yet still perfectly docile around town. 

Oh yes, and that epic 2891cc bi-turbo V6 makes a magnificent noise….

Visually, there are new LED rear light clusters but more impactful will be the range of new classic colours coming later in the year, including Montreal Green and GT Junior Ochre and 6C Villa d’Este Red, direct throwbacks to Alfa’s marvellous back catalogue.  

The most significant update action occurs inside where, at last, there’s a decent quality gearshift lever (operating a slick 8-speed auto box). It wasn’t so great before….

Alfa has also brought in a new slimmer steering wheel, improved central tunnel with storage space for oddments (including phone charging pad) and much-enhanced infotainment and connected services.

The 8.8-inch central display is now touch screen, with a new layout and moveable widgets, so you don’t need to scroll through menus with the rotary knob as before, although the knob itself is still there and, yes, now upgraded in quality.

Ahead of the driver, there’s a redesigned 7-inch TFT instrument cluster which relays more information to the driver, including data on Autonomous driving parameters.

For MY20, both Giulia Quadrifoglio and Stelvio Quadrifoglio offer level 2 autonomous functions. I tried it on the motorway and it works fine, keeping the car in lane, with Active Cruise Control moderating speed and distance to/from the car in front.

Then there’s the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Well, well. Previously, I’d only driven this on track. On the road, this is a mighty machine indeed. Eye wideningly rapid, deliciously vocal and extraordinarily well balanced and agile for such a high-sided SUV.

And again, so easy to drive in an urban scenario, unfussed, easy to manoeuvre, now with all the cabin updates to make the Stelvio experience even better.

It has the same 2.9-litre power pack and platform as the Giulia Quadrifoglio, plus fine details such as improved sound deadening. 

Price? It was £84,800 as tested (the Giulia Quadrifolgio was £72,085) so well up on the Alfa scale-o-metre, without doubt.

In the big picture, some feel that Alfa Romeo doesn’t get nearly enough credit for all the enormous work put in behind the scenes to create both the Giulia and Stelvio from scratch (against the odds, one might say), also the range-topping Quadrifoglio models which genuinely can go wheel-to-wheel with comparable German opposition. So, hey, if you don’t want to run with the herd….

Here and now, the MY20 changes answer the most everyday criticisms of Alfa’s Giulia/Stelvio models to date (the slightly low rent interiors). So if you’re tempted, now is definitely the time to buy. Va bene! 

Peter Nunn

Motoring writer

As a motoring journalist, he’s been writing about cars for a long time, starting in London in fact around the time the Sex Pistols first began limbering up….

Thereafter his journalistic remit has covered both new and classic cars, some historic motorsport reporting plus a long spell in Tokyo, covering the Japanese car industry for a range of global media outlets. Peter is a car writer and tester in the UK. Gooner, Alfisti and former Tokyo resident. If it has wheels, then he is interested.

Using household products on cars can lead to paint damage that costs thousands to repair.

A recent survey by Autoglym, the UK’s largest vehicle care brand, has uncovered a startling truth-motorists in the UK are unknowingly inflicting significant harm on their cars. How? By using household cleaning products to tackle everyday dirt and grime. This includes unconventional items like washing-up liquid, scouring pads, scrubbing brushes, laundry detergent, floor cleaner, and…

Read our review Using household products on cars can lead to paint damage that costs thousands to repair.