When Alfa Romeo announced it was returning to the U.S. market after a nearly a 20-year absence, fans familiar with the current crop of cars running around Europe hoped and prayed they’d make their way here. In the 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia, those prayers have been answered. Far from some rebadged Fiat, the Giulia was designed from the ground up to be a potent performer able to take on the likes of the Audi A4/S4, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Cadillac ATS. But, unlike these rivals, there’s a certain seductive, almost hypnotic appeal to the Giulia, one that stimulates the senses while delivering a supreme feeling of satisfaction and joy. In its most basic guise, the Giulia is a rear-drive sedan powered by turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine pumping out a very respectable 280 horsepower. And with five more trims above the base car, it only gets better the more you’re willing to spend.
Of course, having been introduced in 2017, it’s difficult to know how the Giulia will hold up in the areas of reliability and resale, a fair question given parent company Fiat’s own struggles in this area. Then again, the Ferrari-derived 505-hp engine in the stunning Quadrifoglio trim may be enough to allow some buyers to justify the risk. The rewards certainly do.
What’s New for 2018?
For 2018, the Giulia gains Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, as well as some significant upgrades to the base model’s interior. The Quadrifoglio gains a 900-watt, 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system and forward-collision plus driver assist as standard equipment, both of which are optional on the base and Ti. Last year’s Sport and Lusso packages are transformed into their own models, expanding the total Giulia lineup to six vehicles.
What We Like
Gorgeous exterior; potent engine choices; impressive road manners; insanely precise steering; supportive seats; excellent crash test scores
What We Don’t
Some generic interior bits; no hybrid or diesel offering; unknown reliability and resale; B-pillar blocks side vision; a bit more expensive than rival cars
In the base Giulia and Giulia Ti, the standard engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder good for 280 horsepower and 306 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic is the only transmission offering, although both cars offer the option of rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. The rear-drive models earn an EPA estimated 24 miles per gallon city and 33 mpg highway, while their all-wheel drive counterparts net a slightly lower 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.
The rear-drive Quadrifoglio trim is powered by a Ferrari-designed twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 that produces an astounding 505 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy estimates come in at 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The Alfa Romeo Giulia for 2018 is offered in six trims: Base, Sport, Ti, Ti Lusso, Ti Sport and Quadrifoglio. All but the V6-powered Quadrifoglio offer the option off all-wheel drive.
The base Giulia ($38,990, RWD; $40,990, AWD) comes with a sport suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels, Brembo front disc brakes, bi-xenon headlights, power heated side mirrors, automatic headlights, rear fog lights, leather seating, 6-way power driver’s and passenger seats with 4-way power lumbar support, 6.5-in infotainment audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Bluetooth, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control and rear seat vents. Also standard are passive entry with Keyless Go, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, a rear backup camera, rear parking sensors and hill-start assist.
The Giulia Sport ($40,240, RWD;$42,240, AWD) adds 18-in wheels, a choice of brake caliper colors, sport front fascia, a rear diffuser and gloss black window surrounds.
The Giulia Ti ($40,990, RWD; $42,990, AWD) brings 18-in polished aluminum wheels, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated washer nozzles, front parking sensors and an 8-speaker audio setup with an 8.8-in touchscreen plus SiriusXM satellite radio.
The Giulia Ti Sport ($43,490, RWD; $45,490, AWD) adds 19-in alloy wheels with black brake calipers, sport leather seats and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The Giulia Ti Lusso ($43,490, RWD; $45,490, AWD) adds 18-in Lusso aluminum wheels, luxury leather seating with Cannellioni Design, a leather-wrapped dash and upper door trim and a choice of Light Walnut or Dark Grey Oak interior trim.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio ($75,095) brings a more powerful twin-turbocharged V6 engine, a carbon fiber front spoiler with active splitter, high-performance HID headlights, 19-in alloy wheels, active suspension, Forward-Collision Warning Plus, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, Brembo performance 4-wheel disc brakes, quad chrome exhaust tips, a torque vectoring differential, headlight washers plus carbon fiber roof, hood, rear spoiler and interior trim. Other features include DNA Pro Drive Mode selector, 14-way power sport front seats with power front bolster, 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio, navigation and a 200-mph speedometer.
Popular equipment packages are available on most models, including the base car. They include the Cold Weather Package (heated front seats, heated steering wheel and heated washer nozzles), Driver Assist Dynamic Plus Package (adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam assist, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning and automatic emergency braking) and the 8.8-in navigation audio system. The Ti performance package adds adaptive suspension, paddle shifters and a limited-slip differential.
Standalone options include the Harman Kardon audio upgrade, dual-pane sunroof, Forward-Collision Warning Plus and range of wheel and paint color upgrades.
Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has yet to crash test the Giulia, the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has. In the IIHS crash tests, the Giulia performed exceptionally well, scoring the highest rating of Good in every test and a Superior in the crash avoidance and mitigation tests. The results were good enough to earn the 2018 Giulia a Top Safety Pick rating.
Behind the Wheel
It’s not uncommon for a car to get talked up by the media and its manufacturer, so much so that when you finally get a turn behind the wheel, there’s a bit of letdown. However, after just a few minutes in the 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia, any such notions quickly evaporate. Simply put, the Giulia is one of the best performing, best handling luxury sedans on the market, and that includes head-to-head comparisons with the segment’s gold standard: the BMW 3 Series. Our 2018 Ti Sport proved to be everything the brochure promised and more. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is responsive and smooth, the 8-speed transmission without flaw and the steering so precise it makes even the most novice driver feel like a track-tested veteran. The car corners with utter confidence, yet the suspension never feels stiff or jarring. Some in our test group did find the seat bolsters a bit snug, but all agreed that, with the exception of a few cheap-looking plastic bits on the center console, the Giulia’s interior is a rolling testament to the superiority of Italian design.
As not to gush too much over the Giulia, we did find a few nitpicks, the most glaring being the large B-Pillar. For taller drivers, the pillar’s placement directly beside the driver’s head creates an enormous blind spot. Even with the seat moved up a bit, the pillar’s presence still made itself known. And, in a car this expensive, satellite radio and a full suite of driver assists should not be part of the optional equipment list. Get past these minor complaints, and you’ll find a sedan that will make you fall in love with driving all over again. The Giulia is really that good.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Audi A4 — Although it’s not as powerful as the Giulia and is pulled by its front wheels, the A4 is nevertheless a formidable performance sedan. We also think the Audi’s interior is more upscale with better quality materials, but its exterior styling is rather conservative.
2018 BMW 3 Series — The 3 Series is every bit the Giulia’s performance equal, but it can get expensive as the options are added on. The 3 Series, however, has a long service and resale history that the Giulia can’t match. It also offers a diesel model.
2018 Infiniti Q50 — Infiniti’s sporty Q50 sedan has a shapely body, impressive handling and a lower base price. Its twin-turbocharged V6 produces more horsepower than Giulia’s standard engine, although the 400-hp Red Sport falls about 105 horses short of the Quadrifoglio.
Used BMW M3 — Pick up a used 2015-2017 BMW M3 and you’ll find a performance sedan that can run circles around almost everything in its price range, yet still hold its value better than most.
From an enthusiast’s standpoint, the sweet spot in the Giulia lineup is the Ti Sport with a few options packages added on for good measure. As the Giulia is powered by its rear wheels, the all-wheel drive option is recommended for those in snowy climes. Even if you can’t afford the $75,000 Quadrifoglio, ask you dealer to let you take one for a test drive. You may end up taking out a second mortgage to make the payments, but you’ll never regret it.