There was an old paddock behind my apartment block where I grew up in Germany in the 1970s. It was a dumping ground for cars of all makes and ages. My mate and I used to spend countless hours playing around, and in, the rusting, hulking wrecks. A particular favourite was an old Alfa Romeo Giulia, probably a 1960s model, but who knew back then.
We used to sit in that car, surprisingly complete and in good condition amongst the boneyard of skeletal automotive remains, and pretend we were racing through the streets of Rome or Milan, complete with requisite brrrp brrrp sounds. One day, we opened the glovebox…
… and found a handgun.
Having told my mum, the matter was handed over to the Polizei and that was the last we heard of it. But that incident kicked my imagination into overdrive. That Alfa Giulia took on a whole new persona, maybe the ultimate getaway car in the ultimate game of cops and robbers. Or perhaps it belonged to a secret agent, an Italian double agent wreaking havoc on Germany’s national security. Whatever the reason for the gun being in the car, it cemented the Giulia, for me at least, as a car I wanted to own.
I’d almost forgotten this episode from 40 years ago when the keys to the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super landed on my desk. But as I looked at the four-leaf clover emblem on the keyring, the memory of an olive-green Alfa Giulia abandoned in a paddock just outside of Cologne in Germany came flooding back. And the first question that popped into my head? Would a secret agent be happy with this car?
It certainly looks the part, with its drooping snout and wide hips, but whether its 2.0-litre turbo is up to the task of making a clean escape from a horde of bad guys is up for debate.
Our Montecarlo blue test car rolls out of the showroom for $64,195 plus on-road costs, placing it firmly in the ring against Euro rivals from Audi, with its A4 2.0 TSFI ($60,900), BMW 320i ($62,500), Jaguar XE 20t R-Sport ($64,119), and Mercedes C-Class C200 ($61,900). Buyers in this segment could also consider a Japanese outlier, in the Lexus IS200t F Sport ($67,191).
But, once the options boxes are ticked on our tester, we’re suddenly dealing with a $70k-plus car – that lovely Montecarlo Blue? A $1300 option. And another $1300 is spent on the Lighting Pack, which adds bi-xenon headlights with auto high-beam and a headlight washer system.
The lovely, airy, open feeling inside the cabin courtesy of the dual-pane panoramic sunroof doesn’t come for free either, commanding a $2200 premium while the 14-speaker Harman-Kardon audio system is another $1400. That brings the price of our tester to $70,395 before on-road costs. An expensive getaway car, certainly – and one that places it firmly against the next model up in the Giulia range, the performance-focused Veloce, which gets underway for $71,895 plus on-road costs.
But, for 70 grand, it’s also a pretty safe getaway, loaded with the latest tech to keep any ill-gotten gains or top secret dossiers secure – the Giulia Super comes standard with eight airbags, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control. Parking in those tight spots is a cinch with a rear-view camera as well as front and rear parking sensors, while auto headlights and rain sensing wipers take the hard work out of remembering to switch those on when needed.
Externally, the Giulia is a handsome beast, to this reviewer’s eyes, anyway. Sure, it lacks the hulking menace, the squatting tumescence of its brawnier Veloce and QV brothers, but its elegant lines and curves are just Italian enough to distinguish it from its utilitarian Teutonic rivals. Sitting on standard 18-inch Luxury Design alloys wrapped in 225/45 R18s up front and 225/40 R18s at the rear, the Giulia doesn’t really scream performance. Which is a good thing, because this ain’t no hardcore performance luxury sedan.
Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, teamed to an eight-speed auto transmission, the Giulia Super breathes out an asthmatic 147kW at 5000rpm with 330Nm of torque at a very usable 1750rpm. It’s not a smashing amount of power, but it is enough to propel the Giulia Super to a claimed 0-100km/h time of 6.6 seconds, while top speed is a claimed 230km/h.
Those numbers aren’t huge, but numbers, unless you’re an accountant or banker, don’t always tell a story. What the Giulia Super lacks in brute force, particularly compared with its Veloce and QV bigger brothers, it makes up for in elegance. This is no corner-carver, but rather a perfect Autostrada cruiser.
There’s enough punch down low to ensure a smart getaway from traffic lights or whatever heist you’re on, but it doesn’t shove you back in your seat and leave you white-knuckled and grinning stupidly. Once up to speed on the highway, though, the Giulia comes into its own.
It is, in short, an effortless cruiser, humming along at 110km/h with the tacho sitting just under 2000rpm. It’s a benign experience, understated with minimal noise and minimum fuss.
That minimalism translates around town, too. The eight-speed ’box does a good job of ensuring traffic is negotiated with ease. There’s no jerkiness down low, merely a nice linear power delivery that is happy to ebb and flow with the traffic. It is motoring at its minimalist best. Want tactility? Buy a QV. Want to be cocooned inside an Italian luxury cruiser, with the outside world merely a ringside seat as opposed to a direct punch in the face? Then this is the Alfa for you.
Out on the highway, the Giulia is a frugal thing, sipping a miserly 5.4L/100km against a claim of 4.6L. That figure jumps to a less impressive 10.5L/100km (against a claimed 6L) on the combined cycle while the daily grind of inner city peak hour traffic returned a figure of 13.2L/100km, well above Alfa's claim of 8.4L. Alfa Romeo recommends 95RON, too.
Inside, the Giulia Super oozes premium. From the beige leather upholstery to the walnut wood trim accents, the Alfa is a nice place to spend time. The seats are comfortable and well-bolstered and offer eight-way adjustment for both driver and passenger with memory settings for the driver. The front seats are heated too, for those chilly winter morning getaways.
Central to the internal experience is the 8.8-inch Alfa Connect touchscreen which features everything you expect from a modern luxury sedan: satellite navigation (which is excellent), AM/FM/DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and a CD player. It misses out on any smartphone mirroring so if you’re attached to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, you’ll be disappointed. And it can’t even be optioned.
That said, the sumptuous surroundings are enhanced by the (optional) 14-speaker Harman-Kardon sound system which is sublime and diamond-like in its clarity. Cruising down the freeway at 110km/h, the outside world is kept at bay while the tunes of your choice fill the cabin. It is, in short, a nice place to spend time, effortless, relaxing and comfortable.
The back row is spacious enough, but realistically only for two people. There's a hefty transmission tunnel, courtesy of the Giulia's RWD platform (yay!) eating into foot- and legroom, although headroom is adequate. A fold-down armrest reveals a couple of cupholders for back row occupants and to be honest, I'd leave this in play always and treat the Giulia as a four-seater. The outboard seats feature ISOFIX child seat mountings for the littlies, and they'll be comfortable too, with dual-zone climate control and a couple of air vents in the back row.
The seats split in a 60/40 fashion, operated by a lever in the boot. Speaking of boot space, it runs at a respectable 480 litres (same as BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class), although the Alfa's boot lip is a touch on the high side. With the back seats folded, the floor is perfectly flat and offers up plenty of usable space, although Alfa is keeping mum on exactly how much. There's no spare, though, with the Giulia Super shod with run flats.
While the Giulia’s credentials as an Autostrada cruiser are in no doubt, once you hit some mountainous twisty bits, there is a lot of fun to be had. Sure, it’s not as manic as some of its Euro rivals, but there’s enough oomph from the 2.0-litre turbo to make a trip to the country worthwhile. Flick Alfa’s DNA drive mode selector into D (for Dynamic), caress the nicely milled aluminium paddle-shifters and let your imagination run wild.
The Giulia hugs the road, its ride firm but not to the point where it feels skittish over mid-corner bumps and ruts. Point that swooping nose where you want it to go, and it will go there without an argument. Sure, the engine note is lacking, even in the sporty Dynamic mode, but the Giulia more than makes up for that with its adroit handling.
In the past, owning an Alfa Romeo required commitment and dedication. The term ‘trouble-free motoring’ was not coined to describe the Italian marque. But, today the brand is backing its product with a three-year/150,000km warranty which includes three years of roadside assistance, too. Servicing intervals are at a very manageable 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first. Prices for the first five scheduled services (covering five years or 75,000km) run as follows: $345, $645, $465, $1295 and $345 for a total of $3095. Exy, for sure, especially when you consider BMW will service your new 320i for five years/80,000kms for a fixed $1440 over that period.
The Giulia Super is certainly a far cry from its 1960s progenitor, a staple of heist movies and car chases through narrow European streets, one wheel in the air and the body wallowing like a playful dog on a waterbed. The Giulia is sure-footed in a way its grand-daddy never could be.
Alfa Romeo has, with this car, started on the road to reinventing itself and in the process, is taking the fight to its better-credentialed Euro rivals. In the past, Alfa Romeo was known for its idiosyncratic sedans, the Alfas 75, 90 and, heaven help us, the aesthetically challenged 164 as prime examples. But none of those were a match for the BMWs, Mercs and Audis of the day. But with the Giulia, Alfa Romeo has finally engineered a premium sedan ready to take on the Germans.
With its curvaceous styling and excellent handling and dynamics, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Super is certainly a worthy rival to those aforementioned premium offerings from Germany. It offers a point of difference too, certainly in the styling. But, unlike its 1960s forebear, the modern iteration of the Giulia is unlikely to ever find itself abandoned in a paddock. Its natural habitat is more likely to be corporate car parks the world over, more mid-level bankers than bank robbers.