How does the Giulia perform? In a word, it's stunning. That's true of both the base four-cylinder car and the high-performance Quadrifoglio. Both cars share super-fast steering racks, amplifying even tiny inputs to give the Giulia a darty, sharp handling character. Firm suspensions and stellar tuning mean feedback both through the chassis and the steering is among the best in the class.
While Alfa Romeo builds the Giulia with both a six-speed manual and an eight-speed automatic, only the auto is available in the US. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because the eight-speed is one of the brilliant German-built units used not only by Fiat Chrysler, but by BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, and a host of other high-end automakers. It's excellent.
In manual mode, there are fast, aggressive upshifts and downshifts. But leave the Giulia in automatic, and it's a calm, intelligent transmission that matches throttle inputs well and does a good job of blending into the background. This is true with both the four- and six-cylinder model.
But the heart of the Giulia is its two engine options. The base four-cylinder, a 2.0-liter, turbocharged unit, is smooth and capable. Low-end torque is impressive, and the engine pulls hard all the way up to the redline. It sounds good too, lacking the buzzy nature of some of its rivals while still offering more presence. It's a very likable engine and is one we can't wait to see FCA use in other vehicles (a version of this engine is already slated for the new Wrangler and the updated Cherokee).
The Quadrifoglio's engine is an entirely different beast. Essentially a Ferrari California T's 3.9-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 that's had a pair of its cylinders cleaved off, this 2.9-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 generates 505 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. That's only slightly less than the 552 ponies from the Ferrari unit this engine is based on. Unsurprisingly, its performance is blistering.
Remarkably powerful and willing to rev, there's never a shortage of power from the V6. Drive it properly, and the 2.9-liter can move the Giulia Quadrifoglio from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 3.8 seconds. It sounds great, too, with a bellicose exhaust note that stands apart from the muscular V8s favored by Mercedes-Benz and the straight-sixes from BMW.
That said, the 2.9-liter isn't for the faint of heart. Its power is occasionally difficult to manage, particularly if drivers don't take the time to warm up the rear tires – unlike the four-cylinder Giulia, the Quadrifoglio is only available with rear-wheel drive.
Shortcomings are few but aren't easy to ignore. The biggest problem the Giulia faces is its all-electric brake pedal. It's great for aggressive driving, but around town, the pedal is maddeningly vague and hard to modulate. The line between smooth stop and neck-jerking brake at low speeds is remarkably thin, although the pedal is better at freeway speeds.
The ride can also get too firm, specifically on the Quadrifoglio. We spent a lot of our time behind the wheel with the adaptive suspension in its softer setting, simply because the default was too firm. Wind and tire roar – the latter was a particular issue in the Quadrifoglio, with its takes-no-prisoners tires – are also constant. We'd advise avoiding the optional panoramic sunroof and going for smaller wheels if you're looking for more refinement from this Italian.