Italian cars are frustrating. Their good aspects are beyond wonderful, as in they will genuinely make your life worth living. The problem is, there’s always a catch, some significant issue (usually “issues”) that counter-balance the positives to such a massive degree that buying one is often a bad idea if you’re thinking rationally. Italian cars are made to give you an in-depth emotional experience, but like people, the great times come with the hardships. The Italians have always built cars this way, and it has always made their cars intriguing because they seem like so much more than cold machines. It makes them feel genuinely alive.
Because of their unpredictable nature, there’s always something daring about buying an Italian car. It’s not a sure bet, but the rewards are so immense when things are going well that it always seems it may be worth the risk. A test drive in an Alfa will make you ask yourself deep philosophical questions like, “Am I really living the sort of life I want?”
Playing it safe works, but are you really living, or do you just merely exist? There’s a big difference between the two, and that’s what Alfa Romeo is all about. It’s the sort of car that will give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and will have you lusting all day for your drive home.
I literally fell in love with the Alfa 4C Spider when I drove it because it spoke deeply to my inner desire. How can an object make you feel so fulfilled and so happy to be alive? It was insane.
The Alfa 4C is an impractical sports car, though. Meant to be a second car for the weekends, it’s Italian imperfections are more tolerable than they would be in an everyday sedan. That brings us to the Giulia Ti you see here. It is an everyday luxury sport sedan, here to take on the BMW 3 Series and the Audi A4. There’s surely less room for error in this market of everyday sedans.
That brings up my big question: Has Alfa kept the Italian magic alive in the Giulia sedan, and how much Italian “character” is tolerable to sedan buyers? Have they watered it down in an attempt to compete for the mass market?
I had heard good things about the car, but many people seem to let the car’s shortcomings overshadow its strengths. Knowing the risks of reliability and build quality, I wanted to know if the upsides were worth the the gamble on this Italian 4 door.
You have to remember, this Giulia Ti isn’t really a proper high performance model. The “Ti” is akin to an M-Sport BMW, so it’s like a 330i with a few options. I had my expectations set accordingly, knowing how the driving experience has become a second priority in this segment, but I was in for a most pleasant surprise.
In terms of driving satisfaction, the Giulia Ti kicks the living shit out of its rivals from BMW, Audi, Mercedes, etc. No other turbo 4 cylinder sport sedan even comes close to the way this Alfa drives. I’d even go as far as to say this Alfa may be more fun to drive, overall, than any current sub-M BMW model. Sure a 340i would smoke the Guilia in a straight line, but Alfa has nailed the handling and the car’s connection with the driver in a way BMW hasn’t done in over a decade.
I honestly wish every car drove as well as this Alfa. Everything it does, it does so completely. What I mean by that is there’s no aspect where the Giulia is faking being “sporty.” Most of the time this is a cliche, but the Giulia actually drives like a sports car that happens to have 4 doors. Some of Ferrari’s top engineers worked on the Giulia program, and it even shows in this non-clover-leaf model. If Ferrari were to to make a four cylinder sport sedan, this is pretty close to what it would be like. The way the steering and chassis seem to connect directly with your brain is very reminiscent to modern Ferraris I’ve driven, and that is the highest compliment I could give this Alfa. At a fast pace, it feels more like an extension of your limbs than a machine that you’re operating.
The Giulia also has the best automatic gearbox I’ve experienced in any car like this. In normal mode it shifts smooth and responsively, but in dynamic mode it pops off shifts instantly with a solid jolt that makes it feel so rawly mechanical. When you pull that crisp shifter paddle it feels like you are actually shifting the gear, rather than just pushing a button that tells the car to shift whenever it feels like it. It also doesn’t have an irritating step-down when you floor the throttle in manual mode (my biggest pet peeve in a BMW), so you actually have full control when you want it. The behavior of the gearbox is such a huge part of the way a car drives, and Alfa has this 8 speed auto figured out in a way that BMW, Audi and Mercedes haven’t been able to yet. More than tolerable, going through the gears is actually quite satisfying.
Now for the engine, and the way the Giulia feels when you open the taps. 280hp is a healthy amount, and the engine has a nice purr to it. It’s surely way more than enough to get yourself in trouble in a car with handling as good as this. Like my experience in the 4C Spider, it’s more about how the Giulia delivers its power than the actual number of horses stampeding. There is a little spool time in the Giulia, but like in the 4C, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I enjoy when manufacturers still let their cars feel turbocharged. A little turbo lag lets the suspense build before the onslaught of boost hits, and this Alfa charges you all the way to redline. In relatable terms, I’d say the Giulia felt about as fast as a 2016 STI in a straight line, especially over 80mph. It’s definitely a little quicker than its 4 cylinder sport sedan rivals, enough to excite, but not too crazy by modern standards.
That said, when you mix that wide 280hp powerband with the handling prowess, and all the other dynamic merits of the Giulia, you have a car that is a total point-to-point missile in the real world. It will have you grinning from ear to ear. As a driver’s car this Alfa is the most complete package you’ll find south of the dedicated high performance models. Sure, I’d love a little more power, but that’s nothing a little aftermarket tuning can’t fix (a tune will get you around 340hp). Meanwhile it excels in all of the areas that are much harder to change about a car, and those happen to be the things that define what I most enjoy about driving.
So the Giulia drives like the wettest of dreams, and inspires a lots of emotion behind the wheel. It is an Alfa Romeo, through and through, and it will make you crave driving in a way that I was beginning to think modern sport sedans weren’t allowed to anymore.
The Giulia has the driver’s upsides that an Italian car needs to be worthwhile. We’ve discussed the mountain peaks, which are very high, but now we must talk about the valleys.
It’s no secret that many Giulias have been experiencing new model issues, right after going on sale. But for me the question is more about what kind of issues are occurring. I mean, this is an Italian car, but it’s also a new model, and new models have issues in general. My question is how many of these problems are just new model kinks that need to be ironed out versus actual larger issues with the car.
You also have to remember that people like to complain about absolutely everything, especially when it comes to their brand new car. People expect perfection, and they’ll send the car back to the dealer for every little squeak and rattle. That’s not me at all. I’m a driving enthusiast, and so long as the car functions in all the major ways, I’m happy. I’m going to tell you right now, if you’re a nit-picker, don’t buy any Italian car because you won’t know what to do with yourself. If you expect perfection, buy a Lexus.
Now, I’ve perused through what people are saying about Giulia problems thus far, and they range from nit-picking about the infotainment system to the car’s engine shutting off while driving. Obviously, the latter could be very dangerous in the wrong situation.
I’d say the biggest common denominator for the problems we’ve been seeing is the car’s software not being up to date. This seems to be a theme with FCA products. My girlfriend has a Jeep Renegade (built in Italy) and every so often it will go out of whack because it needs an update. However, she got a 2015 model shortly after they first went on sale, and the car seemed like it needed lots of updates to get bugs worked out. Now she has a 2016 Renegade, and this one has had very few issues. My theory is that the Alfa Giulia is going through the same process. Keep in mind, we’re still in its first year on American roads, and they are still working some kinks out. I’m willing to bet most of these initial issues will go away after the first year or two of cars being out on the road.
The main thing if you have a Giulia is to keep your car up to date. Maybe once a month just stop by the dealer and have them plug it in. That should alleviate most of the issues we have seen. From what I hear, most Giulias have been pretty reliable thus far when it comes to any serious issues. Also, keep in mind that BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes all have far from flawless repair records too, so unless you’re comparing the Alfa to a Lexus, the difference will only ever be so much.
Also, if you’re buying the car, not leasing, make sure you get the best warranty available. That goes without saying. Anyone unsure about the reliability should consider leasing the Giulia if they really love the car. Alfa does have some nice deals going, and if it breaks, it’s their problem.
Italian cars require an Italian mindset, though. You have to focus on the good things, and try not to sweat the small stuff. Keep in mind, this is a car built by people in a society where any day of the year can be a holiday for some saint, where everything is done with total passion, and where life is meant to be enjoyed, even if it is at the expense of productivity. There is a deep beauty, even a life lesson in this attitude, and it exists in the DNA of every Italian car. They’re quirky, but they’re beautiful, and they deliver one hell of an experience.
If you view a car solely as a transportation device meant to take you from Point A to Point B, then an Alfa Romeo isn’t for you. But if you really enjoy going for a drive just because it’s pleasurable, then there is no other sport sedan quite like the Alfa Romeo Giulia. For drivers, the rewards will make the risks worth it. I’ve often said that owning an Italian car is a lot like having a puppy. It’s so adorable most of the time, but every so often it shits on the floor. If you aren’t ready to deal with both aspects don’t get a dog, but if you are, it will enrich your life in ways you can’t even imagine.
Dollars and Sense
I’m writing this article over a week after driving this Giulia, and I still can’t stop thinking about it. I went and drove it just to do this article, but it’s got me thinking of all kinds of dumb financial moves I could make to put one in my driveway within a year. I’ll be honest, a lot of me actually wants to, but, of course the financials would have to make sense for me.
Alfa Romeo has made the Giulia a very decent deal on paper compared to its German rivals, and they’ve got a pretty aggressive leasing program. It’s a good deal in those regards.
The truth is the decision is more about your sense than your dollars. If you’re looking at luxury sport sedans, then you can definitely afford a Giulia, but the question is, should you? Should you risk the reliability headaches Alfa is known for in order to have a car you will genuinely fall in love with?
Again, if driving is just about transportation to you, then you shouldn’t bother with Alfa Romeo. But if driving is the point for you, then I can assure you the Giulia does some big things that the BMW, Audi and Mercedes do not. Things you can’t quantify on paper, but can only feel from behind the wheel. You won’t understand until you drive one.
So I’m not here to urge you to go buy a Giulia. It’s one of those cars where it’s either really your thing, or it’s really not your thing. But if you find yourself intrigued by the car, I do urge you to go take a serious test drive. I mean really drive it, and experience the handling, the engine, that wonderful gearbox, and the way it connects directly to the core of your brain. Only then will you actually be able to decide if it’s worth it.
From behind the wheel, the Giulia is like nothing else in it’s segment. It’s not faking anything, it’s actually a sports car with 4 doors in the way only the Italians know how to do. If anyone says they drove a BMW 330i and said they liked it better, then they didn’t really push either car. BMW has never made a non-M car with driving dynamics like this.
You can take my word for it, but you really won’t “get” the Alfa Giulia until you drive one. So go take a test drive where you bend a few laws, and let me know what you think.
Seriously, stop reading. Get off your ass and go test drive this car.
MoM Score: Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti
Primary Function: Driving Experience: 2
Secondary Functions: Luxury(2) Practicality(2) MPG(2): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 1
Value for Money: 2
Final Score: 9 /10