Little did we know that flicking an innocuous dial on Alfa Romeo’s very beautiful sedan would turn it into an absolutely unapologetic weapons-grade thrill ride. Driving the Giulia Quadrifoglio sedan in “Race Mode” makes your heart pound like mainlining the drip feed from an industrial La Marzocco espresso machine. There are many fast cars, but none can do a Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde transformation quite as convincingly as the updated-for-2020 Giulia Quadrifoglio.
You see, up until we touched that unassuming dial labelled DNA – the one that controls the Alfa’s personality – the 2020 Quadrifoglio was the very model of a modern sports sedan. What was most remarkable about it was how refined and composed it was. Clearly, Italy’s roads must be just as bad as ours here in Canada because the car rode beautifully over bad pavement. Its adaptive dampers are among the best in the business. No doubt, this is the most comfortable, daily-drivable of all the serious sports sedans out there right now.
Italian fashion may demand you sacrifice comfort, but this Italian car does not.
In the cabin, the updated Giulia Quad has a few luxury refinements that help ease the sting of spending six figures on a compact sedan. (All told, our Giulia’s $90,945 base climbed to $109,435 thanks to the addition of tasty options, including the $8,250 Brembo carbon ceramic brakes.) The new steering wheel is wrapped in better materials. The gear shifter is wrapped in leather and the entire centre console has been given a smart redesign. A new 8.8-inch central screen, digital dash, and advanced driver-assist safety features bring the tech up to date too.
And, can we all just agree – again – that the Giulia is a great looking piece of industrial design? The Alfa goes from day to night as well as a clean pair of Air Force 1s. Dress it up or dress it down, it just looks good. We’d expect nothing less from Alfa Romeo, the brand whose chief contribution to the automotive world has been to remind everyone time and again that cars can be beautiful things.
With such refinement, style and grace, the Alfa probably could’ve coasted on its good looks. Nope!
At the flick of the little DNA driving mode dial, the 505-horsepower, Ferrari-derived 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 wakes up. (It’s essentially three-quarters of a Ferrari V8.) The steering, which was already lightning quick, tightens up a little more. The chassis tenses. There’s no slack anymore, and no all-wheel drive; your right foot metres out power to the two tortured rear tires only.
This is Mr Hyde. In Race Mode, the engine makes a shriek that’ll make your hair stand on end. If you could close your eyes – but please don’t – you’d almost think you were piloting a vintage Formula 1 car.
The Alfa is always always ready to spin its tires. It’ll step out sideways at the slightest provocation. A word of advice: go easy on it when the rubber is cold. Thankfully, you’re always aware you’re right on the razor’s edge, because the car’s steering and seat transmit exactly what’s going on at the wheels. It’s a raw, engrossing experience that nothing else with four doors in this price bracket can provide.
The Alfa Romeo’s Mr Hyde alter-ego is undeniably thrilling, but also tiring if you’re just trying to run some daily errands. Thankfully, when don’t feel like getting your heartrate up, you have Dr Jekyll. Flick the innocuous little dial back, and the car once again becomes its usual refined, graceful self.
You’ve been warned. Enjoy responsibly.