Familiarity breeds contempt, they say. Not when it comes to the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Pretty, potent and wonderfully balanced, it's the super-saloon heartthrob - part throwback, part present-day wonder. But it could never claim to be perfect. Privately its maker conceded that some things were lacking, notably interior quality and tech integration. That was a drawback in 2016; in 2020 those foibles tend to result in buyers going elsewhere. Which is why for the facelift Alfa has set about addressing them specifically, and adding some extra kit on top. All, we hope, without doing any harm to the prodigal saloon underneath.
More on that in a minute. First you'll be dying to hear about the new infotainment system. The latest 8.8-inch effort is running new software that features digital widgets (like big phone app buttons) that can be arranged in a custom order on the home screen. It’s a much sharper and more responsive system than the previous one, and with the display now responding to touch, you’re not forced to work your way around the menus using the rotary knob – although you still can if you want to. It makes using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto a heck of a lot easier, which is a big win for smartphone uses, which accounts for virtually everyone.
Included in the widgets are Performance Pages, which displays telemetry like fluid temperatures and boost pressure, as well as torque delivery and a launch timer. The latter is going to seem gimmicky to some, but the value of having highly accurate oil and water temperature is a boon to anyone who prefers to know exactly when the fully synthetic is sufficiently warm for the taps to be opened on the 2.9-litre V6. It's that kind of engine. You dote on it.
Elsewhere, the interior has been spruced up in a more general sense, with a new steering wheel wearing carbon fibre and il Tricolore on the bottom spoke, a new gear selector and more green, white and red on the transmission tunnel. Along with that new infotainment screen and the now standard seven-inch instrument cluster display, it helps to freshen up a cabin which could already claim more design flair than its technologically superior German rivals. They still outpoint the Alfa on the digitalisation front, but there's no doubt that the Giulia has clawed back some lost ground with little design touches like the tinted exterior lights and a body that can now be finished in three vintage Alfa colours - Villa D’este red, Montreal green and, GT Junior yellow.
Of course, the changes are a dusting of icing on a preposterously large cake. There's still three-quarters of a Ferrari V8 upfront after all, sending power rearward; anyone fixating for too long on touchscreen responsiveness is sitting in the wrong car. Alfa has not made any technical changes, so you also get three-stage adaptive dampers and a 50/50 weight distribution. And 510hp at 6,500rpm and 443lb ft of torque 4,000rpm earlier. And 62mph in 3.9 seconds and a 190mph top speed. Need we say more?
Tough, we're gonna. The game has moved on a fair amount since 2016, and in case anyone has forgotten, 2020 is about to be gatecrashed by a new BMW M3, which promises to match the QF’s power with an extra driven axle. But, rest assured, the facelifted Giulia does not feel in any way lacking four years on from its launch. Far from it. It's supple from the off, soaking up bumps through the same uncannily good primary ride, and surfing the wave of unobtrusive mid range offered up not only by the engine but also the quick shifting eight-speed auto. Things are made even easier by a raft of new driver's aids - adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assist among them - but the Giulia saunters with the best of them regardless , backed by a soundtrack that is way less ostentatious than the burble of an AMG V8 or the crackle of an M brand exhaust.
It’s no less characterful, though. To rev out, the V6 is among the modern greats. And Alfa hasn't shortchanged it with the transmission or the twin-clutch-controlled, torque-biasing rear diff; both do a tremendous job. The former can be satisfyingly left to its own devices, but every manual cog swap is rewarded with a tactile click from those mega-paddles and millisecond thud 'n' snap from the exhausts before you're walloped back into the bolsters again. You will not miss a driven front axle.
This is especially true through corners, where the Giulia still responds with great composure to the commands of its quickened rack. Memories of the car’s mid-corner neutrality had almost been consigned to the rose-tinted memory bank (could it really have been that good?), but it’s all here in 2020, vivid and visceral, affirming that this is indeed one of the best-balanced cars of any segment. So sweet is the car’s inherent agility that you need not go beyond the dampers’ mid setting; having a degree or two’s worth of lateral pitch makes the experience all the more involving, and the chassis’ messages clearer and more intuitive. On a British B-road that would shake other cars to pieces, the Alfa just flows. This is crucial to its charm. The Giulia works everywhere.
It did before, of course. Only now when you’re back on the M40 attempting to pick a podcast and voicing Whatsapp messages to your housemates, it’s an easy, stress-free process. Sure, in some scenarios (i.e. wintery ones), the forthcoming M3 is going to probably leave the QF behind, and arguably it doesn't deliver the goosebumps that come as standard with the C63's V8. But the QF feels light on its toes and sharp and pure, like a Porsche GT product dressed in pretty saloon body with most of a Ferrari engine attached. Does praise come any higher than that? The changes rendered for 2020 haven't delivered perfection either, but they've done enough to make the Giulia's shortfall seem less significant. This is still one of the great performance cars of any decade.
SPECIFICATION | ALFA ROMEO GIULIA QUADRIFOGLIO
Engine: 2,891cc, V6 twin-turbo
Transmission: 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 510@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 443@2,500rpm
Top speed: 190mph
Price: £67,195 (price as tested £73,460, including convenience pack, driver assist plus, Quadrifoglio leather/Alcantara sports steering wheel, Harman Kardon sound system)
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