All that you adore in a German sedan is pleasingly put together and promisingly wrapped in an Italian shell. That in short is the Veloce. Alvin Thomas romances with the new Giulia
Renowned motoring journalist Jeremy Clarkson once in an episode of Top Gear (a car show) said: “You can’t be a true petrolhead until you’ve owned an Alfa Romeo.” After that, the whole clan of car enthusiasts from around the world took it as their own to promote and take pride in cars from the renowned Italian brand.
But, here’s the catch: No one really bought any. Anyone with the slightest hint of knowledge about cars knew that Alfa Romeos of old – despite its charm – would almost inevitably rust into a pile of its own metal and conk out more times per week than a “branded grade-one” mechanical watch made by a Chinese watchmaker would.
Albeit, that was always the charm Alfas came with: Owning one is like a school project you adore being a part of. It’s a car you will have to work on and bond with if you’re looking to drive it.
Of course, things have changed drastically – and for the better – since the early days, courtesy the coming together of the FCA association.
And in 2015, Alfa Romeo stunned everybody – including us Alfistis (self-proclaimed Alfa Romeo lovers) – when it decided to resurrect the ‘Giulia’ nameplate after shelving it for over five decades – and no less, in a (Quadrifoglio) sedan form factor to rival the likes of the BMW M3 and the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.
Even better, with its wide tracks, flared arches and bumpers, and low-slung stance, the Giulia Quadrifoglio blew away its competition… literally! Not only did it outdo German designers, but it also beat the engineers on their home turf – on the notorious Nurburgring racetrack.
Had they got things right this time around? Well, to find out, I decided to buy the car; except I couldn’t (in 2015). Alfa Romeo decided to delay the launch of the car to late 2015. Then 2016. And then 2017, before it was finally launched (by when I had already lost interest in buying it).
But the final product was no less enticing. So, there’s no denying that I was a bit enthusiastic about getting behind the wheel of the new Veloce – the Quadrifoglio’s smaller sibling.
Even in its toned-down form, the Giulia looks fan-bleeding-tastic.
Agreed, the Veloce, which sits bang in the middle of the Quadrifoglio‘QV’ super-sedan and the lower-spec ‘Super’, looks a lot like the range topper. But, at a third of the cost, it’s lighter on the wallet and cheaper to run (supposedly).
It’s quite hard to describe the looks of the Giulia without adjectives. But, the words ‘It’s a work of art’ is what springs to mind when I look at it. The headlights, for instance, are sharper close to the Alfa Romeo signature grille and broader to the other end. Meanwhile, the gaping air intakes on the bumper and the aluminium-accented grille round off the fascia. Ironically, the designers focused so hard on the looks that there’s no dedicated spot for the number plate but to the left side of the car above the air intake vents.
The sides are no less sculpted. Even the side mirrors are designed to cut through air with ease and finesse. The graphite black (smoked) 20-inch alloys added to the effect, though, there’s a 21-inch option that will get you the same wheels that you’d normally find on the QV.
Rounding off the looks in the rear are the wedge-shaped tail lamps,
a diffuser (!) and dual exhausts.
Now that I’ve established that the Giulia looks drop-dead gorgeous, I’ll move on to the new interior.
This is, by a mile, the best interior ever fitted to an Alfa Romeo. Granted, the Germans probably do a better job screwing things together, but the engineers have done a darn good job with the Alfa too.
The steering is large, chunky and functional. It isn’t overloaded with buttons like that in a Ferrari, but the engine ‘Start/Stop’ button does reside on the wheel. There’s also an easy-to-use 8.8-inch screen on the dashboard for your infotainment and navigation needs.
The instrument cluster is retro Alfa Romeo with Italian words printed on it. But there’s a 7-inch wide screen in the middle to display vehicle information. The features list on my car also included extras such as lane-departure warning, automatic emergency brakes and a fantastic radar-guided cruise control system.
Much of the interior is appointed in plush (dual-tone) leather; even the lower portions of the cabin where your knees may graze. There’s also a whiff of real wood on the panel that houses the gear selector. Oddly, the placement of the volume knob and rotary dial to control the infotainment screen are reminiscent to that of an Audi.
The Giulia offers copious amounts of space upfront, with both the driver and passenger receiving excellent head room too. Moreover, the seats are well bolstered and provide excellent support while taking corners.
The rear seats offer decent head and leg room to those over six feet tall, and the boot is pegged at about 480-litres, which is equivalent to that of its competitors.
Underneath the sculpted hood lies a 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder engine with a high-pressure turbo that aids in pumping out 280hp and 400Nm of torque. The engine is further mated to an eight-speed ‘ZF’ automatic gearbox for good measure.
For most parts of the drive, I found the gear to be potent and clever, sticking to the right gears when necessary. But, it’s only when you shift the ‘d-n-a’ knob to ‘d’ (dynamic mode) that the gearbox comes alive.
Then, the transmission holds gears, the throttle response sharpens and the brakes feel like they kick in a bit harder. I’ve never driven another vehicle that transforms as much as this – including BMWs – when you switch driving modes.
Sadly, however, you cannot switch the traction and stability controls off. This inhibits any fun you can have with the car on a race track, which is a shame as the chassis is incredibly well-tuned and ready to be pushed.
The quick-ratio steering is unlike any I’ve tested on a sedan. The electrical steering offers no feedback while driving and is light, but it is undeniably quick to make alterations to the steering angle. I presume a three-degree turn will ensure you about 50-80 per cent steering lock. While this can come across as a blessing on the track, you’ll have to get used to it while driving. It’s still something I’d cherish during my day-to-day commute; I’d feel like a racecar driver daily.
What’s un-race-car-like is the brakes. The brake-by-wire system can result in the brakes acting a bit sticky while driving at low speeds, although you can easily deal with as you bond with your car.
Despite the shortcomings, I cannot help but say that the Giulia Veloce is still a great car: It has got everything that you would require from a sedan – dare I say: a German sedan. And it is all then packaged in a gorgeous Italian shell. If that isn’t the makings of the ideal car, then I don’t know what is.
The Veloce aptly sits in between the faster and the less-endowed siblings, but it is in no way lesser than a German sedan at this price point. And that’s high praise for a car that’s only entering its first generation.
Well played, Alfa Romeo. Well played.
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged in-line four-cylinder
- Transmission: eight-speed ‘ZF’ automatic
- Horsepower: 280hp
- Torque: 400Nm
- Top speed: 250 (limited)
- All-wheel drive
- Panoramic sunroof
- 8.8-inch infotainment screen
- ‘d-n-a’ drive mode selector
- Leather upholstery
- HID headlamps
- Radar-guided cruise control