The birth of a new Alfa Romeo Giulia should kick the alarm bells! Test with 510 hp, rear wheel drive Italian hottie against the more mature, but equally bonkers Mercedes-AMG C 63 S.
With their Giulia QV the Italians have scored a 7.32-minute round on the Nordschleiffe, which makes the car the fastest sedan by Ring-definition. We should not talk about design then. Clearly the Alfa Romeo Giulia looks fantastic, but so did a Brera in its time, which did not prevent that from being a very mediocre car. But here, Alfa backs up what it promises, and you already know that when you are on board. The ergonomics are better than in any Alfa before: you sit really deep in the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, lower than in the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S. The steering wheel can be moved almost to the chest and of course there is a six-speed manual gearbox too.
For Alfa, the Giulia is perhaps only the newest entry in a long list of hopefuls, but it is the first one to be able to bear these many hopes – and that while it adopted a new rear-wheel drive architecture to match its German rival.
The V6 biturbo engine, with the bulk of its own weight behind the front axle, is a very close relative of the V8 engine from the Ferrari 488 GTB, some even say it is in principle a shortened adaptation of it. 510 hp are churned out by the 2.9-liter unit. This is exactly as much as the 1,091 cmc larger Mercedes-AMG C 63 S develops and, beside the rear-wheel drive format, the only real commonality of the two.
The Mercedes is a big V8 muscle-limo. Two turbos generate 700 Nm, which are sent with an incomparable force towards the rear axle. At the beginning, the C 63 manages to be quite civilized, but then jumps forward. The strong gear changes of the seven-speed automatic set up the mood, so much so that the Alfa feels like a mimosa.
In other words, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is far more graceful, also in the way of presenting itself. The body with carbon fiber components is a mix of cocktail-dress and muscular t-shirt, the power delivery intense, but not as agitated as in the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S – which is related to the engine itself, but above all the transmission. More specifically, the transmission ratio, which makes good use of the 600 Nm available.
Traction does not flicker. Let us explain this: force is like water. It flows along the path of least resistance. In the Mercedes, for example, there is a leak between tires and asphalt. If the pressure is too high, the excess in power evaporates in the form of tire gum. The rear wheels of the Giulia however manage to keep grip better, which would be great if there would not be a weak link in the area of the rear axle. The connection is obviously too soft to withstand the torque attack. Consequence: As soon as the thrust reaches a critical level or a change of gear is more abrupt, the whole axle brutally rattles.
The mechanical snarling of the six-cylinder, the subtle snorting of the turbos and the exhaust system, all wonderful in the Giulia. The Alfa however gets trapped in the strongly standardized driving programs. In contrast to the C 63, in which all the dynamic components can be set-up independently too, the Giulia couples exhaust sound, engine/transmission responses and the ESP to the main programs: In normal mode, sound and responsiveness remain pious, “Dynamic” sharpenes all these, “Race” unfolds its full splendor – however, you are always gunning ahead without stability electronics on.
Independent adjustment can only be made to the damping, halfway independent at least. Two of the three degrees of hardness are available per mode. In “normal” the suspension can therefore be extra-hardened or, vice-versa, softened in “race”. And above all, the latter is essential as the most extreme chassis stage kills body movements as well as the last remaining comfort.
For everyday sporty driving, the starting position is sufficient. Although it leaves a little play in the kinematics, the aggressive overall coordination is fully realized. The rear axle differential distributes the force over two clutches to the wheels – practically like the Focus RS. The actual sensation, however, is however the front axle. It reacts to the smallest possible corrections, if necessary, but also enters aligns perfectly into the corners.
Tires should be warm. And that would be a delicate issue. Because the Giulia Quadrifoglio is delivered exclusively with sport tires. And sports tires need temperature. If they have, the Giulia is driving on tracks-like on the street.
Many compromises, little profit
The same applies, of course, to the Mercedes, with the subtle difference that AMG lets its clients choose. In contrast to the Pirellis of the Alfa, the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S does not put too much strain on its Michelin Cup 2 tires.
This increases entry and exit speeds in the bends, and, of course, the comfort decreases, but the relationship between man and machine remains tense. You can feel this even on the highway or when you drive at 95 percent of its theoretical potential around a track.
The main problem is the torque distribution. As in Alfa, it is also an electronically controlled system which tells the mechanics what to do. And something in this communication chain is wrong. This is explained by the unstable traction set-up at the limit (the differential closing too early).
The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio does not seem to be half as impetuous. When braking and steering, everything is still chic. The optional ceramic brakes stop the 1,686 kilos convincingly, and thanks to the active torque distribution, the Alfa slides wonderfully agile into corners. However – and this is the Krux – the Giulia can not maintain this effect the entire course of the curve.
In the end it is the braking values, the performance, weight and the price / performance ratio, which put the Alfa ahead of the Mercedes-AMG. The real sensation, however, is that the Giulia is so close to the slalom and on the track to the C 63. Why? Well, AMG has already entered over 20 years ago in this class, has evolved its idea of the Powerlimo over generations. And now comes Alfa out of the crate and jumps out of the booth to the same driving dynamics level. Alfa is back, even if I had not thought it possible that I would ever write this sentence.
|Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio||Mercedes AMG C 63 S|
|Base price||71.800 €||84.550 €|
|Lenght x Width x Height||4639 x 1873 x 1426 mm||4686 x 1810 x 1442 mm|
|Trunk volume||480 L||480 L|
|Engine||2891 cm³ / 6-Cylinder||3982 cm³ / 8-Cylinder|
|Power (torque)||375 kW / 510 PS (600 Nm)||375 kW / 510 PS (700 Nm)|
|Max. speed||307 km/h||250 km/h|
|Acceleration 0-100 km/h||3,9 s||4,0 s|
|Consumption||8,5 L/100 km||8,2 L/100 km|