It’s thumbs up but fingers crossed for my Alfa Giulia



Provided by Independent.ie

Many years ago, I dreamed of playing the guitar. I mean properly. Not discordant three-chord tricks with more buzzes and clicks than a swarm of bees in a room full of static. The problem was, apart from a blatant lack of ability, my fingers were far too short to stretch to some of the easier combinations of notes and shapes to reproduce the most basic, simple melodies.

I never listen to an electric guitar riff or classic piece (on Lyric FM) without being in awe of the dexterity and artistry involved. How do they do it? I’m sure long fingers help.

I’m often reminded of my digital deficiency.

I never expected it to be at the wheel of a car, but I was with this new version of the Alfa Romeo Giulia sports saloon. Therein lies a tale of some frustration – and great joy.

Let’s get the frustration out of the way first. They have, you see, these two enormous Formula One-type paddles on either side of the steering column so you can change gears instead of letting the 8spd auto box (with manual parallel) do it for you. I love being able to do that. It lets me time my entrance and exits to corners the way I want. The only problem was, the paddles were nearly as big as, well, real paddles. More pointedly they create distance and block easy access to other vital knobs/controls on the column – such as indicators, headlight-dimmer and wipers (these are not clever at all; please change).

So, factor in my short fingers – and instead of stuff being easy to reach, I’m forced into awkward, angular stretches. It’s all unnecessary.

Yet within this cluster of annoyance is a focal point of real relish – the crafted slimness of the steering wheel itself. The light touch it conveyed became a conduit of the car’s energies, quickly drawing me into a motor that, for the first time in years, had me thinking: “This is what an Alfa should feel like.”

I’ve previously driven diesel versions of the Giulia and, I admit, had been merciful in giving them moderate praise. I did say I found it a bit uninspiring – for an Alfa. I could have been harsher. Understandably, I hadn’t great hopes for this petrol model.

Indeed, only recently, I’d been saying how ordinary the new Giulia looked and how I felt the marque had yielded to the imperatives of mid-size executive saloon conformity.

Colour does play its part with the softer design. I think my previous diesel was a dull, dark blue. This Veloce model in striking ‘Misano Blue’ metallic caught the eye more favourably while dark leather upholstery and smatterings of aluminium inserts certainly lifted the cabin.

For all that, however, this was to be totally about the drive. The engine purred or sweetly growled depending on how much pressure I applied to the accelerator. Loved that. The car was quick, sharp and light to the touch and steer. Light to the point of little feedback, maybe, yet impressively sure-footed and reassuringly accurate when placed or pointed. Where the diesel felt heavy and sounded like it was working hard, this just smoothly surged with power.

One drive, to and from the midlands, was as pleasant as I’ve had for a long time. The Alfa hugged narrow, twisty country roads, it slipped over motorway tarmac and – this is the magic bit – always felt like it was on its toes. Paddles? I used them extensively and to great effect, refusing, through gritted teeth, to let them, or anything else, interfere with a proper Alfa drive.

I haven’t enjoyed a car from the famous Italian marque as much for more than a decade. I loved how the engine eased up the revs, how the chassis sharpened the harder it was driven. Yes, I relied on Dynamic model for a more acute performance and maybe the steering could give me a greater sense of firmness. But this was fleet-of-foot exciting driving: what an Alfa should be like.

Is it as good as the BMW 5-series? It doesn’t feel as solid or chunky and the diesel doesn’t match up, but I prefer this Veloce to any 5-series I’ve driven under the €60,000 mark. It’s not near the Mercedes E-Class on cabin, layout or road presence but it’s livelier; more energetic. It’s a distinctly different take on what a sports saloon can be.

Would I buy it? Nearly €60,000 suggests it will be bought by Alfistis or someone browned off by the German giants. I’d worry about ­residual values regardless of how well it is built and received. But if I had to choose, I’d buy it long before I’d buy its diesel stablemates.

It hasn’t really changed my overall view of the range but it has altered my view on of what the Giulia set-up can do with the right engine under the bonnet.

It was a great experience.

Thumbs up and fingers crossed they make more like this.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce sports saloon; 2-litre turbo petrol, 280bhp, rear-wheel-drive, 0-100kmh 5.7 secs, 400Nm (pulling power), 6.1l/00km, 141g/km, €390 tax.

Price: €54,495: + options: €56,645.

Standard spec includes: dual-zone air con, cruise control/speed limiter, front/rear park distance control, rear-view camera, auto rain/light sensors, drive modes, elec/folding mirrors, 7ins TFT cluster display, Connect 8.8ins 3D nav/infotainment system, 8 speakers, DAB radio; electric/heated sports seat/perforated leather inserts/side bolster support; gear-shift paddles on steering column, bi-xenon headlights/LED DLRS, dual tailpipes.

Facts & Figures

Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce sports saloon; 2-litre turbo petrol, 280bhp, rear-wheel-drive, 0-100kmh 5.7 secs, 400Nm (pulling power), 6.1l/00km, 141g/km, €390 tax.

Price: €54,495: + options: €56,645.

Standard spec includes: dual-zone air con, cruise control/speed limiter, front/rear park distance control, rear-view camera, auto rain/light sensors, drive modes, elec/folding mirrors, 7ins TFT cluster display, Connect 8.8ins 3D nav/infotainment system, 8 speakers, DAB radio; electric/heated sports seat/perforated leather inserts/side bolster support; gear-shift paddles on steering column, bi-xenon headlights/LED DLRS, dual tailpipes.

Provided by Independent.ie

2017-11-30T10:57:57+00:00

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Motoring Editor Irish Independent. Read Eddie’s articles first every Wednesday in the Irish Independent