Lotus wants a little more civility to its sports cars. Plus, of course, electricity
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What’s this – more versions of the new Alfa Romeo Giulia? Yep. The Quadrifoglio wasn’t the only car we drove for the first time in the US last week. We also got behind the wheel of the four-cylinder-engined models, too. Namely the regular Giulia and the Giulia Ti, for Tourismo internazionale, in both rear-wheel drive and AWD forms. Are they the same models that we’ll be getting in the UK? Yes and no. The US gets a 276bhp version of the turbocharged in-line four for its base models. That motor will be fitted in the Veloce versions in Europe. UK base models will make do with a 197bhp unit. Just to confuse things even more, when the Veloce appears in the US, it will be powered by yet another version of the engine, a 345bhp, 48V unit with an electric turbocharger. OK….So what are the US cars like?
First pleasant surprise is the engine, which is free-revving, has a pleasant rasp and no discernable holes in its delivery. So it’s a winner. Alfa reckons it’s good enough to haul the cars to 60mph in just over five seconds, so it’s also bang on the money against its German competition. We didn’t take these ones onto the track, just did some road work, but it was enough to show what a pleasingly quick and capable car the base Giulia is. Steering and brakes still lack a little feel, but it’s less of an issue in these models. They still turn exceptionally quickly and easily. Did you try them in RWD and AWD forms? Yes, the regular rear-wheel drive chassis shares its big brother, the Quadrifoglio’s, direct and precise handling and well-controlled ride, despite rolling on narrower and harder all-season tyres. The Q4 models don’t feel any different initially as 100 per cent of the power goes to the rear wheels until they unstick. When that happens, up to 60 per cent of the power makes its way to the fronts to help out. The only outward signs of this happening are a tightening of the line, and then not crashing. What are the interiors like? Really good. Feels, looks and smells like an upmarket Italian saloon which a cousin of Ferrari should. Lots of real leather and not any brittle plastic in sight. As mentioned before, the central screen is not industry leading, but it more than does the job. Plus we hear the central controller that felt a bit flimsy on the Quad was just pre-prod quality, and has already been upgraded in production versions of all Giulias, so that’s one of the few gripes dealt with already. What’s the difference between the standard Giulia and the Ti? The Ti model comes with a slightly higher level of spec as standard – it has a bigger infotainment screen and a few other things. But the main difference is the options you can spec if you go for the Ti. On that model only you can spec things like the active suspension package, bigger wheels, stickier tyres, better seats, etc. So that’s the one to opt for if you want to add more performance to your regular Giulia. Are there different spec packages? Yes, three. Sport is the base, Lusso has the most obviously luxury finishes and then there’s Performance. So, are the Giulias better than the German competition? They are definitely more sporty, better handling and have more character, yes. The Germans still perhaps have the Alfa’s licked on absolute build quality and a feeling of solidity. But only by a few percent which is not enough to be a deciding factor any more. Is it safe to buy one, then? Based on what we have seen and experienced so far, yes. The company is pouring massive resources into this relaunch and cannot afford for it to go wrong. So the entire network should be bending over backwards to give us a good experience. Cars with true character allied to ability don’t come along very often. When they do, we should celebrate and snap them up. The Giulia appears to be one of those cars. Enjoy…