Giulia – Not German

The Veloce is the fastest Giulia for those who cannot stretch to the Quadrifoglio and if you care about driving, it won’t let you down.

Misano Blue. I like it. It’s a colour available only on the Veloce models of the Giulia and, trust me, it makes you the centre of attention wherever you go with this car. If it was called ‘Look-At-Me Blue’, it really wouldn’t be a worse name.

For the four days I drove this car around, I always lost a few moments just staring at it after I parked it. For me, the design of the Giulia is getting better as the model gets more time in the market. It is not another German teutonic shape, nor a German wannabe, something I suspect was the goal of, say, the Jaguar XE. The Giulia has its own personality and a distinctive Italian flavour the segment would otherwise miss.

I drove the Quadrifoglio version and its Ferrari-developed 510 horse power V6 a couple of months ago and let me tell you, that was an amazing machine. Only one problem: at €100,000 as the basic price, it is not going to be the car that makes the Giulia sell in the numbers Alfa needs it to sell. That is why I chose to write about this diesel Veloce version – because this is a Giulia for going fast that people can actually buy.

There are two different Veloce versions: one diesel, one petrol. In Portugal, the diesel is clearly the best-seller. It has a four-cylinder, 2.2 litre engine putting out 210 horse power, with a brilliant eight-speed automatic gearbox getting the power down to all four wheels through the Q4 all-wheel drive system.

Just like all other Giulias, the Veloce has a steering rack so quick it takes time to adjust. That means the first 15 minutes you don’t notice anything else. Then, when such a quick response from the car’s helm starts feeling natural – and very, very good – other elements of the Alfa start making their appearance. First and foremost, the chassis. It’s awesome. I mean, really awesome. There’s an underlying agility in the way the Giulia goes about its business that is very unusual in a saloon.

Alfa says Philippe Krief, the guy responsible for the Ferrari 458 Speciale, one of the best cars ever made, was taken into the project of the Giulia early on to sprinkle some Ferrari magic dust onto the car and, I know it sounds crazy, but there really is something different about the way the Giulia drives; some Ferrariness about it. Even with a diesel engine up front. And that is because the chassis set-up together with the quick steering rack are just brilliant.

Of course, that diesel engine does dissipate some magic, however fast it may be. The noise is not good. There’s too much of it and it floods the cabin in a way the Germans have overcome at least a decade ago. Better keep the radio a bit louder than usual. That way, you drone the rattle of the oil burner and enjoy what is otherwise an enjoyable engine, one that likes to be pushed hard. Much because of a great gearbox and fabulous aluminium paddles, the Giulia Veloce is a pleasure to hustle down a challenging road. With the DNA selector in D, for Dynamic, and the four-wheel drive working its magic, it’s hard to bring the Giulia out of shape – it works beautifully.

Inside, the way the Italian battles the Germans is not as strong on the aesthetic/mechanical level. I am not one of those who ranks the quality of the cabin materials as a priority in a car. I much rather have a great chassis like the Giulia’s, but I don’t think I am wrong when I say that, today, July 2018, I am in the minority. The Giulia cannot compete with either the Mercedes C-Class or the Audi A4 or even the ageing BMW 3 Series. Fit and finish is not as good, and some materials look a bit on the cheap side. The infotainment is a generation behind and the screen is not as high-quality as it should.

Having said that, the driving position is very good, and the ride quality is another testament to how great the Giulia chassis is. Travelling long distances would not be a problem. As for prices, the Veloce is a €55,000 car. Not cheap, of course, but it offers quite a compelling driving experience and it teaches the Germans a thing or two about poise and balance. If you can live with a cabin that is not perfect and like your in-car music louder than usual, this diesel Giulia Veloce is a great buy. Be bold and get it in ‘Misano Look-At-Me Blue’.

By Guilherme Marques