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HomeDRIVENROAD TESTEDALFA ROMEO GIULIA QV VS. 2.0T SUPER

ALFA ROMEO GIULIA QV VS. 2.0T SUPER

It’s been a while since any brand put the cat properly among the pigeons in the mid-size executive sedan market. The pigeons, in this case, being the German triumvirate of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz (it’s alphabetical, so no whining please), and the cat – albeit some might say it should be Jaguar – is, in this case, every schoolboy’s favourite brand, Alfa Romeo.

If, by some inexplicable year-long lapse of concentration you have managed to miss the hype surrounding the new Alfa Romeo Giulia, let me tell you that you have actually missed something really special. Not since its South African heydays in the 1980s, has Alfa Romeo mustered such a serious challenge to its German (or Japanese) rivals. Or have they done it with so much pizazz.

By all accounts, at the very top of the Giulia range, the absolutely hysterical Quadrifoglio Verde Race Edition is a beast of Teutonic proportions, but it is so far out of reach for most buyers (for all, really, since each unit of the total South African allocation is spoken for) that you would have to settle for either the “standard” QV for the base price of R1,400,000, or either of two standard spec versions instead.

Since we like to mix things up here at Driven, we’ve decided to investigate just how much of a climb down it would be for buyers who want to own a QV, but for various reasons would have to opt for another model in the range.

In our top-and-tails assessment of the Alfa Giulia, our sibling rivals are the  Quadrifoglio Verde and second-to-entry 2.0T Super.

THE QV EFFECT

For the first time since it was introduced to the media at Johan Rupert’s private race track in Franschhoek earlier this year, we recently had the opportunity to try the top of the Giulia range in real-world conditions. Our mission: to not only see whether it can live up to the hype but also to see how it stacks up against its “lesser” brother in the range.

Like any manufacturer who enters a market segment already saturated by other popular brands knows, beating more established rivals at their own game takes some doing. Especially so in South Africa. Alfa launched the Giulia in text book fashion, with a range-topping, eye-watering big gun, followed by more sensible versions of essentially the same thing.

The Giulia QV was designed from the ground to be a weapon that eats racetracks for breakfast, but surprisingly, it is compliant enough to view just about any other road as a light snack too.

But what gives the QV this massive appetite for asphalt munching? Under the hood, Alfa has placed a Ferrari-developed 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 that pushes 375 kW through the rear wheels via an eight-speed auto ‘box. With so much grunt, the QV needs an insignificant 3.9 seconds to race from zero to 100 km/h, only to keep going all the way to Alfa’s claimed 307 km/h top end.

IS LESS, MORE?

On the other side of the coin, Alfa’s 2.0-litre Giulias stand in stark contrast (at least in power and price terms) to their six-cylinder bad boy big bros. In South Africa, Alfa introduced the entry-level Giulia 2.0T (R555,000) and the slightly upgraded 2.0T Super that retails for R625,000. Our test was in Super specification, sporting 17” wheels, leather seats, and huge column-mounted paddle shifters for the auto gearbox.

While this Giulia misses out on some of the visual frills of the QV, it is nonetheless an aggressive looking machine that, on paper at least, seems to be a good bet, especially as an everyday commuter.

Despite only sporting 147 kW over its brother’s whopping 375 kW, the 2.0-litre is fun to drive and is eager to show its super smooth side on almost every road.

ON THE ROAD

The 2.0T Giulia’s fizzy exhaust note gives accelerating an extra sense of occasion, especially when driving it in dynamic mode. Getting up to freeway speeds not only feels fast, its 6.6 second acceleration time is, in fact, faster than the BMW 320i M Sport sports-auto, its nearest rival. It is, of course, helped along by the same 8-speed gearbox found in the QV, which, as it does in that car, provides quick changes up and down the range. It is an accomplished ‘box that fits the Giulia well but lacks the refinement of the BMW under hard acceleration. A problem that’s less noticeable in the QV, where you accept the brutal kick-downs and sharp changes as a reminder of the car’s power.

In driving terms, the 2.0T and the QV are closest to one another for their progressive steering characteristics. Light at first, both Giulias weight up nicely the faster you go. Feedback is generous on the QV, less so on the standard car. And the ride is understandably hard inside the Quadrifoglio Verde, while the Super stiffened up on me too, albeit never beyond the point of comfort.

Both cars benefit from Alfa’s DNA driving mode selector system, offering noticeable changes when selecting the available options. Dynamic mode delivers better performance and an improved soundtrack; Natural is good for everyday commuting, and Advanced efficiency sets the performance and consumption bar low enough for efficient freeway cruising.

SELECT INTERIOR

Inside the Giulia, it is a case of horses for courses; the QV deliberately feeling more track focussed than the standard car. Either way, the Giulia interior is sublime, even with the fair amount of hard plastics scattered around the cabin.

There are distinctive differences between the halo car and the mere mortal version, yet none so significant that it would sway a potential buyer this way or that.

On the contrary, the Super’s elegant leather interior, graceful styling and incredibly vivid backlit dials are typically Italian in their simplistic beauty, and I would pick standard seats over the unforgiving Recaro buckets that are fitted to the QV.

The QV is endowed with a couple of unique features including a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system but, despite the significant price difference between the cars, offers hardly more standard interior spec than the Super. In some cases even less.

Some upgrades make their way into the QV only (they’re optional on the 2.0-litre), such as front park-distance control and reverse camera, auto-dimming and auto folding rear mirrors, Only the Super gets adaptive cruise control, front electric lumbar support, and USB ports in front and at the back, as standard. Navigation is included on the QV and is an optional extra for the 2.0-litre model.

LAST WORD

Given the price disparity between these two sibling rivals, it’s a hard to believe that there is paper at least, not that** much separating the pair. There is the whopping power differential, of course, and the obvious styling differences, even the understated differences in the cabin, but are these variances enough to justify the near R800,000 jump in the ticket price? Unless you’re a serious Alfa Romeo collector, or you crave lots and lots of attention, the standard four-pot Giulia does what the range promises; to deliver enthusiastic driving fun in a stylish package, making it, in our view, your best bet.

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