Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce

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Before I dive into the review of this car, I think it’s worth asking the question; What makes an Alfa an Alfa? Over the last century, the Italian marque has built possibly more legendary machines than anyone else. Heroes such as the Tipo 33, GTA Junior, TZ2, Sprint Zagato, Giulia Super, GTV6,  Alfasud Ti, 75 Evoluzione, the list goes on and on. There isn’t any one single defining feature that makes cars like these unique, it’s a mix of spritely engines, striking design and a soundtrack that can only be described as mechanical love-making.

Whether it’s the precise manual gearshift ‘click’ through an infamous transaxle, the symphonic notes of a Busso V6, or the throaty inhale of a Twin Spark’s dual weber carbs, since the dawn of the modern automotive world, piloting an Alfa has always been an automotive indulgence. Their cars have harnessed the ‘bum-in-seat experience’ better than anyone else.

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The latest offering from Alfa Romeo takes the company back to its roots. Not only is this the return of the iconic Giulia name, but also their first rear-wheel drive saloon for almost three decades. An area that Alfa Romeo has particularly excelled in, with even their most humdrum family sedans sporting the feel and performance of a racing car for the road. The Berlina, Giulia, Alfetta and 75 were the basic family busses of their respective decade, but all were engineered to give even the hottest of coupes a run for their money on a twisty mountain road. This Giulia carries on that same philosophy with its all new, cutting-edge Giorgio Platform. Welcome to the 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce.

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Immediately, you’re struck how good the Giulia looks in the flesh. It’s arguably the best looking Alfa for decades. The exterior captures the character and heritage of Alfa’s past, but brings the design language into the new millenium through a beautifully modern and striking form. I’ve always admired car designers who are able to pen both masculine and feminine qualities into their cars. The artisans of calligraphy and curves at Centro Stile have done exactly that with the Giulia. The front looks poised and purposeful, with its angry eyes, wide gills, and sharp splitter. The front’s aggressive racing stance then flows back into a curvaceous body, with flared rear wheel arches tapering up into a subtle ducktail boot lip. The Giulia sits on the road with elegance and modern simplicity, a refreshing contrast when compared to the over-designed offerings from Germany and Japan.

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The inside continues with much of the same ethos as the outside. The Giulia offers the traditional driver-focused qualities but with the usability and convenience of modern-day technology and materials. Up front, the two bucket seats hunker down low in the bowels of the car, offering a low centre of gravity and nodding to Alfa’s signature racing pedigree. Although they look sporty, the seats aren’t a hardcore racing bucket - that’s saved for the QV’s options list - instead, the Veloce features a much more user-friendly leather trimmed bucket with endless adjustability for the perfect driving position. Even the most chicken-skewer body like my own can find a position that is comfortable and supportive - something that is very handy when indulging in a spot of enthusiastic cornering.

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I love that Alfa have also included small details and styling queues that resonate with the cars of old. The steering wheel looks as if it were pulled from the original Giulia and then simply modernised. It’s the same shape and basic diameter as the original, but finished in superb leather and steel trims and splashed with some extra toys for the modern era; but there’s nothing clunky that gets in the way, everything is functional and serves a purpose. Best of all, the wheel sits perfectly flush and square in the centre of the driving position, with perfect view through the old ‘binocular’ style gauge cluster. The driving position is about as good as you can get this side of a four-door Ferrari.

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The whole interior has been designed to be focused on the driver. The center console and infotainment system, while being exquisitely integrated into the dashboard’s swooping form, is still angled towards driver’s side so all of the instruments and controls are always visible and within an arm’s reach of the pilot. The dashboard layout is unusually ‘unItalian’ as all the buttons are exactly where they should be… which is weird, but a welcome departure from the Alfas of old.

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All of these design elements truly come alive when you get the car on the road. The first thing you’ll notice is the lightning fast steering rack. It requires so little input from the steering wheel for the Giulia to change direction like a house fly. When you’re in a tight valley road with sweeping bends and technical hairpins, the sharp steering is complimented by the incredibly lightweight chassis construction and supple suspension tune, which helps take each corner with delicacy rather than violence.

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To really get the best out of the handling and power delivery, the Veloce comes with a range of driving modes which are accessed using the DNA switch. The ‘DNA’ mode’s initials stand for Dynamic, Natural, Advanced Efficiency. The only one you really need to know about is Dynamic. Clicking into this setting, the in-car display shows a skeleton of the Giulia suddenly glowing red, the gearbox drops a couple of cogs as if ready for a rolling start, the steering loads up with weight and the throttle becomes as sensitive as an exposed nerve. Dynamic mode transforms the Giulia from a comfortable cruiser into rifled, road-hugging racer.

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The real masterclass is the engine and gearbox. Being a car enthusiast I am traditional in the sense that I prefer a manual gearbox, however, given the choice now, I’d be driving home with the paddle shift without a single murmur of complaint. It is a sensational system. With each pull of the paddles, there is satisfying metallic click from the column-mounted aluminium shifters as the gearbox responds in kind with an instant shift. Then you mash your foot to the floor and the peppy turbocharged 2L angrily warbles its way back up the rev counter until the next gear is fired into place.

Throughout the entire rev-range the engine has plenty of poke. It’ll rocket it's occupants from 0-100Km/H in under six seconds. The same turbocharged 2L is used in the base model, as well as the Super, but the Veloce variant comes with the hottest tune of them all, packing an additional 50kW over the base. To me, it isn’t about the numbers. It's about the experience, and while it could be a touch louder, the Veloce delivers a fantastic sensation of pace and handling balance.

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I completely lost my sense of time and direction driving the Veloce. On a winding country road roaring past some of WAs best countryside, the Giulia left an impression that I haven't experienced since taking my first drive in a classic Alfa 75. It is addictive, well balanced, poised and so utterly enjoyable I ended up breaking ‘rule one’ in the petrolheads handbook, and gave my short term loan car from Barbagallo its own name… Giuseppe.

When you’re done having fun in the valley and back on the highway, the Giulia settles back down once in Natural or Advanced Efficiency mode. I couldn't really tell the difference between the two modes, other than through the fuel efficiency numbers which would probably bore even the most monotoned of individuals. Both modes however make the Giulia a comfortable grand tourer.

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So is it a REAL Alfa? Absolutely. The Veloce isn’t the full M3-killing track car like the QV, nor is it trying to be. Some of their finest automotive moments were provided by their ‘cars of the people’. Their family sedans or the Carabinieri’s coupes. Throughout the years, Alfa have maintained an ethos of providing driving pleasure at any level or price point, and it appears the same magic is present in the new Giulia. I absolutely adore this car and found it quite difficult to hand the keys back to Barbagallo Alfa Romeo without signing my name on the order list.

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The Giulia is the Alfa Romeo for the modern age. It may not have the ashtray capacity of 20L or have headlights held on by saliva like the cars of old, but between the design, engine, drive and soundtrack, the experience of a true Alfa Romeo is there and ripe for the picking.

A big thanks to Barbagallo Perth for the short term loan of the Giulia Veloce. For more information on the range and available options, head to www.barbagallo.com.au/alfa-romeo.

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