I’ll be honest: I was supposed to drive a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid during my trip to California to work at the 2017 Arse Freeze-a-Palooza 24 Hours of Lemons race at Sonoma Raceway, because I learned that racers are always shopping for minivans (as part of an effort to accomplish all street-car needs with as few vehicles as possible, leaving more room and money for race cars) when I took a Sienna to the B.F.E. GP race over the summer. In the end, the Pacifica wasn’t available, so the folks at FCA dropped off this Giulia TI AWD instead.
As it turns out, the racers at the ’17 Arse Freeze were fascinated by the new Giulia, partly because all car freaks love Alfas and partly because this car spent much of its time at the track parked next to the beautifully restored (and daily-driven) 1965 Giulia Sprint Speciale owned by 24 Hours of Lemons Operations Manager Jeff Glenn. While the ’17 Giulia is faster, more efficient, and more comfortable, the ’65 Giulia is… well, just look at it.
My car had the TI Lusso Light Wood Package ($2,250), with leather seats and door panels plus handsome wood trim, and it gave me the urge to don a high-end televangelist-grade silk suit and move a few suitcases of penumbral-economy cash to a secret offshore holding company, maybe do a bit of spying on the side. The leather in this car smells really good, and I’d say it’s worth the extra couple of grand.
The driving adventures of a Race Organizer involve driving to and from the track while hauling equipment and coworkers, then driving around race facilities at about 15 mph, not clipping apexes on beautifully-deserted-for-the-occasion coastal highways. For this reason, I cannot say how the Giulia TI AWD performs at the limit; I can say that the steering is quick and sensitive, the acceleration is respectable, and grip is sufficient to allow bold on- and off-ramp speeds.
I found the Giulia to be useful in the day-to-day sense, as I drove it the 50 miles each way to and from Sonoma Raceway. It’s way more fun (and cooler-looking) than, say, a Lexus ES 350, and the selection of the rakish Giulia over the staid ES indicates a bit more devilishness behind the wheel. Likewise, a BMW 3-Series or Audi A4 ends up being a safer, more conservative choice than the Giulia, and while I’d bet large money that a Lexus sedan will have fewer mechanical problems than an Alfa Romeo sedan, I think I’d lay even money on the Alfa versus its German competitors in the long-term reliability department… and the Alfa’s price tag is very tempting when compared to the other sedans.
Prior to the current Giulia, we hadn’t been able to buy an Alfa Romeo sedan in this country since the slow-selling 164 in the early 1990s, and that car had front-wheel-drive. The new Giulia looks the part of a slightly menacing-looking Italian sedan.
Plenty of Alfa Romeos compete in the 24 Hours of Lemons, mostly Milanos but the occasional GTV6 or Spider shows up. We have learned that a Milano is quicker on a road course than a same-year BMW 3-Series, but is much more difficult to fix when something breaks.
Because the Giulia is a proper Italian car, tradition requires that it have some crazy-making quirks. I’m not going to call the steering-wheel-mounted starter button a quirk, but imagining the fate of those electrical contacts after 50,000 or so miles made me feel a bit uneasy. More immediately, the park-assist system is sensitive to a level I’d call panic-stricken, blaring a steady dentist-drill tone upon ignition startup if the car is parked within a few feet of another car, a garage wall, a pile of leaves, whatever; you can disable it, but this must be done every timeyou start up the car.
The PANIC button on the key fob is the largest and most accessible control, and it triggered unintentionally in my pocket a half-dozen times during my six days with the car. If I owned this car, I would open up the fob’s case and desolder the connectors to the PANIC switch, because otherwise my angry neighbors would set the car on fire after daily horn-honking sessions. One last annoyance was the limited headroom, I’m only 5′ 7″ and I bonked my head on the sunroof framing multiple times, even with the seat lowered all the way and leaned fairly well back.
Overall, this is an enjoyable car, with raffish overtones that you won’t get in other sedans. People who know cars will respect you when you roll up in a Giulia, and you’ll enjoy your day-to-day life with this machine.
Options: Volcano Black Metallic Exterior Paint ($600); Ti Lusso Light Wood Package: 18″ x 8″ Lusso aluminum wheels, luxury leather seats, 8-way power-adjustable front seats, leather days & upper doors, flat-bottom steering wheel, air quality system ($2,250). Driver Assistance Static Package: Blind spot and Cross Path Detection, auto-dimming exterior mirrors ($650). Driver Assist Dynamic Plus Package: Adaptive cruise control with stop, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam headlamp control, infrared windshield ($1,500). Dual-pane sunroof ($1,350). 8.8″ AM/FM/HD Bluetooth radio with NAV ($950). Harman Kardon Premium Audio System ($900). Gloss black brake calipers with white script, custom-painted brake calipers ($900). Light walnut wood interior accents ($300).