Say what you will about the reliability of Alfa Romeo’s cars, but know that our new long-term test vehicle, a blood-red Giulia Quadrifoglio, made it well past its engine break-in period before it needed to pay an unscheduled visit to the service department.
In fact, we could have broken in two of the 505-hp twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6s in the time before the “service electronic throttle control” warning light first lit at just less than 2400 miles, followed by a “service engine” light. This was on a 650-mile road trip, and the editor at the wheel claimed the warning popped up while he was just trundling along on the expressway with the cruise control set to 78 mph. Power seemed diminished, and he was unable to select different driving modes, but the car made it safely back to our Michigan home base.
The car spent a week in the shop, but the technicians could find no cause for the warning lights, which were now extinguished. While they were crawling around our new hotness, though, they found a small coolant leak. Tightening a loose hose clamp stemmed the flow. We were sent on our way.
The ordeal delayed our initial testing of the Quad, so, with a clean bill of health, we headed out to the test track with about 4100 miles on the odometer and posted commendable numbers: 3.6 seconds to 60 mph, 11.8 seconds at 122 mph through the quarter-mile, and then “service electronic throttle control,” diminished power, so forth and so on. It wasn’t just the second time we’d seen the warning. True, it was twice for our long-termer before the 5000-mile mark, but we’d also experienced it testing a Giulia Quadrifoglio on short-term loan to us. That experience matched our latest one, having occurred at full throttle during acceleration runs. Our test driver is convinced that the car had at least another tenth in it—but not in its present condition. Either way, the acceleration matched what we’d seen with previous Quads.
Hello Alfa dealer, it’s us again. This time the dealer told us we needed a new fuel pump (after reading a code for low pressure at the fuel rail) and that it would take a couple of weeks to get one.
We have never gotten an explanation for why the car’s interior smells like it does. It has been described as “some kid is doing a wood-burning craft in the back seat” and “the Louisville Slugger factory.” Eventually, you get used to it, in part because it appears there is no other choice.
Believe us, we really didn’t want to start this story this way. We love the Giulia and the stomping Quadrifoglio in particular (note the models’ presence on our 2018 10Best Cars list). There’s no denying that this has been an ominous beginning to a 40,000-mile test of an Italian car. For now, hope springs eternal. We’re hoping this fuel-pump issue is just the Quadrifoglio’s way of clearing its throat, not a harbinger of coming doom. We’ll see.
This early stumble hasn’t (yet) extinguished the affection we have for our ass-kicking—and pretty—sports sedan. We ordered our car covered in $2200 of Rosso Competizione paint; bolted on dark-finish, five-hole 19-inch wheels for $500; paid $400 for a steering wheel with carbon-fiber trim; and added $1200 worth of driver-assist systems (lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam headlamps). Tack on the destination charge, and the car totaled $79,595.
We passed on the $3500 carbon-fiber-back Sparco racing buckets and the $8000 carbon-ceramic brake rotors, because the car sits and stops just fine as is. Well, the standard front seats have come in for kudos for comfort and support. The brakes, however, have received a few raspberries for a pedal that is nearly impossible to modulate around town, leading to herky, jerky stops and squealing pads. The electrohydraulically assisted brakes aren’t the only rude part of the Quadrifoglio. The V-6’s idle is lumpy. The shift paddles for the eight-speed automatic are so huge that they block the left and right stalks. And you might not want to drive the Quadrifoglio during allergy season, because the steering is so quick that one sneeze while behind the wheel might immediately transport you to a roadside drainage ditch.
But we love it. We can’t help it. Apart from the inconsistent brake pedal, we’re willing to accept all of the above drivability shortcomings as the tiny price one has to pay for a car as single-mindedly focused on performance as the Quadrifoglio. There are precious few cars like it. Its steering is sublime. Perfectly weighted and quick, but you have to pay attention. And its engine is a boot to the ass of day-to-day driving. Its rush is pharmaceutical grade. Its ride quality is amazingly supple for a car with such tremendous body control. And it looks so good.