An expensive performance saloon lives and dies by the way it drives and, in this regard, the Giulia Quadrifoglio is right up there with the best.
Its engine is hugely entertaining and, despite being heavily turbocharged, suffers hardly any lag, thus delivering a button-sharp throttle response. In fact, floor the accelerator from standstill and it’ll out-sprint both a BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63 to 62mph and carry on to a higher top speed than those cars, too. The eight-speed automatic gearbox plays a big part in that. Okay, it dithers and slurs a little at low speeds through town, but it transforms once you start to press on, producing finger-click-sharp manual changes when using the Giulia’s gorgeous aluminium column-mounted paddles.
The engine and gearbox are at their best when you’ve selected the sportiest Race driving mode, while Dynamic, Natural and Advanced Efficiency modes sit below it, offering more relaxed settings for both throttle response and gearchange. Race is also where the Giulia Quadrifoglio sounds its best, barking loudly as the revs rise and cracking violently on changes. It sounds so much more invigorating than a BMW M3 but, some might argue, not as good as the C63’s thundering 4.0-litre V8.
The brakes are a little disappointing. Not in terms of stopping ability - the optional ceramic brakes in particular provide monumental retardation from high speed – but in terms of feel. Because the Giulia Quadrifoglio’s brakes work via electronics rather than hydraulics, as you press the brake pedal the initial response is a tad vague.
There’s nothing wrong with the way the car handles, though. Thanks to a bespoke suspension tune, which can be made softer or stiffer independently of the drive mode selector to suit the bumpiness of the road, there’s next to no body roll while cornering at speed. The Giulia Quadrifoglio also has a clever differential on its rear axle that helps better distribute power as either wheel begins to slip. Of course, if you want to break traction at the rear and steer using the accelerator, that’s possible too – at which point you’ll discover that, despite its enormous power output, the car’s chassis is so much more forgiving (and considerably less daunting) than the twitchy M3’s.
It’s not just out of corners that the Giulia Quadrifoglio entertains. As you turn in to bends, it feels light, poised and nimble, the quick steering making it alert but never nervous. And its front wheels grip hard, so you can carry serious speed.
Then there’s the ride. If you think a performance car will be too firm, think again. Because while you can feel the Giulia Quadrifoglio following imperfections, it’s so supple and handsomely damped that it takes out the sting of sharp ridges and never jars.
In fact, the only real downside to the way the car drives is some wind and road noise at a cruise on the motorway. Its rivals, though, particularly the C63, suffer from this even more acutely.