Used test: Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio vs BMW M3

Buy either of these two great sports cars at two-years-old and you'll save yourself a packet, but which one should you put on your driveway? Read on to find out...

Used test: Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio vs BMW M3

The Contenders

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

List price when new £61,000

Price today £42,000

Available from 2017-present

Can this sporty Alfa Romeo back up its purposeful looks with great performance and handling, and how does it stack up as a used car?

BMW M3 Competition Pack DCT

List price when new £63,000

Price today £40,000

Available from 2013-2019

BMW’s iconic M3 may no longer be on sale but it’s still the one to beat if you want to lift the sports car crown.  

* Price today is based on a 2017 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

Great performance cars are about more than just aggressive design and burbling exhausts. The fast saloon icon that is the BMW M3 may no longer be on sale (emissions restraints temporarily put paid to this model in 2018, but an all-new version is due very soon) but it has over the years built up a sterling reputation for class-leading performance and handling. In this more powerful, stiffer, Competition Pack form it’s one formidable opponent.

However, Alfa Romeo has been chomping at the bit to take the mighty M3’s crown, and when it launched the impressive Giulia Quadrifoglio back in 2017 we were convinced that it had achieved just that. The Italian brand’s old sports cars may have been forgettable, but this Quadrifoglio was different, because it was based on the underpinnings of the sharp-driving Giulia executive saloon. Add a twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine with even more power than the M3 can muster and the Alfa Romeo suddenly looked very attractive.

But which one of these makes the most sense as a used buy? After all, bought here at two-years-old both look good value on paper in terms of bang per buck. Read on to find out which one we recommend.

Used Alfa Romeo Giulia

What are they like to drive?

This is an important question, given that sports cars live or die by the way they accelerate and handle, but happily both do a fantastic job on both counts.

The Giulia’s engine is colossal in its power delivery, with no noticeable lag between you putting your foot down and the car responding, followed by a linear surge of acceleration that doesn’t stop until the V6 is at a screaming 6500rpm. In our tests, 0-60mph took just 3.9sec, and there’s no complicated launch control sequence; it’s a case of press the brake and accelerator together, release your left foot and be fired towards the horizon.

BMW’s launch control system is far more complex and requires a lengthy cool-down period between uses. Still, the M3’s twin-turbocharged straight-six engine is mightily impressive in the way it shoves the car forwards, even though it leaves the M3 marginally behind the lighter Giulia in a straight drag race.

Both the BMW’s seven-speed and the Alfa Romeo’s eight-speed automatic gearboxes are superbly in tune with their engines in Auto mode and similarly razor-sharp when you’re selecting gears manually using the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. The M3’s gearbox is a fraction smoother shifting in town, though.

Used BMW M3

The way these cars handle is equally engaging, despite the fact that they go about matters in slightly different ways. The Giulia’s lighter, quicker steering makes it feel more eager to turn in to corners, but it also has a more playful rear axle, so there’s plenty of opportunity to confidently adjust your line around corners with the accelerator pedal.

BMW’s approach is more assured. The M3’s stickier tyres mean you need to be pushing extremely hard for the rears to reach their grip limit (in the dry, at least), and while its steering is slower than the Giulia’s, it’s meatier and pleasingly accurate. Ultimately, the Giulia’s stronger performance couldn’t outweigh the M3’s higher handling limits on timed laps around our test track.

But of course, these cars will spend far more time on the road, and it’s here that the Giulia’s comfier ride and quieter interior appeal. Switch its standard adaptive suspension back to its comfiest setting and it soaks up ripples and potholes better than the firmer M3, which forgoes some compliance in the name of going faster around corners. The M3 also generates more suspension, road and wind noise on the move.