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Used test: Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio vs BMW M3

Buy either of these two great four-year-old performance cars and you're in for treat, but which one should you put on your driveway? Read on to find out...

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio vs BMW M3 fronts

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 is still the one to beat if you want to lift the performance car crown.  

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


What is the key ingredient of a performance car? Some may argue speed, but we'd say an engaging driving experience is just as important, if not more so.

It has to thrill you not just because of how quick it is from 0-60mph, but also because of how it handles, behaves and reacts to your inputs. If you look at it this way, you'll soon find yourself entranced by the BMW M3 – and on a used budget of £40,000, a previous-generation Competition Pack model is an excellent choice. 

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Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

But wait, there's another option. For a couple of thousand pounds more, you could have an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio from the same year (2017). It has more power, plus Italian charm, style and a lairy personality. On paper at least, it seems well-equipped to bring the fight to the M3, and for some – perhaps most – it will be the more desirable, evocative fast saloon. 

Which four-door rocket should you pick up used? There can be only one winner, so let battle commence.


Driving

Performance, ride, handling, refinement

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 pressing the brake and accelerator together, releasing your left foot and being fired towards the horizon.

BMW M3

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.

The BMW’s seven-speed and the Alfa Romeo’s eight-speed automatic gearboxes are both 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.

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.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio vs BMW M3 sides

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.

Of course, these cars will spend far more time on the road than the track, and it’s there that the Giulia’s comfier ride and quieter interior appeal. If you switch its standard adaptive suspension back to its comfiest setting, 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.


Next: What are they like inside? >>

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