Cracking off shifts of the ZF 8-speed automatic with the column-mounted aluminum paddle shifters, the 505-horsepower turbocharged 2.9-liter V-6 snarling like a staked pitbull, and railing up the fast, heavy g-loading of Turn 1 at Sonoma, the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio tucks in and rotates with an alacrity that borders on alarming—especially if you've engaged the rather permissive slip angles of Race mode via the console-mounted DNA drive selector.
It's a revelation for a luxury sports sedan, and a welcome one.
First among the odd choices for the Giulia is the complete absence of a manual transmission from the American market. That's right—even though it's offered in Europe, the product planners for the U.S. just don't think it makes sense to offer the manual, even on the Quadrifoglio, because no one would buy it.
When asked, Alfa's reps claim a mere 1.0 percent of buyers would even be interested—never mind the fact that sales figures for many other enthusiast-targeted cars in America include plenty of manual gearboxes. But whatever the ultimate figure would be for Alfa's latest offering, an outright refusal to even offer the manual option is a bizarre choice for a car that's all about passion and ensuring the "driver drives the car," rather than the "car driving the driver," a criticism Alfa lobs at its competition often and pointedly.
The next odd choice for a car that's ostensibly all about the experience is the brake-by-wire system. Rather than the driver pressing a pedal that directly actuates the hydraulics that clamp brake pads to rotors, the Giulia (both standard variants and the hot Quadrifoglio) has a rubber block to simulate pedal feel and an electronic sensor that detects pedal movement, then translates this to a computer signal that activates the brakes for you, applying pressure to the carbon ceramic discs according to some algorithm. The Quadrifoglio does get a stiffer rubber "feel simulator" and shorter pedal travel than the standard Giulia, giving it somewhat more appropriate feel on track or in spirited driving, but there's still a notable disconnect between the car's braking behavior and any sort of feel through the pedal.