Get that speed under control, however, and the Quadrifoglio's handling turns very neutral, letting you play with the balance via the throttle pedal mid-turn. During my first couple of sessions, I was just learning to do this in the 5-6 "Deep Demon" double apex, the turn 8 carousel, and the turn 9 "Wiggly Field" right hander that lets you carry a lot of speed into turn 10B.
The way the car accelerates is also intoxicating. Yes, it makes its best power over 4,000 rpm, but in Dynamic mode the 8-speed automatic stays in as low a gear as possible, keeping the 2.9-liter V-6 in its power band. Squeeze the throttle exiting a turn and the car slingshots forward, building speed quickly. At the end of the longest straight, it hit 128 mph, 4 mph faster than the ATS-V I had here two years ago. The low-pitched sound is also like nothing else on the market.
I had no issue modulating the brakes despite the fact that this is a brake-by-wire system. On a track, you brake hard to get your speed under control for that next corner. I had a few minor issues on the street with pedal modulation, but this system isn't bad.
During my second stint, I started to play with Race mode, which shuts off the stability control and leaves the shifting up to the driver. Alfa fits what must be the largest shift paddles on the planet, so reaching them is no problem. I still wasn't entirely comfortable with the car's handling, and I didn't like the fact that the digital speed readout had given way to a gear indicator, so I soon switched back to Dynamic mode, thinking I'd try Race next time. By the way, that gear indicator also includes a shift light, but Alfa Romeo's graphic should make it more obvious when to shift. I don't want to have to concentrate on the shift light when driving on a track.
Gingerman Raceway track mapEnlarge Photo
A check of the GoPro shows I was turning consistent 1:49-1:50 laps, perhaps dipping into the 1:48 range. That's a bit of a disappointment, as I got into the 1:46s with the ATS-V. However, steering feel isn't this car's best friend and I was still getting a feel for car's limits of grip. Had I more time in the car, I'm sure I would have been able to take advantage of those sticky tires, carry more speed into those aforementioned corners, and taken the lap time down to the 1:46 or even 1:45 range.
Alas, that was not to be.
The disappointment came on the first lap of only my third stint. After just two turns, it flashed a message that the brake fluid was low. Within a couple more turns, the car started spitting out maintenance message after maintenance message, and by turn 9 it went into limp mode. I shut it down and headed into the pits, hoping 30 minutes of cool down would correct any issues.
After about 20 minutes I was down to just two codes. That's when I decided to disconnect the battery to try to reset the computer. I did that, waited 10 minutes or so, and reconnected the cables. The result? All the codes came back.
Well, that was it. My day was done. My worst fears were realized. This brilliant, finicky, exotic, Italian car did just what I feared it might. It thrilled me for two track sessions, then decided I wasn't worthy and that it didn't want any more track time.
At least none of the issues was mechanical, and I was able to drive it home.
I called Alfa Romeo communications department to inform them of the issue. A PR representative said that this particular car was a very early build and it might still need some of the kinks ironed out.
I just hope that some day I get a chance to really drive this car hard and see what it can do for longer than 20 minutes.