Alfa Romeo celebrated its 110th anniversary this year. It was a significant milestone, making it one of the oldest manufacturers in the world. While the celebrations were hampered by COVID19, Alfa pressed ahead with the reopening of its museum in Arese on 24th June, the date when the company was already founded, to the delight of the Alfisti around the world. With 2020 quickly drawing to a close, I decided to celebrate Alfa Romeo’s 110th anniversary in my own way by testing the latest Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce. I was not disappointed!
When the new Alfa Romeo Giulia was launched in 2016, it ushered in a brand new era for the Milanese car maker. In a sea of rather average looking modern saloons, the Giulia has stood out thanks to its attractive styling and sporting pretence. But the really big question is this… does it have the soul, that fizzing excitement that has always made Alfa’s special? I got behind the wheel of the latest Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce to find out.
My last experience with an Alfa Romeo was two years ago when I owned and then sold my 1988 S3 Spider. Comparing an old Italian convertible against a brand new Italian sports saloon is akin to paring up chalk with cheese. It’s just not a fair comparison. The S3 Spider you see represented Alfa Romeo of old, with the raspy twin cam engine and the awkward, off centre driving position. It was the later that forced me to sell my Spider and ever since it left, I have dearly missed that sweet sounding Alfa twin cam.
You see the four cylinder twin cam was the beating heart of Alfa’s for many many decades. It powered a whole host of models from the 1960s right through to the 1990s. For the Alfisti, it is this engine that has always given the cars their soul, that touch of magic that makes them exhilarating to drive. Despite the compromises and the pain that often comes with owning an old Alfa, these always melt away when you find that perfect moment on the open road. So when the Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce arrived, you could say I was more than just a little curious to see if it could live up to that legacy.
For me the Giulia is one of the most beautiful saloons on the road today. While some rivals insist on styling their cars like tie fighters on wheels, the Alfa stands out thanks to its graceful profile and trademark Italian style. The softened curves are very easy on the eye, with just the right amount of aggressive styling to suggest that this is a turbo charged saloon with 280BHP on tap. The test car was also finished in Misano Blue, a very attractive shade that looked absolutely fantastic, which was complimented by the latest take on the Alfa five hole alloys. Standing still, the Giulia Veloce looks resplendent in its sharp Italian suit.
Stepping into the Giulia Veloce cabin, an air of premium level quality hits you right away. The dashboard is sleek and modern with all the controls in the right place. The finish of the panels and controls are both pleasing to the eye and touch. The flat bottom steering wheel feels nice to hold and it is just the right size. The black leather seats are a touch on the firm side, but they are supportive and are nicely styled, as you’d expect for an Italian sports saloon. Basically its a very nice place to be and it comes with all the driving aids and extras that you expect to find in a new, premium level car.
One detail that stands out in the interior are the manual gear shift paddles behind the steering wheel. They feel nice and solid to the touch, which again affirms the feeling of quality. They are also huge, far longer that you’d expect them to be. This you see is just a subtle hint of what’s to come. More on that in a moment.
Firing up the Giulia Veloce’s 2.0ltr engine, it starts by default in “N” mode. Alfa’s driving experience is essentially packaged around what it calls “D.N.A”, which allows you to choose the settings for the drive train and suspension, depending on your mood. For those familiar with the fantastic 8 Speed ZF gearbox, these drive modes are key to the modern day Alfa driving experience. So if you are looking for a relaxed drive, you simply choose “Normal” or “Advanced Efficiency”. On the road, both these modes are very civilised, with the ZF automatic gearbox making the Giulia a very easy car to drive. It is refined and quiet and the engine responds well, with gear changes barely noticeable. As an A-B mode of transport, the Giulia Veloce works superbly, getting you where you need to be with minimal fuss and effort. There is a sense however that the Alfa is holding something back and this is where “Dynamic Mode” comes in.
Turning the selector wheel to “D” suddenly transforms the Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce into something very very special. The engine note changes immediately, jumping by around 500RPM. At the same time the exhaust note also changes quite dramatically… suddenly you can hear it more clearly and as you rev the 2.0 litre, turbo charged engine, it rasps and crackles. And as you grip the steering wheel, it goes a little lighter in your hands, willing you to turn it more quickly and aggressively.
Launching forward from a standing start, the Giulia Veloce pulls very strongly with a significant shove from the turbo. On paper the stats say it can do 0-60 in 5.7 seconds and it certainly feels every bit as fast. It literally pushes you back into your seat, with the gears changing in the blink of an eye. The roar from the engine is amazing and the rasping exhaust note just adds to the thrill. Suddenly I knew I was in a true Alfa Romeo, the warble from the engine and the exhaust noise was almost like the old Alfa twin cam. It actually reminded me of my S3 Spider when it was on song, but with bags more power and comfort. The sensation was simply exhilarating as the whole car felt alive, almost tingling with a fizz that you can only get in a well sorted classic Alfa. It honestly felt like driving heaven… but the best was yet to come.
Dynamic Mode really is huge fun but the real party piece is unveiled when you put the frankly awesome ZF autobox into manual mode. Suddenly the Giulia Veloce transforms itself once again. Powering into the corners, the paddle shift levers work so so well, the gears changing up and down at will. The manual ratios match the engine perfectly and as you accelerate hard, it holds the gear, waiting for you to give the command to change. In manual mode the engine literally roars, urging you to push the sports saloon hard in and out of fast, tight corners. And this is where it gets even better.
The handling ability of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce is simply phenomenal. Putting it through its paces on my favourite test route, the sports saloon corners with almost zero body roll. The steering is super light and responsive, the rear wheel drive giving you just the right amount of feedback. The suspension setup is so good it honestly doesn’t feel like a saloon at all. It actually behaves more like a hatchback, which is astonishing. It feels light, nimble and agile and it simply eats corners up and spits you out the other side with a massive grin on your face. This is where the 50/50 weight distribution comes into its own. And as you race along the road, gripping the steering wheel, the extra long paddle shift levers really do shine, allowing for light finger tip touches. The balance is just beautiful, it really is!
Added to that are the brakes which are strong and pull the saloon up nicely, giving you plenty of confidence. If you do push it a bit too hard, especially in the wet, you can feel the rear step out, but the level of control is there. It is a long time since a car has left me in complete awe, but the Giulia Veloce did just that and more. It is simply breathtaking!
After a full week on test, I completely fell in love with the Giulia Veloce. It simply blew me away with how complete a car it felt. It just ticks so many boxes and has all the right ingredients that make it the ultimate drivers car. Most important however is the fact it both looks and drives as an Alfa should. That soul that has always made Alfa’s special has been superbly crafted into one epic sports saloon. 110 years on, it is a joy to know that Alfa Romeo has managed to keep that connection to its racing past. The Giulia Veloce continues that illustrious sporting legacy in the best way possible.