The Motor Press Guild’s annual “Track Days” event at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, CA is highly anticipated by journalists local to the Southern California region. It offers a chance for multiple manufacturers to bring out their latest product and give the media a chance to run the vehicles through the paces on the track, on the road, or on an off-road trail up the nearby mountain.
While I drove everything from the Dodge Durango SRT to the new Range Rover Velar, a pair of cars from Alfa Romeo really stood out. Alfa had the Giulia Quadrifoglio performance sedan available on the track and the 2018 Stelvio Ti AWD luxury SUV for the road test. I was extremely impressed with both vehicles and wanted to share how Alfa may be the answer for your next track-day cruiser or family transport.
2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio On The Track
Track photography by Manuel Carrillo III
While the Alfa Romeo Giulia has had its share of reliability problems, the performance Quadrifoglio model has been unanimously praised as an absolute beast on the track. The Quadrifoglio churns out a respectable 505 horsepower from a twin-turbo 2.9 L V6 that revs all the way up to 7,000 RPM. This motor was developed with help from the Ferrari branch of FCA and shares lineage with the V8 from the Ferrari California T. This all-Italian family tree is quickly apparent as a press of the bright red “Start” button on the steering wheel unleashes a noise that would make Pavarotti applaud. The smaller engine is certainly not as loud and angry-sounding as the Mercedes AMG E63 I tested the same day but in stride, the Alfa sounds like a fighter jet soaring overhead.
I dialed the Alfa’s DNA drive mode system into “Race” as I coasted out of the pits to start my run on Big Willow. Big Willow is a high-speed track with plenty of elevation changes and corner variation that can make any vehicle flaws quickly apparent. Exiting the sweeping turn 2 and heading into turn 3 you can begin to feel just how poised and athletic the Giulia feels. The Giulia is a precision tool that feels so effortless at speed that I begin to believe that I know what I’m doing on a race track with a 505 horsepower sedan. With each turn, you can feel the weight and balance of the car and use that information to point the Quadrifoglio exactly where you want to go. The engine, paired with an 8-speed automatic ZF transmission, is always ready to deliver and propelled me out of turn 6 and barreling down on turn 7 at speeds approaching 120 MPH. Sure, other performance sedans may be better at delivering a tire-obliterating lap that leaves you with sweaty palms and increased heart rate. But the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio will ensure that its driver is calm, comfortable, and back in the pits for a latte well before the competition.
2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti On The Road
Stepping inside the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is a nearly identical experience to what you find in the standard Giulia sedan. The steering wheel, seats, and dash layout remain simple and stylish with quality materials. Most buyers will find the interior on par with competition from something like an Audi Q5, but it is miles behind the leader in modern luxury interiors, the Mercedes GLC. All Stelvio models are AWD and our Ti model featured the optional 20-inch Sport Aluminum Wheels. On the outside, the Stelvio is absolutely stunning and looks more exotic than the more expensive Maserati Levante SUV.
Powering the Stelvio is a powerful 2.0L turbocharged engine with 280 horsepower and 306 lb-ft of torque. The 8-speed transmission and DNA drive modes from the Giulia transfer to the Stelvio and all of the powertrain systems work together like a perfect symphony. The Stelvio in Dynamic mode feels solid and quick to sprint off the line. The Stelvio has a perfect 50/50 weight balance and uses the same Giorgio platform as the Giulia. All of this adds up to an SUV that feels much closer to an Italian sports sedan than a luxury SUV. The driving dynamics of the Stelvio are closely reminiscent of the latest Mazda CX-9 as both utilize engine, suspension, and transmission tuning to create a truly wonderful driving experience. While most Stelvios will likely end up in a mall parking lot, the vehicle is truly at its best on an open backroad through the Mojave desert or diving through the mountains near Monterey.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio and Giulia In Monterey
Earlier in the year, I had an opportunity to spend more time on the road with both the Stelvio and the Giulia Quadrifoglio. The Folktale Winery is set just outside Monterey in the Carmel Valley and acted as the perfect staging site to launch a few Italian cars down the mountainous roads nearby. The event was part of the famous Monterey Car Week and would be my first opportunity to pilot both the Stelvio and Giulia Quadrofoglio. During a weekend where you may see a dozen Pagani Zondas drive by as if they were commonplace, it can be rather difficult to stand out. Despite this setting, the Stelvio Sport AWD that I drove first had a few necks snapping, even in a subtle white paint color. The Q4 all-wheel-drive system does a great job at keeping the Stelvio planted as I threw the car through the tight, twisted turns on the Carmel Valley Road. With the DNA drive mode set to “Normal,” the Stelvio is fairly quiet and comfortable, with a noticeable difference in steering feel and acceleration. The Advanced Efficiency mode is that helps return the posted 28MPG on the highway does a great job at holding the Stelvio in higher gears and limiting the power without completely ruing the experience.
Next up was my first time in the Giulia Quadrifolgio. There had been a group of younger boys posted on a corner of the mountain road to capture photos of the ultra-exotic cars making their way out of the Quail. I fired up the Rosso Competizione Giulia and set off towards the waiting group. I was more than a quarter-mile away when heads snapped our direction as the “brap-brap-brap” of the exhaust fired away. The Giulia Quadrofoglio evokes pure joy from behind the driver’s seat and even a casual jaunt through the hills can give the same thrill felt on the racetrack at Big Willow. With the Giulia Quadrifoglio winning Motor Trend’s Car of The Year and the official launch of the new Stelvio Quadrifoglio (pictured below), the future for the Alfa brand in the US is looking bright. I just hope the reliability problems that have plagued the early models don’t continue to sour the consumer’s taste for Italian cars.