Cara Mia

Back in the old days, I used to post pictures of beautiful women on Sundays, mostly of screen sirens of the black-and-white movie era. I’m not going to do that anymore, because I think I mined that particular vein pretty thoroughly, and anyway it’s too constricting a topic. Instead, on Sundays, I’m going to talk about anything that takes my fancy — stuff that’s not part of the normal rants and gun worship during the week. Today, and for many Sundays to come, I’m going to talk about Beautiful Things (of any definition)… and if I run out of those things to talk about, well, we’re all in trouble.

I have often been teased about my love for Italian cars — not just Ferraris, Maseratis and Lambos, but for the… lesser brands like Fiat and Alfa Romeo, if we can call them that. Here’s what I wrote about Alfa Romeos many, many years ago.

You get into your Alfa, and wonder of wonders, it starts first time. You set out on your journey, a journey that will take you over fifty miles on curving, twisting mountain roads. You accelerate, and your Alfa whispers in your ear: “Come, cara mia, I can give you more than that; you may use me, use me hard, and I will reward you beyond your wildest dreams.” So you accelerate, and still that soft Italian voice urges you on: “Is that all you ask from me, cara? I have more to give, if you will just ask me for it.” You drive at what you think is an impossible speed; surely, you think, you will crash soon. But the miles fly past, the curves disappear in your rearview mirror (assuming you have the courage to look into it), and still your Alfa purrs encouragement into your ear. Finally, you reach your destination, shaking as though you have just made love to the world’s most beautiful Italian woman. You sit there for a moment, savoring the experience. Then you get out of the Alfa, and the door handle comes off in your hand.

Alfa Romeos aren’t like that anymore. Oh sure, they can be maddening to drive, their cars are more suited for the track than for everyday use, and they’re still built for runty Italians than fat Americans.

Until now.

Allow me to introduce to you the greatest performance sedan on Earth, the car that costs less than half any other performance saloon car, yet still delivers 512hp (!) and a top speed of nevermind: the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.

It derives its immense power from a smallish 2.9-liter V6 engine, rides like a dream, and is an order of magnitude better than any other Alfa sedan ever made. More impressive still is the build quality, which is apparently on a par with any luxury performance sedans extant, in that its door handles aren’t going to fall off, the electrical system works just fine, and the automatic transmission, astonishingly, is better than the manual gearbox. I haven’t yet driven the Giulia, of course, but from all accounts, this is not your father’s Alfa Romeo. And most important of all, it costs around $85,000 versus, say, a Maserati Quattroporte GTS Lusso ($165,000 for a 3.9-liter V8 yielding 455hp) or a Porsche Panamera 4S ($125,000 for a 2.9-liter V6 yielding 440hp), and is only a few grand more expensive than its nearest real rival, a loaded BMW M3 — and the M3 isn’t nearly as exciting to look at and, from all accounts, to drive, with its 425hp I6 engine. Only the Mercedes CL AMG 63 ($88,000 for a 4.0-liter V8 yielding 503hp) comes anywhere close to the Alfa in cost and power — and like the Beemer, the Merc is dead boring to look at.

But for me, comparisons are boring. What’s exciting is that Alfa Romeo USA will at last be selling not a go-kart like the 4C, but a real car for grownups.

(I can’t afford a Giulia, of course; a Fiat 124 Spider Lusso  ($28,000 for a 1.4-liter turbo yielding 160hp) is much more to my wallet’s capacity, and I’ll be writing about that one later.)

But Alfa is back… and it’s just as exciting a prospect as its last beautiful saloon car worthy of the Alfa name, the Alfetta GTV6 (2.5-liter V6 yielding 160hp):

I have driven this beauty, from memory, back in about 1983 — and my earlier description of driving an Alfa Romeo is based on this model, driven through South Africa’s mountainous Van Reenen’s Pass at frightening speed. (I should point out that the GTV6 also won the European Touring Car Championship for an unprecedented four years in succession, from 1982 to 1985.)

Today, the 2017 Giulia Quadrifoglio would eat its lunch.

5 comments

  1. Ever see Jeremy Clarkson express his admiration of Alfa Romeos, Kim? See his review of the Disco Volante, for example. He very much likes the Giulia as well.

  2. Ah, the Fiats.
    While home on liberty from the Navy, I was walking my folk’s dog and saw a Fiat 850 Spyder sitting in a driveway around the corner. The car looked lost and forlorn, leaning on a flat tire, and covered with dust. It was not love at first sight, but I was an attraction to the red convertible, because, well, it was exotic and foreign. And I noticed a moving van was parked in front of the house. I asked the owner of the car what they were going to do with the Fiat, and after some bargaining, I owned a Fiat. Surprisingly, after fixing the flat, charging the battery, and reattaching the fuel line to the carburetor, the car started and ran.
    I owned the car before I got married and we sold the car after we were married about a year.
    The car was a lot of fun to drive, and based only on owning the one Fiat, the reputation for constant repairs was well deserved.
    But even now, thirty seven years later, I find myself looking at the ads for used Fiat Spyders and thinking, maybe this time.

  3. In the nineties I owned the previous model, the Alfetta 2000 GTV and then the sports sedan with the same drive train, which was basically an Italian police car. Far from hating taking it to the mechanic I almost looked forward to see which Italian supercars would be in residence. Yes, an Alfa does tease and tempt and threaten and tends to be sullen if you don’t treat her the way she wants. But the ride, oh the ride.

  4. Your description of what an Alfa does to you is spot on.
    I have a 1988 Spider that has been a heart throb and a heart break. Beautiful car and a thrill to drive. Mine has the Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection, so starting is very reliable. However, I had burnt valves at about 35k miles (apparently not uncommon) and a spun rod bearing at about 50k (I don’t know the exact mileage because the odometer quit working). So, it sits in the garage waiting for me to fix it. Some days I swear I will give it away. Others are spent dusting her off and promising to pull the engine the next weekend. I think my wife is getting a tad jealous….

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