What Did You Expect?

Car&Driver magazine took the hotter-than-fire Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio for an extended 40,000-mile test, and it broke their tiny little hearts.

Why so?  Well, to anyone who’s ever owned or driven an Alfa Romeo for any length of time, it’s quite simple, really:

Of course  the electricals were going to fail — and of course  the hoses weren’t going to be properly clamped, and of course  the indicator lever was going to snap in your hand like a piece of raw spaghetti, and of course  the door-handles  and gear knob were going to come off in your hand — wait, the last three didn’t happen?

Actually, by normal Alfa Romeo standards then, the little Giulia QF is quite reliable.

Here’s the thing:  the more complicated cars become, the greater the chance that things will go wrong.  (Hell, my rock-solid-reliable VW Tiguan has a faulty tire-pressure sensor, and a dicky coolant sensor needs replacing as well — granted, these after 85,000 miles, but still.)

Now add that greater complication to an Italian  car — especially  any Alfa Romeo — and the chance of things breaking will increase exponentially.  All those electrical- and electronic doodads are simply begging to fail, and the more of them there are… well, clearly Car&Driver  didn’t get the memo.

Read the linked article for the testers’ comments, which are priceless.  My favorite:

Just a prediction:  Nobody is going to buy this car when we are done with it.

Wrong.  Serious Alfa Romeo fans will read the critique and see that in just over a year, the car was in the shop for a total of three months.  Then they’ll shrug and say, “I wonder if I can get it in green?”  (Answer:  no.)

Silly rabbits.


  1. “…faulty tire-pressure sensor…”

    LOL, for close to 50 years, and counting, my eyeballs have done that stuff. Never failed in all that time. Funny, eh?

    After looking several times now I still don’t know exactly where the battery is in my wife’s late model Equinox. Maybe we’ll find out when it fails. Or not. The biggest problem I see with that Equinox is that the V6 engine is sideways! It’s all downhill after that.

    1. 30 years ago you replaced your tires annually, or whenever they went bad, which ever came first.

      These days you might drive off the lot, own the car for 5 years and sell the car without ever having an issue.

      If you’re lucky enough to miss the nails that seem to fall from the sky.

      So for people who treat their cars like appliances tire pressure sensors can be lifesavers.

  2. I’ve read some of the reviews on the Alfa out of curiosity because it is a direct competitor for my Cadillac ATS-V. Perhaps even worse than its electronics problems is the scarcity of dealers to fix said problems. I am very fortunate in having bought my car from a performance oriented Cadillac dealer. They know their stuff. But yeah, down the road, I anticipate repair adventures. I bought the service manual when it became available, all 9,289 pages.

    1. “the scarcity of dealers to fix said problems. ”

      Scarcity of *mechanics* is why the test car spent three months in the shop.

      I guess the market for ARs is too small for third-party companies to produce reliable replacements for these low-quality parts?

    1. Reliable and boring… I think that’s the Ford motto — or it should be.

      1. Like VW. I’ve had my VW for 5 years now, only thing broken on it was a drive belt and that was from a piece of loose gravel getting in between the belt and the tension rollers.

      2. Hell, that’s what I want my my daily runner: Reliable and boring. And a manual transmission, or as I like to call it, “The Millennial Theft Deterrent Device”

    2. I had a Ford Pickup Truck, V8, three on the tree. You could get parts off the internet for a 48 year-old Truck!!! It had the same flaw my mom’s old Ford had when I was in Junior High School. The steering was something adapted out of a Mr. Olympia gym routine, and if you turned it off for more than an hour it was harder to start than a teenager who’d been out all night.
      That being said, the other parts were reliable after I replaced them for the first time since 1970 (Darned thing, 40 years and the shifter bushings finally give way.)

  3. My late Uncle-in-law (actually Great-Uncle-in-law) was a Fiat mechanic for many years. He taught me one life-lesson I try to never forget: never buy an Italian car.

    1. Nonsense. Buying an Italian car makes your next purchase of a German car all that more gratifying.

      1. In Germany and Austria they say that “FIAT” means “Fehler in Aller Teile”, or “Fault in Every Part.” I’d read that the Toyota NSX required Ferrari to up its game, but I guess the message didn’t get to the other italian automakers yet. How does Alfa dare do the Nurnburgring?

  4. My Subaru Outback has had some mechanical problems lately. Brakes, rear wheel bearings.

    Of course, it’s a 2001 with 180,000 miles on it, so I don’t feel bad about spending the money to fix that stuff…

      1. No, and thank God.

        When I was a kid NO ONE respectable owned a 10 year old car as their primary driver–they just weren’t reliable, and they leaked fluids like Clinton’s girlfriends.

        And you *did not* buy a car with more than 60k on the clock unless you were planning on fixing it up.

        Today 60k is about the first oil change.

    1. I’ve got a 2004 Subaru with about that on the clock. It was parked in a garage for 2 years while I was over seas. My uncle put the battery back in (we’d put it on a shelf in my mom’s basement). He charged it for a bit, started it up and drove it to the dealer to get a monster service (to be fair it needed the service before we parked it).

      It’s pretty…broken in these days. Some of the parts rattle, and it’s not nearly as comfortable to drive as the 2004 Lexus GX470 we bought 3-4 years ago (that one currently has almost 200k on the ODO)

      Still, it runs well and it’s paid for. It’ll keep getting repaired until something major breaks.

      The Subaru it replaced had 470k? on the ODO when it died of massive systems failure–within about 200 miles *everything* from the transmission to the windshield wipers stopped functioning.

      I probably won’t get another Subaru. Not because of reliability, but because they don’t offer a vehicle I want. I really like the Toyota Highlanders as a replacement. Maybe the Lexus version if they un-f*k their ‘design language’ into something that doesn’t make me want to take a lead pipe to their design team.

  5. Kim, on the subject of small cars, I ran into this piece of idiocy yesterday: https://jalopnik.com/small-cars-ride-or-die-1825546501

    It was linked from an article on the same site about a new Honda electric car that probably won’t come to the states, and suffered from all the usual idiocy of someone who lives in NYFC or maybe New Jersey.

    Oooh, it’s got a 125km range on its battery and it can charge 80% in 30 minutes (let’s round that up to 70 miles for use later). Well, that’s great! So if I want to go on a road trip, let’s compare some numbers. On the highway, let’s say I can drive an average speed of 70mph, so in 3 hours, I can go ~200 miles, and let’s say I need to stop for 15 minutes to gas up afterwards (because I don’t want to run the tank empty). To go those same 200 miles in the Honda e, I can drive ~70mi in an hour, then stop for half an hour. Total time? 4.5 hours. Heaven help me if I wanted to drive 600 miles (or 3000 like Im thinking about doing as a cross-country trip later this summer), and that’s assuming I can *find* an electric charger once an hour. If I remember correctly, the Tesla supercharger network on the interstate system is mostly 200 miles apart if you’re not on the coast.

    1. yeah, those tiny electrics are nice if all you need them for is city traffic.
      For commuters they’re useless.
      But for people who only need them for city traffic they’re way too expensive.

      That little Honda is going to sell for about 35000 Euro probably, which is the price of say a Mondeo or Audi A3.
      It’ll attract some virtue signalling rich city dwellers who will use it to show off how “green” they are with the Honda in front of their million Euro loft apartment while the Mercedes E class is hidden in the underground carp park around the corner for when they really need to go somewhere.

      I’m somewhat looking into the VW Id.3 myself, which does promise to have halfway decent range. But I’m waiting for more information, as well as for what the taxes here are going to be on them in a few years time.
      And that mainly because I’m afraid our idiots in charge (aka our government) here in the Netherlands are going to ban fossil fuel powered cars in the not too distant future and I do need some wheels to get to work and back (given the awful state of our train network, using the train would take me 4-5 hours a day LONGER to get to work than my car).

    2. I live about 15 miles from “downtown”–which is about the furthest I’d be willing to commute on a daily basis. I’m looking for work now, having worked from home for the last almost 4 years. I have a couple (see above) older, but still reliable vehicles.

      But if I wind up working downtown I’m *seriously* considering buying a used plug-in electric vehicle as a third car.

      My longest driving day would be slightly more than 60 miles, most of it highway. Having an electric vehicle would let me use the commuter lanes (if there are any–I don’t think on those highways), and would make it a LOT easier to find a parking spot where (depending on cost) I could charge my car while I was working.

      No, electric cars don’t make any sense as road trip vehicle. But pickup trucks and SUVs don’t make any sense as *commuter* vehicles. Once you get your ego out of the way and start running numbers it would make more sense to buy a commuter car, and then rent a car for long road trips–we did this for a couple years before we got the Subaru.

      Why then do I own the Lexus? Because I live at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, and at the time we were going up there a lot and having to pass on some places we wanted to go because we were pretty sure the Subaru would bottom out (it’s a Legacy wagon, so it’s sorta low slung).

    1. You did see Clarkson’s review of the Quadrifiglio on Top Gear? (He referred to it at one point as the Quadriplegia.)

      1. Jeremy Clarkson… Anybody that punches Piers Morgan is okay in my book.

  6. Not having direct experience with either, which is worse: Lucas or Italian wiring?

    1. I’ve had lots of fun with Lucas (the Prince of Darkness) electrics. We used to say that the Brits drank warm beer because their refrigerators were made by Lucas. I can’t speak to Italian electrical systems with much authority except for the new and inventive cuss words I learned from a friend who owned a very much abused Fiat 500 back in the late 1960’s. The battery on that Fiat wouldn’t stay charged but it was light enough that two skinny teenagers could push it up hill fast enough to bump start it.

  7. RandyGC – the answer to your question is yes.

    I owned two Alfas, a 164L and 164S. The first was my wife’s car for several trouble free years until our son totaled it, low speed fortunately, at 100+k miles. The second was a cheap second-hand commuter for me and had some of the problems noted.

    The QF comes with 3/4’s of a Ferrari V8 and if you aren’t a whiny car buff mag author, you would make certain allowances in exchange for getting your hands on that. Of course, you’d have a cheap back-up car, too.

    1. “Of course, you’d have a cheap back-up car, too.”

      Wiser words were seldom spoken. All Alfa Romeos are SECOND cars, not primary ones. Like Ferraris, come to think of it.

    2. Believe it or not that engine block is cast in Al in the US. It is a close relative of the FCA Pentastar engine that itself was an offshoot of the Mercedes Benz M276.

  8. I had an ’88 ALFA Spider (see my avatar) for several years that was a joy to drive. That Joy was predicated on a few things: I like to tinker on cars, I didn’t have to depend on the ALFA, it provided just enough thrill without certain danger, and it provided a certain amount of je ne sais quoi that made women stop and smile at this overweight middle-aged guy.

    I’m glad I had that car, I probably won’t get another.

  9. Read the whole article, twice, just to be sure of the content while chuckling. My first impression was that C&D has gone somewhat snowflake since I last subscribed to them in the 80’s and the second was, don’t buy what you can’t fix on your own.

    Having owned and driven Brit, Italian, German, US, Japanese and even (ugh!) French cars, I can quite confidently assure everyone that you don’t buy Italian other than for the driving experience (when it runs). Almost the same goes for Brit sports cars. You want dead nuts reliability A to B, get Japanese, Korean or German. The Germans will be a tad more sporty and fun to drive than Japanese (I am talking manual shift here) but otherwise, German also has quirks that one learns to identify and repair.

    US iron with V8 pre electronic anything has always been my passion, but the reality of fuel prices, all the electronics and effing CAFE killed much of it. Working on my son’s FORD stable has also turned me off on the brand, too complex and heavy, with a penchant to fail bigly right outside of the warranty.

    Much like Kim, have settled on two VW TDi products that run well, one Japanese small SUV 4×4 for the wife (snow country 5 of 12), and to play with, a 64 Mercedes and 52 MG TD (both in process of restoration). If I find a 65 Impala wagon in sound body shape, it is on the bucket list.

    1. Don’t forget the mid 60’s Chevy pick ups. Dead solid reliable, parts are readily available, and they look pretty good – better than the Fords and Dodges of the same era. A Chevy pickup with a 283 and three speed stick is about as bulletproof as you can get and if you worry about such things an EMP won’t put you out of business.

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