UNITED STATES—I don’t usually declare a car of the month, mainly because it would require too much research and digging into sales stats. However, March did feature my first sighting of the new Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Yes, Quadrifoglio. That’s Italian speak for “four leaf clover.” Now, I can’t guarantee that my sighting occurred on St. Patrick’s Day, but it was close enough. But, is it enough that the new Alfa sports green clover badges on its front fenders? Is that enough to earn the title, “Car of the Month”? No, of course not.
The real reason behind this award is that we finally have a challenger in the most competitive performance sedan segment that is built by the country most synonymous with ultimate performance: Italy. Indeed, the Germans have owned the performance sedan segment since its inception. In fact, they invented it. Monikers like “M3”, “S4”, “AMG” got things rolling when they first showed consumers they could have sports car performance in a nimble four-door package back in the late 80s/early 90s.
“Where were the Italians when all this was going on?”, you might ask. Well, due to various economic hardships, the Italians were trying to pass off unreliable front-wheel-drive Alfas and Fiats as legitimate answers to the German products. All this accomplished was to diminish the reputation of the Italians as capable engineers. Sure, they could build million dollar supercars, but when it came to developing high quality, sophisticated performance vehicles for those of us who aren’t billionaires, the Italians were lost in the woods.
There is, however, reason to believe the Italians are taking things more seriously this time. The evidence lies in the targets themselves. Since the Giulia arrived, BMW has upped the ante with a competition package that infuses 19 more horses into its M3. Mercedes has built an “S” version of their C63 AMG that breaks the 500 horsepower barrier.
Who knows when Audi will rejoin the fray with a new RS4, but they might just be waiting in anticipation of something we are all hoping for. Something we are all reluctant to believe possible simply because it never has been possible before. Could this really be the year the Italians finally prove they can build the best performance sedan money can buy? Audi might just be preemptively targeting Alfa as the new standard bearer.
Whether the Italians have indeed found a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, remains to be seen. Alfa’s have always been fast looking cars, but the optical illusion was usually revealed once you got behind the wheel. If all goes as planned, I’ll have a chance to drive the Quadrifoglio this April in Monterey, California.
Last year, I sampled Alfa’s 4C along the PCH and was impressed with its performance in spite of its underwhelming standard equipment list. Yes, the 4C is meant to be more of a track day toy, but when the weight loss program includes removing the carpets, that pretty much eliminates the it as a weekend stress reducer. I’m hoping the new Quadrifoglio gets the formula right. The M3 could use some new competition.
So far, Cadillac’s ATS-V is the only car that can hold its own against the venerable German. There’s no reason why the Italians shouldn’t challenge the benchmark. But, they’d better act quickly. Eventually, GM is going to get tired of the constant back and forth, they’re going to stuff a ZO6 engine into the ATS-V, call it the “F—OFF!, Europe” edition, and that will be the end of it. Until then, let the games begin. With any luck Alfa will have finally found a clearing in the woods, a nice sun soaked patch of four leaf clovers.