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For years now, the midsize sedan segment has been predominantly overflowed with BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Classes and Audi A4s. The odd Lexus or Infiniti mixed things up a bit, but nowhere near enough to make the sector as exciting as it should be. Most of the big names were satisfied with the way things were, introducing little to no changes year in and year out. Recently, however, one manufacturer begged to differ. They offered something so wild and unique that it suddenly gave every other big car maker reason to worry about.
Yes, we are of course talking about the new Giulia. When it comes to exciting cars, Alfa Romeo has been out of the game for over a decade now. Starting in the mid to late 1990s and running all the way through most of the 2000s, Alfa has been making boring and dull mainstream cars for the average buyer. The 159 was alright design-wise, but it lacked any sort of driving excitement or character. The small MiTo introduced an improvement in Alfa’s styling department, but it was the Giulietta hinting that an all-new Alfa Romeo was just around the corner.
Then, as quickly as Alfa vanished back in the early 2000s, they were suddenly back. Alfa’s move to introduce the flagship Giulia first proved to be nothing short of a stroke of genius. The Giulia Quadrifoglio didn’t just rival BMW’s M3, Audi’s RS4 and Merc’s C63, but it completely wiped the floor with them. The Ferrari-derived 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 produces a monster 505 horsepower and it’s actually available with a proper six-speed manual. Naturally, only a small percentage of all Giulias will be Quadrifoglio versions, so what about the standard car? The ordinary sedan most of us, the average users, are going to purchase?
If looks are any indication, even the ‘ordinary’ Giulia is not ordinary at all. Following the aggressive Quadrifoglio boasting massively flared arches and quad tailpipes, most of us safely presumed lower versions would be a slight letdown. Not so. Most of the styling cues we saw in the QV are still here. Up front, you get the same triangular centre grille even down to the small chrome outline. The massive corner vents carry over to the base trims. Given that the diesels don’t need the extra cooling, we think they’re there just for looks alone. Props to Alfa for that one.
The front spoiler found on the QV isn’t present in base models, leaving a flat bottom up front, but it still looks mega. The hood is identical though, and so are the headlights. Moving to the side, it’s even more difficult to differentiate the QV from the base car. Apart from the clover badges indicating that it’s a QV, the only other difference is the lack of a small vent on the fender in base trims. Round the back, we find taillights identical to those on the QV but a spoiler-less decklid. The rear diffuser is still there, but it’s been significantly toned down. The large quad tailpipes have been substituted with dual chrome exhaust tips, one on each side.
The end result is nothing short of breathtaking. The 3-Series and the A4 don’t stand a chance against the Alfa’s looks. The new C-Class looks good, but it’s elegant and understated. The Cadillac ATS is, well, the worst of the bunch, and the only car which can really go toe-to-toe with the Alfa, at least styling-wise, is the facelifted Jaguar XE. So, a handsome Brit, or a fiery, beautiful Italian?
The cabin features something Alfa likes to call the “human-machine interface”. Simply put, most of the controls are angled towards the driver, putting the most amount of emphasis on him. The basic controls such as the start and the radio buttons are on the steering wheel for ease of access. The console features an Alfa DNA button for changing the settings and a controller for the 8.8-inch Connect 3D Nav infotainment system. Alfa managed to completely nail the ergonomics in the Giulia’s cabin.
On the whole, it feels like an interior which has been put together quite well. It’s minimalistic and somewhat docile compared to the exterior, but it does everything it needs to do. You can definitely tell it isn’t quite up to par with something like the C-Class, but it’s not too far off. It feels sporty, so matching it up against the luxurious cabin of the C-Class seems almost silly. The 3-Series is probably closer.
Engine and Performance
Sadly, the 2.9-litre V6 can only be found in the Quadrifoglio. Base Giulias get three different engine choices. The 2.2-liter diesel makes 110 kW and 131 kW, depending on the trim, but all non-European countries get petrol variants only. It’s a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged unit featuring a MultiAir electro-hydraulic valve actuator system, direct injection, and a 2-in-1 supercharging system. European models make 146 kW and 329 Nm of torque, with U.S. and Australian editions pushing out 206 kW and 400 Nm of torque. It sprints to 100 km/h in just 5.7 seconds and will top out at 240 km/h.
Underneath, the Giulia boasts double wishbone suspension with a semi-virtual steering axis and an innovative 4.5-link suspension solving toe adjustment for the rear. The rear cross member is aluminium/plastic composite, making it extremely light and stiff. The driveshaft is made out of carbon fibre (to reduce unsprung weight) and the suspension frames are entirely aluminium too. Alfa did an astounding job in making the Giulia as light and stiff as possible, and it really shows in the way the car drives.
There’s a lot of compliance and give in the dampers, but body roll is kept to a minimum. The steering wheel offers a tonne of feedback, making the car feel sportier even than BMW’s best. It’s light on its feet and incredibly agile, something we didn’t expect from Alfa’s first attempt at a sporty midsize sedan.
Alfa managed to beat the Germans at their own game, something no one has managed in a very, very long time. The Giulia is the current midsize sedan benchmark all other manufacturers should be aiming to top. The interior isn’t as good as some the Giulia’s rivals, but it more than makes up for it in all other key aspects. Well done Alfa.
Interesting stuff....if you haven't read it before.
The Lexus IS nameplate dates back to 1998 and the entry-level luxury segment. Originally a popular choice in Japan and the United States, the four-door sedan and five-door wagon variants were your only choice if you wanted the IS. There was no two-door coupe as demand was simply not that high for it back then. Fast forward to 2006 and the new generation, and things have drastically changed. Performance luxury coupes were fast outselling sedans and nowhere was this more apparent than with BMW’s M3 and Mercedes’ C63. To avoid competing with the much more capable Germans, Lexus offered a convertible version only. It wasn’t until 2015 and the third-generation IS that the highly-anticipated coupe version finally made its debut. Weirdly enough, it sported the RC F moniker rather than the IS.
Though the design is borrowed from its IS sibling heavily, the RC F is a bespoke product in terms of marketing placement. The aggressive design with lots of creases, sharp edges and bold lines makes it immediately apparent that something sinister lies beneath the alien-looking exterior. Lexus claims it pays tribute to the legendary LFA super car, but we’re not seeing that. Make no mistake, this is not a GT-R rival although it looks like it could be. It’s not a super car-killer the GT-R is, but rather a high-performance version of the standard RC destined to compete with the M4 and the C63 AMG, as well as the RS5.
From the outside, it’s not difficult to distinguish it from the normal RC Coupe. The aggressive styling with massively flared arches and a signature Lexus Spindle Grille make it immediately apparent that it’s something much more special than just a plain RC. The hood boasts a large dimple, but it’s a case of form follows function. The large V8 had to rest somewhere, and the hood needed to accommodate it. But more on the beastly engine later.
Both front and rear fascias get L-shaped air outlets to channel hot air from the hood and extract it into the atmosphere. The lower halves of both connect via the bottom part of the door, creating one continuous line. The front end is littered with strategically placed fins which stabilize the large coupe at extremely high speeds. Not the stuff one would expect from Lexus, but we said the same when the LFA debut, so nothing can surprise us anymore.
Out back the RC F boasts a new sports exhaust system carrying over the same stacked trapezoidal quad tailpipes like the ones found in the IS F. The best part? It’s elegant and sleek when stationary, with no nonsense spoilers to ruin the flowing design, but take it above 50 mph and you’ll notice a speed-sensitive active rear spoiler pop out from the top of the trunk. It retracts when the speed drops below 25 mph. Available with lots of carbon fiber elements and a choice of three different ten-spoke 19-inch forged aluminum wheels, buyers can customize the exterior far more than what the M4 allows.
Perhaps even more breathtaking than the exterior, the interior follows the same aggressive and sporty design, but because this is Lexus, everything you see and touch feels completely bespoke. Lexus tried to match the LFA’s unique character and vibe, and for the most part we’d agree that they’ve achieved just that. Whether you’re looking to just cruise or do track days in, the RC F’s cabin is an extremely nice place to be in. The steering wheel, the seats, all of the gauges and even the pedals are one-offs fabricated for the RC F models. The seats can be wrapped in smooth leather and come in three color choices, with a special foaming construction designed to keep the occupants in place under extreme G-forces. You can technically fit adults in the back row, but ideally only for short journeys and if you really, really have to.
Alcantara is scattered everywhere throughout the cabin, as is premium leather, with aluminum and carbon fiber trim piece accessories finishing off the entire look. The TFT display encased in a machined-aluminum ring showcases all vital driving information, turning the rev counter red as you pop the F-Sport button on. The 10-speaker sound system with 256 watts is amazing, but true audiophiles will no doubt want the 835 watt, 360-degree three-dimensional sonic Mark Levinson sound system. To say it’s anything short of staggering would be an understatement.
Unlike its German rivals, which focus mostly on the sporty side and less on the luxury, the RC F offers a much better balance of both. It also uses a naturally-aspirated, screaming V8, as opposed to the turbocharged units used over in Germany. The engine in question is a 5.0 liter, 32-valve V8 pushing out 348 kilowatts and 527 Nm of torque. It’s also the first sports car to use the Atkinson cycle in an effort to lower fuel consumption and emissions when cruising. The big V8 is mated to a close-ratio eight-speed automatic with a Torque Vectoring Differential. The RC F can sprint to 100 km/h in just 4.4 seconds and run the quarter-mile in 12.5 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 275 km/h, 25 km/h more than the equivalent Beemers and Mercs.
Front and rear suspension systems are completely independent using monotube, gas-filled shock absorbers and ball-jointed stabilizer bars. The Torque Vectoring Differential (TVD) offers three different driving modes: standard, slalom and track. For a large coupe, the RC F is amazingly competent in the bends. It will understeer at the very limit as a precaution programmed in from Lexus, but turn all systems off and it has no issues lighting up the rears in induced oversteer.
Will it beat an M4 or a C63 AMG Coupe on a track? Definitely not. But that’s missing the point. As a real-world performer, we’d argue that the RC F is more competent than both. It’s just as fast on A and B roads, with the added benefit that you get to enjoy sumptuous luxury and Lexus refinement. It also helps that the 5 liter V8 screams like a race cars’ unit at anything beyond 5 grand. A real joy to drive.