Devon & Plymouth Chamber CEO Stuart Elford tries out the Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce and has a lot of fun in a joyful Italian stallion of a car
Alfa Romeo is possibly the most romantic-sounding make of car and the name Giulia Veloce conjures up evocative images suggesting its Italian heritage…I’m just glad that I’m writing about it and don’t have to pronounce it!
It is said that you are not a real petrol-head if you have never owned an Alfa Romeo and I have to confess I don’t think I have ever driven one. Shame on me. So, when the lovely people at Vospers offered me one for a day, I couldn’t wait to try it.
I had no idea what sort of car the Giulia was, so when I was handed the keys and pointed in the direction of the low-slung fast-looking saloon I felt a tingle of excitement.
The interior has all the features you would expect from a premium performance car and although simple, has every conceivable extra. The sporty steering wheel has all the multi-function features you would expect but also includes a fantastic start-stop button and paddle gear shift that makes you feel like you are in an F1 car. The seat is one of best I have ever sat in, accommodating my 6’3” frame easily with inches to spare and holding me securely in place.
To the left is an 8.8” colour display screen with multiple display options including Sat Nav, communications, infotainment and vehicle settings. Beneath that is the climate control system and then the auto gearbox and electronic handbrake. There are lots of cubby holes and storage that include connectivity of every type, including a wireless charging pad.
But what really caught my eye was the fascinating DNA switch, which changes the driving mode to Dynamic, Natural or Advanced Efficiency. Driving through town in the ‘Natural’ setting was quiet and comfortable but I couldn’t wait to get it on the open road.
As soon as I could leave the office I had to drive to our 30 Under 30 Awards Ceremony at Buckfast Abbey where I would be meeting Amy the photographer. I wanted to get a real feel for the car and so drove over the moors, choosing a route that had a bit of everything. It was a beautiful late afternoon and the perfect setting to try out the Giulia.
The car really came alive in Dynamic Mode and I enjoyed a brisk drive winding across the moors. Through the corners the rear wheel drive car felt completely planted and immaculately balanced, without a hint of over or under steer. I felt safe and secure throwing it through the corners, barely moving in that fantastic and comfortable sports seat.
Although the auto box is very good I couldn’t help but play with the flappy-paddle gearbox, which was incredibly responsive and allowed me to flip through the eight gears and select exactly the right revs. If you are going for a quick overtake that is the way to do it – it is effortless.
The two-litre 280 bhp turbocharged engine has long legs of acceleration and seems to just keep on revving, reaching 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds and going on to 149 mph. It makes a glorious sound but is not intrusive in the cabin – it’s almost like a distant sporty howl, but inside the cabin is quiet and comfortable; yet you remain completely engaged.
The braking, with its Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, was as impressive as the acceleration, shedding speed effortlessly and remaining completely balanced. This was fun.
After the Awards I drove the Giulia back home on the dual carriageway, checking out the various features that keep you safe and in lane. For those of you that are interested in these things it has: Lane Keep Assist, Highway Assist System (HAS), Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR), Traffic Jam Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Driver Attention Assist, Autonomous Emergency Brake and Intelligent Speed Control (which is more than the driver has!).
The driver assistance pack on the car I drove is a £1k optional extra, but I can say it made me feel very safe. I can see why you would go for this option if you do high mileage, which really is a ‘belt and braces’ approach, giving you an extra safety margin for a momentary lapse of concentration. In fact, these systems are so clever I thought I could take my hands off the steering wheel and it would drive me home, but when I did let go for a fraction of a second the car told me off!
All too soon I was back at Vospers and handing the keys over. I didn’t have nearly long enough to do all I would normally like to do. For example, I didn’t sit in the back – although I drove our photographer Amy around in the back and she seemed comfortable.
I think you would buy this car because you want to have fun while you drive and really enjoy the journey; it feels like a fabulous, fun toy. That’s the thing about this Alfa, I really didn’t want to give it back; I wanted to keep on playing.
The Giulia Veloce is definitely not a boring standard fleet car and it is more than a performance saloon. It is different. It looks different. It feels different. It is…well…different! It is hard to explain, but I think the Italian heritage comes through and you feel like you are in a car that is meant to be enjoyed.