More than luck: the story of Alfa Romeo's Quadrifoglio badge

At the turn of the 20th century, motor racing was an incredibly dangerous sport that often claimed the lives of its most talented drivers. This story has an element of tragedy, but first, we must begin with Il Commendatore himself, Enzo Ferrari.

It's hard to imagine a world without Ferrari, but early in his career, the great man was struggling, out of work, and broke. The situation was so desperate that Ferrari contemplated suicide.

Sometime in 1919, however, at his local watering hole Vittorio Emanuele, Ferrari began talking to Ugo Sivocci, who at the time was working with the small automaker CMN. The two made fast friends, and over subsequent months the poor Ferrari often dined at Sivocci home. As soon as Sivocci had an opening for his new friend, he offered it, a move that would forever alter the course of automotive history: it was Sivocci who first put Ferrari behind the wheel of a racing car.

Together, they devised novel ways of testing their machines. For the 10th Targa Florio, they drove their cars to the start line using public roads, and at one point at night while driving through the sparsely populated Italian countryside the pair were attacked by a pack of wolves!

When Ferrari was hired by Alfa Romeo, he extended the same favor to his friend Sivocci, who soon followed him to the more prestigious marque. Together with Ferrari, they formed two of the four slots on Alfa Romeo's first factory racing team-the other two drivers were Giuseppe Campari and Alberto Ascari. Of the four, Sivocci was quick but often not able to secure victory, earning him the reputation as a driver who never had Lady Fortune on his side.

The 1923 Targa Florio would be different, however, and Sivocci was so fed up of his bad luck that he decided to add a symbol of luck to his Alfa Romeo racing car: a four-leaf clover.

Sivocci won the 1923 Targa Florio-and, apart from his talent behind the wheel, it seemed as though the Quadrifoglio helped win him the race.

But was the symbol to overcome superstition or for some other reason? As historians write, the cloverleaf may have been a way for spectators, road users, and other competitors to more quickly see Sivocci's car from a distance: don't forget, the roads raced on were often unpaved and dusty.

Sadly, the Quadrifoglio couldn't save Sivocci, who died later that year during practice for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza-the now well-known symbol hadn't yet been painted on his Alfa Romeo P1 race car. His death was recognized in a symbolic change to the Quadrifoglio: before Monza, the clover sat inside a white diamond, each point said to represent each of the Alfa Romeo factory drivers.

When Sivocci died, one of the points was removed, creating the Quadrifoglio triangle emblem that continues to this day. Now used as a symbolic link to Alfa Romeo's rich racing heritage, the four-leaf clover can be seen on sportier trim levels of the company's sedans, coupes, and hatchbacks-a small reminder of the friendship that forever changed the lives of Enzo Ferrari and Ugo Sivocci.

More than Luck: The Story of Alfa Romeo's Quadrifoglio Badge

We drove the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, a 505-horsepower Italian challenge to everything BMW holds dear

Buying a high-performance luxury sedan in the United States in 2017 isn't difficult. You don't have to think about it. If you have the means, Mercedes, Lexus, Audi, Cadillac, and BMW have you covered - especially BMW.

The Bavarians created the sports sedan and brought it to America in the 1970s. Since then, BMW has improved on the idea to the point where its 3 Series is the platonic ideal of four-door go-fast-ness. If you move up the M-Sport M3 from BMW's performance division, you get the platonic ideal with fire in its belly.

The default choice, therefore, is obvious. But the default can be boring, and that's where Alfa Romeo comes in.

The Italian brand is returning to the US after a long absence. Alfas of old were stylish - just think about the convertible from "The Graduate" - but not exactly reliable. Fans put up with this until they didn't, and a surge of dependable Japanese and superbly crafted German vehicles arrived.

Alfa started small and weird with the 4C, effectively a small Ferrari. (Alfa and Ferrari used to live under the same room at Fiat, before Ferrari was spun out in an initial public offering in 2015.) We liked the 4C, but it was quirky.

Enter the Giulia, a proper sports sedan. Alfa just started selling it. Also, enter the Quadrifoglio performance upgrade. "Quadrifoglio" means "four-leaf clover" in Italian, and the meaning of that totem of good luck for Alfa is nicely explained by Michael Banovsky. Suffice it to say the green badge on the Giulia Quadrifoglio adds something special.

Alfa tossed us the keys to the car for a week, and we put it through its paces. So how did this $77,125 (as tested) challenger to the BMW M cars stack up?

Our $77,195 test car came with a Vulcano black paint job and Alfa's distinctive front grille, an inverted triangle that evokes the brand's heritage. The Alfa badge, by the way, is probably the most beautiful in the automotive universe.

The lightweight carbon-fiber hood is sculpted, and, like those of so many luxury cars these days, the headlights are narrow, somewhat menacing slits. It's a handsome ride, with just enough Italian panache to make it stand apart from the BMWs and Audis of the world. The roof is carbon fiber, too.

Our Giulia was given the Quadrifoglio treatment and has the four-leaf-clover badge to prove it. Such a beautiful and whimsical touch! Of course, there's some tragedy in this heritage. 

If the Giulia has a design flaw, it's the car's rear. Not terribly inspiring. You can see a dash of carbon fiber on that mini-spoiler mounted to the trunk deck. Look a bit closer, and you catch a glimpse of the dual exhaust pipes on either side of the Giulia.
They're attached to this, the Giulia Quadrifoglio's engine - a 2.9-liter, 505-horsepower twin-turbo V-6 that's effectively a Ferrari V-8 with two cylinders lopped off. The Quadro Giulia makes a lot more horsepower than the base four-cylinder turbo version's 276.

Four hundred forty-three pound-feet of torque accompanies the 505 ponies, all of it rev-limited at 7,250 rpm. So you can't wind this Giulia out as far as you could, say, a Ford Shelby GT 350. But the output on this thing surpasses the turbo inline-6 on the M3.

Let's slip inside. The cockpit is fairly no-nonsense, with easy-to-use controls and a comfortable, well-bolstered driver's seat. One knock on the car is the overall quality of the interior materials. My colleague Ben Zhang thought they weren't quite up to par for the segment, and he has a point. The plastics are plasticky. If you buy a comparable German vehicle or something from Lexus, Acura, or Infiniti, the insides are nicer. Ditto Caddy. He thought this was sort of not so great for a car at this price point; I was more forgiving. But I have memories of sports sedans that were more sports car than luxury ride. We'll see if Alfa does something about it in future iterations.

This might be my new favorite steering wheel. It feels just right - not too thick, not too thin. Note the Ferrari-like red stop-start button and the combination of leather, carbon fiber, and brushed metal. Mmm, mmm, good. (It's $400 extra, by the way.) 

The seats are basically perfect. The central console presents a drive-mode selector - Dynamic, Natural, Advanced Efficiency, and Race are on tap - and a hockey-puck-style infotainment knob, all framed in carbon fiber. 

The 8.8-inch infotainment screen occupies most of the middle of the dashboard. It works well - neither as fantastically as Audi's or Cadillac's, but far better than Lexus' infotainment system.

You have everything you need, from GPS navigation to Bluetooth integration - and a $900 Harman Kardon audio system, if you choose, that sounds terrific. AUX and USB ports are accessible. It isn't an exciting or dramatic system, but it ticks every box - and unlike some screens in luxury cars, this one is tucked into the dash rather than sticking out of it.

The front-seat passenger is enveloped in curvaceous, two-tone luxury. The interior design has been well-thought-out. It isn't particularly showy, but it isn't bland either, and it's full of quietly sporty touches, such as the contrast stitching in green, to match the Quadrifoglio badge.

The rear seats are equally comfy, but as with most sports sedans, legroom isn't copious. Trunk space, meanwhile, is pretty good! 

And now we come to the verdict. 

Let's get to the driving first. What makes the Giulia Quadrifoglio memorable is:  

1. The savage growl of its glorious 505-horse six-banger. Yes, there's Ferrari DNA in there, and yes, you can tell. Actually, a bit more than DNA - this is the same engine that goes into the new twin-turbo V-8 in the 488 GTB, minus a pair of cylinders.  

2. The marvelously light and balanced feel of the car. Just to detail the competition a bit, the BMW M3 isn't a slug, but it has that solid and planted-to-the-road Germanic feel to it while also being rear-wheel-drive like the Giulia Q. But the Alfa comes off as downright tossable in your hands, really more like the BMW M2 in spirit. At 3,800 pounds, it isn't a featherweight, but its power-to-weight ratio is ideal and makes it drive like a leaf on the wind.  

3. The ease of use when you aren't accessing the Giulia Q's segment-leading power. If all you want to do is putz around town or cruise on the freeway, the Alfa is a nice place in which to do it. To be honest, the car it reminded me of most was the Buick Regal GS, except the Buick can't do 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds with a top speed of 191 mph.  

Just quickly, the fuel economy isn't great, but it isn't appalling either, and you have the Efficiency drive mode: 17 city/24 highway/20 combined.  On safety, a $1,200 Driver Assistance package gives you forward-collision and lane-departure warnings. 
Back to the driving. On Pirelli ZR19 tires and with Brembos on all four wheels, that river of power that the V-6 is cranking to the rubber is beautifully manageable. But when you want to poke along at moderate freeway velocities, the Alfa is dignified and easygoing. A car this fast shouldn't feel this good when driving this slow, but it does.  In the sport-sedan segment - notably, the sportier subset of the segment, where the BMW M and the Mercedes AMG and the Audi RS dwells - each ride needs its logic, a determination of identity. "Italian-ness" isn't going to cut it, and besides, that's what Alfa's stablemate Maserati already has going for it.

So if the Bimmer M is the state of the art, and the AMG brings the Mercedes luxe vibe, and the Audi RS channels the carmaker's rally-racing heritage (with all-wheel-drive), then what does the Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio bring to the table?  

Basically, just a little bit more - and a little bit less. What you have in the Alfa Giulia Q is a V-6 Ferrari in four-door form. That's the more. But you also have a Chrysler sedan, frankly, in a world where Chrysler's mass-market sedans, thanks to the strategic thinking of FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne, are about to vanish from American lands, giving way to the market's appetite for SUVs.  

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you have a lot of good old-fashioned Italian style with the Alfa. But that's beside the point. Put this car up against a BMW M3, and in many respects, you have a better car. That's saying something. The Giulia Q has been designed to beat BMW at its own game, just as everybody has been trying to beat BMW at its own game for decades.  

The stunner is that Alfa Romeo has done it.

We drove the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, a 505-horsepower Italian challenge to everything BMW holds dear

Payne: Alfa Romeo Stelvio, 
Sports Sedan in Disguise
How do you make an Alfa Romeo SUV? Take a road-carving Alfa Giulia sedan, jack it up 21/2 inches, bolt in all-wheel drive, and the next thing you know you're hounding sports cars through Hell, Michigan's twisted back roads.

Say hello to Stelvio, the latest performance car in crossover clothing.

With the SUV trend here to stay, performance brands like Alfa need to adapt to market demand. But that doesn't mean they need sacrifice who they are. Indeed, sports car manufacturers like Alfa, Jaguar, Porsche and Mazda are leading an SUV revolution that is blurring the line between sedan and ute.

Porsche saw the opening first with its Cayenne and Macan crossovers channeling the brand's racing DNA to make the best-handling small trucks ever built. Alfa and Jaguar have taken the formula a step further by building their midsize Stelvio and F-Pace SUVs on the same bones as their performance sedans (Giulia and XE, respectively). For their next act may I suggest building Alfa's compact crossover on the 4C sports car's carbon-fiber tub? Or Jaguar's compact E-PACE on the F-Type's aluminum spine?

With the Stelvio, Alfa has not only crafted a performance vehicle with five-door utility (in the old days we would have called it a sporty station wagon), but it has made it affordable. In the sweet spot of the mid-size luxury sport utility market, the Stelvio brings $50,000 Macan handling for just $43,000 - with more horsepower, more features and more utility. Who says you can't have your cake and eat it, too?

Your fearless critic tested Stelvio through gnarled mountain roads southeast of Nashville - a southern extension of my native Appalachia. A few decades ago, these trails wouldn't have seemed welcoming to an Italian performance brand, much less an SUV. But the Stelvio was right at home.

How times have changed. 

A vintage, orange-and-Confederate-flagged "General Lee" Dodge Challenger sat by the road in rural Leiper's Fork. It was a relic of a different age. Today, Leiper's Fork is a hip suburb on the southeast edge of country-music capital Nashville, home to sprawling ranches owned by singer celebrities like Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton.

Manicured horse fences border estates with long, gated driveways leading to imposing mansions with oak front doors answered by beautiful people. As I galloped along in the sexy Stelvio - Boy, this filly is fun to ride! - it turned a lot of heads. As it will in other multicultural metropolises like Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Washington. Their driveways are chock-full of BMW after Audi after Mercedes. All of them silver. All of them familiar. All of them with sterile, alphanumeric badges like X3 and Q5 and GLC. All of them soooo ... German.

Detroiters might even feel a pang of kinship since Alfa is Fiat-Chrysler's luxury brand. Surely, the Italian shares some Yankee ingenuity underneath? Well, no.

"Alfa is separate. Separate engineering group in Modena (Italy). Separate distribution," says Alfa boss Reid Bigland. "Our belief is if you want credibility, you cannot co-mingle with mass market operations."

Alfa carries this principle to a fault. It doesn't even share Chrysler's acclaimed UConnect infotainment system, which would be an improvement over the Stelvio's middling, rotary-controlled entry. This signorina oozes the Italian authenticity of a vehicle that was raised along Italy's formidable Stelvio pass. There's the Giulia's signature Alfa snout. And the three-piece Trilobo grille. 

But above all there's the same Giorgio platform that underlies the Giulia sedan. 

The first thing you notice is the sports car-like steering. It's not hydraulic like the halo 4C sports car, but the point of 4C was to set a tone. Stelvio and Giulia share a crisp, 2.3-turns lock-to-lock steering that required minimal input as I dashed through Tennessee countryside. Paired with the same sophisticated suspension, 280-horsepower (class best), fuel-efficient (24 mpg - just 2 mpg less than Giulia), turbocharged 2.0-liter engine and eight-speed transmission, Stelvio deserves comparison to its sedan sister - even though Giulia's lower roofline (by almost 9 inches) and center of gravity are reminders that SUVs aren't quite cars.

But while the Stelvio is a bargain athlete compared to the reigning Teutons, it must also be compared to the new crop of ambitious, mainstream SUVs nipping at luxury's heels. Consider the Mazda CX-5, which is my reigning Utility Bargain of the Century at $34,000.

At a whopping $22,000 below my loaded, red Stelvio Ti Sport edition, the Soul Red Mazda is also an easy-on-the-eyes, all-wheel drive athlete. The Mazda's list of features (including two-way cruise control and driver-safety assists) are the equal of the Italian. Most eye-opening is the similarity in their Euro-styled interiors. 

The interior is a sore spot with Stelvio (though its roomy back seat is a welcome improvement over the Giulia's Delta coach-class quarters). For all the Alpha's drama outside, its interior is undistinguished in the premium class. It's pleasant. But where is the personality? Think of Volvo's Scandinavian wood or the Audi A5's virtual cockpit as transformative interiors.

Alfa might have done this too with a dash that echoed the Stelvio's nose. Or a digital, motorbike dash that echoed the 4C. Even where Alfa tries to be unique - think the Ti Sport's awkward, steering-column-mounted shift paddles - the result is lacking. My advice would be to accept the interior and play to Stelvio's strengths: standard features, raw athleticism and sex appeal.

Take a well-endowed base, leather Stelvio. Option the safety-assist, Sirius XM, heated seats/steering wheel and Alfa's signature, smoky black, five-hole wheels, and you have a spicy Italian dish for just $45,685. That's $10,000 north of the Mazda, but well south of the Germans.

For those with money to burn (looking at you, Timberlake), save it for the coming special dessert: the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. As you might have guessed, it's a crossover version of Giulia's earth-pawing, BMW M3-blitzing, Nurburgring-lap record-holding, 505-horsepower sedan. 

It promises to destroy the Nurburgring lap record for SUVs. Heck, has any SUV even dared tackle the legendary German course's 73-turn roller-coaster? Consider the line between SUV and sedan permanently blurred.


Now Is a Great Time to Lease 

an  Alfa Romeo Giulia

The Alfa Romeo Giulia luxury sedan is deliciously Italian, but is that a good thing? Since its debut, people have been speculating that Alfa's answer to the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3-Series will miss its mark, and for good reason. Despite reviewers' promises that Fiat-Chrysler products are better this year, there's still a massive stigma against its vehicles, and buyers continue to be burned by FCA's shoddy build quality. Skeptical consumers aren't touching anything the company endorses with a 10-foot pole, instead choosing to go with the more reliable German options; this means that the Giulia never stood a chance.

According to Motor Trend, Alfa Romeo isn't giving up on its flagship luxury car. Instead, Alfa is offering some sweet deals on Giulia leases, which are now as low as $299 a month for a 2-year lease. That's Ford Fusion and Honda Accord money for a car that costs nearly double the price.

This amazing deal does come with a couple of catches, which isn't surprising. First, only the base model Giulia qualifies for this deal, although that still still gives you premium convenience features like leather seats and nearly 300 horsepower at your disposal. This deal also won't last as more people show interest in the car due to this event, so you should grab your Giulia as soon as possible before prices get more competitive.



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