Can Alfa’s new fast saloon topple BMW’s mighty M3?
If you wanted a performance saloon you thought BMW, or you might have thought of another German company. But you wouldn’t have thought of Alfa Romeo for a long time. But you can now, with the Italian firm’s Giulia Quadrifoglio roaring in to out-power the M3. But can it be more than just more powerful?
You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t want to try a drag race between these two. (And, just for the avoidance of doubt, we still use humans to test the cars.) The BMW looks the sharper as it has a launch control programme which helps fire you off the line. It’s a bit complex to set up but you catapult forward, the straight-six and twin turbos howling and screaming away even louder than the tortured tyres.
Then you do the same in the Alfa. No launch control, just foot on brake and throttle then off the brake. And you’re gone, that delicious V6 with its twin turbos hurtling you past 62mph in just 3.9 seconds in our tests. Not even the M3 can keep up with that.
Neither auto gearbox, with a seven-speed in the BMW and an eight-speed in the Alfa, cause any glitches, hesitations or repetitions, they just flow the power through in seamless fashion.
Get these two cars on the track and the meaty steering, incredibly high traction limits and overall poise of the BMW will give it a slightly faster lap time. But the Alfa has a more playful rear axle and lighter, more involving steering, so it’s the more pleasing car to position right in a fast corner.
Similarly, the ride has more comfort to it with a delightfully compliant ride quality which the BMW simply can’t match. The M3 stays stiffer, slightly rougher and definitely noisier on the move.
While there’s more noise in the BMW cabin, that’s counteracted by the brilliant and uprated iDrive infotainment system. With an 8.8in screen you also get a very classy dashboard, with the whole cabin feeling incredibly well built.
The seven-inch infotainment screen in the Alfa is good and it also offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard – something which is extra on the BMW. The whole cabin feels well made but not quite in the BMW league. Even so, it’s effortlessly stylish and there is slightly more room in the rear than in the M3. Shame you don’t get split folding rear seats, as you do in the BMW.
Both cars get a ton of standard kit, with both adding their own extras as standard, like the reversing camera in the Alfa or the heated electric front seats in the BMW. The Giulia Quadrifoglio though does get automatic emergency braking as standard, something which costs £370 on the BMW.
If you have the cash, the BMW will prove the cheaper of the two thanks to discounts and lower depreciation. To the tune of around £3500 over three years, taking everything like servicing into account. But the Giulia is the cheaper company car and the slightly cheaper on a PCP deal – although you’ll still want a £15,000 deposit with monthly payments of £710. Not something you want to start unless you’re sure you can finish.
Overall though, you have to say the BMW M3 really is a five-star car. The way it grips on the outer edges of performance, the way it handles at speed, they’re all incredible. It feels seriously premium inside too.
But all that isn’t enough to beat the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. It outpowers the M3 for a solid start, it has a more engaging drive quality. While the cabin may not be quite as high-quality as the BMW it is very stylish. So the Alfa earns a solid five stars too, but it’s also the winner.