I pull up outside Silverstone’s big cafe, which is utterly deserted. The sun’s out, violently beaming off the greasy, wet tarmac, while our BMW M2 longtermer’s ambient temperature gauge tells me it’s only just above freezing. Perhaps not the best day to be lapping the home of British motorsport in a 503bhp Italian super saloon.
I catch the end of a news report on the radio, going into detail about a certain, rather significant political event, but I swiftly punch the start/stop button and exit the car. Today isn’t about mulling over politics and what the future holds, it’s about finally getting behind the wheel of a car I’ve wanted to drive more than any other this year: the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.
Walking through the empty cafe and over to the pit garages, I catch a glimpse of it. Every other time I’ve seen images of the Giulia or when I’ve read about it I’ve had a pang of irritation for missing out on the car’s launch in Italy back in May, but all that has gone now, replaced instead by excitement that I’m at last about to drive what’s arguably the most anticipated car of 2016.
Boring disclaimer out of the way and helmet squeezed over my glasses, and it’s time to jump in and assess the surroundings I’ll call home for the next half an hour.
As I slide behind the wheel I’m treated to a mixed bag of an interior. There are some beautiful details like the the imposing cowl surrounding the dials and the huge gearshift paddles for the automatic gearbox, but some of the knobs and switches feel a little low rent, and the overall build quality is a fair way off what you’d enjoy in something a little more Germanic. Once the engine awakens with an angry mechanical bark, I start to care about such things a little less.
We haven’t a huge amount of time out here, so the instructor sitting to the right is keen to get me up to speed quickly. After exiting the pits we’ll be using the National Circuit - Silverstone’s shortest configuration, but that’s fine by me. Less time focused on learning the track, and more time focused on enjoying the car.
A few corners later, and the engine’s already impressing. Having spent some time with the relatively high-revving BMW M4 recently I’m left a little wanting for top end heroics (the 2.9-litre, ‘Ferrari inspired’ V6 is all out of ideas at 6500rpm), but it’s burly and macho in the mid-range, and belts out a deliciously throaty six-pot soundtrack.
It does put out a hell of a lot of power to the rear tyres, though, and that 503bhp is backed up by the punchy 443lb ft of torque. Cocking up one corner massively and missing the apex by some margin, I get everything in a mess and end up with the Giulia’s shapely rear stepping way out of line. But it’s all good, as this is when the Giulia reveals just how controllable it is on the limit. There’s no BMW M3-style snap here, just a gentle slide that’s easily controlled with a well-timed application of opposite lock.
Hairy but not as hairy as expected moment out of the way, I’m getting into a good rhythm, even with the overly aggressive traction control attempting to upset proceedings. There is a ‘race’ mode up from the ‘dynamic’ setting we’re in now which dials back the electronic interference to a minimum, but I’m not stupid, so dynamic it is in these damp conditions.
Even though I’m having to hold back a little owing to the weather, it’s clear there’s a lot to like here. The steering is wickedly sharp and possesses one of the quickest racks of any car I’ve tried this year, while the damping is softer and much better judged than on the ultra stiff BMW M3 and Mecedes-AMG C63. And although I’ve already mentioned it, I’m pretty damn partial to that soundtrack. It’s probably the best-sounding turbocharged six-cylinder out there at the moment, and even though it’s a couple of cylinders down on the C63’s 4.0-litre, I prefer it to that too.
I’m getting the hang of the track, and have at last nailed the correct turn-in point for the tricky Luffield corner. This gives me my best run yet through Woodcote, hanging the Giulia out to the left of the track as I power onto the pit straight.
As much as I’d be happy to make everyone very cross by staying out for a few laps, my track time is over, and I pull back into the pits. I’ll be handing the car over to a pro driver, who’ll be spotting a ‘blindfolded’ red Giulia for a crazy record attempt.
It’s tricky to make any firm judgements from a short time with the car on such a sopping wet circuit, so I’m taking this experience as an introduction. And one hell of an introduction it’s been. Alfa Romeo’s long awaited renaissance is here, and it’s very, very real.