2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio First Drive: Reinforcements have arrived

– Sonoma, California

Sonoma Raceway couldn’t be slicker if a marble truck had shed its load on the circuit. It’s been pouring all morning, and there’s standing water all over the undulating course’s many off-camber corners. But Fabio Francia isn’t phased, hammering the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio around with an ultra-calm demeanor. He’s unleashing all 505 horsepower on the straights, standing on the carbon-ceramic stoppers until I’m hanging against my seatbelt, and dialing in big handfuls of countersteer to cope with entry, exit, and even mid-corner oversteer.

Not that I should be surprised Francia is a dab hand with this car, given that he whipped it around the Nürburgring in 7 minutes and 32 seconds earlier this year. That’s quicker than several famous Italian and German sports cars, and only three seconds off the pace of Chevy’s new Camaro ZL1. It’s a serious promise from Alfa’s new sport sedan.

It’s fair to say that the arrival of the Giulia Quadrifoglio is the litmus test of whether Alfa Romeo can really make it in America. The mid-engine 4C sports car was a tantalizing amuse-bouche, but now the Giulia sedan – and the forthcoming Stelvio crossover – need to follow up with a filling main course. Alfa’s 154 U.S. dealers (that figure is expected to reach 270 within 18 months’ time) need cars that will sell in volume if the brand is to sink its claws into the U.S. market and survive.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia: First Drive
2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia: First Drive

It's roughly the same weight as a BMW M3 and around 200 pounds skinnier than the Cad...