Underdog 2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia excels

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Automobile manufacturers try to outmaneuver each other every year for advertising honors during the Super Bowl. Prices escalate and commercials succeed and fail with carmakers’ futures at stake in million-dollar-minute increments.

Fiat Chrysler gambled a few years ago with its Alfa Romeo brand — and won. It promoted the new Giulia, showing the sports car blazing along winding country roads, past vineyards and through a tunnel with narration provided by a sultry voice.

The 2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia is an underdog sporty sedan, but it has a lot to offer against its German rivals.
The 2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia is an underdog sporty sedan, but it has a lot to offer against its German rivals.

The commercial, titled “Dear Predictable,” needles Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz, the German frontrunners, while touting the Italian alternative.

Alfa Romeo sales falling

The second of the carmaker’s one-minute spot ends with the sports car powering toward the horizon. The moderator softly states, “You know what they say. If you love something, set it free.”

In 2018, Alfa Romeo sold nearly 24,000 vehicles in the United States. It was nearly twice the tally from the previous year and the most Alfa Romeo has ever sold in this country in a year.

Further good fortune has proven elusive. Sales were off more than 25 percent last year, and the numbers are weak to date this year.

The 2020 Alfa Romeo Guilia isn’t much different than other recent years’ offerings, but there are a few upgrades.

A revised center console offers cupholders and additional storage areas, all made with higher quality material. The larger 8.8-inch center touchscreen is now standard with improved graphics and functionality. Driver assets now include adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, driver attention monitoring and active blind-spot assist.

Available in three trims, the high-performance Quadrifoglio features a turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 with 505 horsepower, an eight-speed automatic transmission and a torque-vectoring rear differential.

It all helps the Giulia define a modern-day, four-door, luxury sedan with blatant sports car tendencies. It accelerates from 0-to-60 miles per hour in 3.8 seconds.

Upscale stuff includes a 14-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system, aluminum steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters and a dual mode quad exhaust.

For its segment, fuel efficiency is what’s expected: 17 miles per gallon in city driving, 20 mpg on the highway. The MSRP is $74,445, with options as driven pushing the total to $80,240.

The car’s performance is complemented by its handsome exterior and interior. Exterior upgrades include six-piston Brembo brakes and a boastfully handsome front fascia, grille and rear diffuser. The hood and roof are also made from carbon fiber as is the interior trim.

Driving the Giulia personifies fun. Its impressive performance is joined by precision handling, sports car-like, form-fitted front seats and a heady exhaust growl.

Yes, it’s a sedan. But it’s as far removed from a stodgy sedan’s reputation as imaginable.

The car wouldn’t be a disservice for a family outing of no more than four and if its stuff to transport is streamlined. With only about 13 cubic feet of space, the Giulia’s trunk is smaller than most rivals’ offerings and its opening is narrow. A power liftgate and 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats are standard.

If carrying family supplies is a requirement, the Alfa Romeo’s German counterparts are better-suited as cargo coaches.

But if a sporty trek with little concern for time, no driving pressure and no particular place to go are the goals, the Giulia Quadrifoglio is the way to go.

The German standard-bearers have plenty of attributes, and steadfast, long-standing acclaim. The Alfa Romeo has something different. It’s all-powerful and carefree. Its rugged beauty combined with a nasty growl and little interest in automotive subtleties.

It’s an Italian sports car mistakenly called a sedan. The Giulia is for drivers who like driving. Predictable, it’s not.

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