Kids’ movie or not, Shrek is full of great lines parents appreciate as much as, or sometimes more than, their kids. One I still quote the better of part of two decades later is the bit about onions, parfaits, and ogres all having layers. The Alfa, too, has layers.
You’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. It’s clearly a sport sedan from a company known for its sports cars, so it’s easy to typecast. Don’t get me wrong, either: The way this car drives will always be my favorite part of it. As much as I love fast cars—and the Alfa is plenty quick—I’ve come to appreciate how crucial good handling is. If the slowest car in the world goes around a corner with the same kind of poise and confidence as the fastest, I’ve got no qualms about driving the slow one. Except for a few freeway on-ramps, I don’t get to properly enjoy a fast car day in and day out as often as I do one that handles well. The Alfa makes my commute more enjoyable just by putting a smile on my face any time I turn it.
Like I said, though, there’s more to it than cornering. The Giulia didn’t get to be Car of the Year by doing only one thing well. I was reminded again of what a good all-around car it is on a recent road trip to visit family more than 500 miles away. Sports cars, even sport sedans, don’t always make good distance cars with their stiff suspensions. Part of what makes the Alfa a great handler is also what makes it good on a long drive: its compliance.
See, suspension doesn’t have to be super stiff to make a car handle well. Sure, it may eke out another few tenths of a second on a racetrack, but even auto journalists don’t typically track their cars on the regular. Compliance means a little more body roll, but done right, the body’s movements are precisely controlled and predictable and can add a bit of drama to the drive without sacrificing stability and control. See: Mazda Miata.
In practice, it means the Alfa is a comfortable car to drive eight hours up the interstate before reaching the beautiful, twisty Feather River Canyon, feeder of the infamous Oroville Dam. It also means the Alfa is still comfortable when that road is closed due to an overturned tanker and you have to backtrack and take an older, rougher road on the other side of the canyon. On top of that, it means the Alfa still doesn’t beat you up when that back road is also closed due to a washout last winter and the detour is 3 miles of dirt road.
It doesn’t stop there, either. It means that after the washout detour, back on pavement, you’re not too worn out from the off-road excursion and all the extra driving to crank the DNA drive mode selector from Normal to Dynamic and open it up again.
Even after you get there, the Alfa peels back another layer. Suddenly, it’s just a good sedan with room for your 6-foot-3 father-in-law in the back seat and ingress and egress good enough for your mother-in-law, still recuperating from a double knee replacement, to comfortably climb in and out of the back.
On the way home, after you’ve dusted a third-gen Supra on the way back down the canyon, as you’re remarking about how quiet the interior is at 80 mph, you’re reminded of the simple fact the Alfa is a just plain good-looking car when the guys in the RAV4 crane their necks to get a better look.
Looker, driver, road tripper, people hauler, the Alfa does a lot. No car is perfect, though, and there are a handful of things about the Alfa I’d like to change, which I’ll elucidate in a future update.
Read more on our long-term Alfa Romeo Giulia here:
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