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      04-22-2017, 12:08 AM   #1
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TOP GEAR (UK): Alfa Giulia QV VS M4 ZCP

Another salvo in the battle... Enjoy the read! Note that the M4 ZCP tested here is not wearing the 20inch M666 wheels, but the regular M4's 19inches.

Original article here: https://www.topgear.com/car-news/big...m4-competition

The Top Gear twin test: 503bhp Giulia Quadrifoglio takes on 444bhp M4 Competition Pack

Words: Ollie Marriage/Images: Mark Fagelson

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A battle royale, a slug fest, a proper ding-dong. You can call it what you like, but this is the face-off we all want to see: Alfa Romeo Giulia QV versus BMW M4.

OK, so itís not an M3, and while the four-door would have sat better with us Ė both visually and psychologically Ė we simply couldnít get hold of one at the same time as the Giulia.

But as any M3/M4 aficionado knows, BMW set the two cars up to drive identically, so while the suspension settings do differ fractionally, itís only to take account of the M3ís 20kg extra. The track widths are identical, the M4ís boosted 40mm from its base car, the M3ís a delicious 80mm.

This M4ís a Competition Pack, to try and narrow the gap in power and price to the more potent, more expensive Giulia. Letís focus for a second on the BMW Ė the Giulia has had so much coverage lately youíre probably fairly familiar with it.

The Competition Pack is a £3,000 option that uses the same 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight six, but now produces 444bhp instead of 425bhp. As a result the 0-60mph time has fallen by 0.1secs, to four seconds exactly. Torque remains at a prodigious 405lb ft, available at just 1,850rpm.

The springs, dampers and anti-roll bars are all-new both front and rear, and the driving modes on the adaptive suspension have been reconfigured. On top of that, the rear differential settings have been changed, so now, instead of trying to splay sideways when you accelerate out of a corner, the M3 just hooks up and drives. Itís not only faster and more engaging, but has considerably reduced the fear factor.

Outside thereís black: black badge, black exhaust tips, black grille, plus 20-inch wheels wearing 265/30 and 285/30 tyres. But not on this car. The ride on the 20s is firm to the point of harshness, so this one is equipped with standard 19s, 10mm narrower front and rear. Thatís sensible speccing. All told the front-engined, rear-drive, twin-clutched M4 weighs in at £60,965 and 1,572kg.

The cash in your wallet might well sort out the difference in price between this and the £61,000 Giulia Quadrifoglio. Separated by £35 they might be, but the Italian still has healthy 59bhp and 37lb ft advantages and is some 48kg lighter. The chassis is aluminium and steel, thereís double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, and the torque is divvied up by a vectoring diff able to send 100 per cent of thrust to either wheel.

Ahead of the carbon prop shaft sits ZFís eight-speed automatic, standard in the UK (some markets offer a six-speed manual, but itís no great shakes, so rest easy British buyers Ė the auto is better) and shoving the whole thing along is a 2.9-litre twin turbo V6 Ďinspired by Ferrari expertise and technologiesí, which also happens to share bore and stroke measurements with the eight cylinder Ferrari California T motor. The Alfa sports 10mm-narrower 245/35 front and 10mm wider 285/30 rear tyres on 19-inch wheels.


So here they both are at Dunsfold. Letís start inside. This makes sense because one thing serves to characterise each car Ė the steering wheel. The BMWís is fat: thick-rimmed and squidgy. The Alfaís is firmer, more slender. Now itís possible that personal preference plays a role here, but if you like the BMWís better, youíre wrong. The M4ís makes the car feel clumsy and hard to get hold of, while the Alfaís implies delicacy.

Both have good driving positions Ė seats that can be tilted to cup your thighs and steering wheels that pull a long way out of the dash. The full touring car. The Giulia is more simply laid out inside Ė Alfa hasnít tried to pack too much functionality into the infotainment or added too much data into the dashboard.

So revs and speed are easy to read and you can find your way between navigation destinations and radio stations without too much faff. Until you want to zoom in to the map. Then things get trickier.

The BMW is better organised in terms of information hierarchy and accessing it, but the area where it really pulls out a lead is, inevitably, build and material quality. It feels like youíd hope a £60,000 car would. The Alfa doesnít.

You can overlook most of the Alfaís trim and plastic issues because theyíre not too intrusive, but the gearlever and central screen control wheel really deserve to be better. They look fine, but the actions of both are cheap and thereís play in them which shouldnít be there.

Iím going to ignore practicality. You can get people in the back and luggage in the boot of each. Enough for four of you to go away for a weekend, but thereís not much dignity involved with posting yourself into or out of the M4s back seats, so have the M3 if thatís your thing. Personally I think the four-door BMW looks better, too. Bigger arch blistersÖ

So, the driving. The Alfa feels notably faster. I know the figures suggest it should (330bhp/tonne plays 282), but BMW has always provided extremely healthy horsepower and I hadnít really been expecting to be able to detect much of a difference in the way these 3.0-litre twin turbo motors picked up and went.

But you really, really can. The BMW is so muscular low down; it drips torque and delivers it with a deliciously deep, rorty note. But it never builds enough from there. Itís just colossally fast wherever you go in the rev range. Although the engine note varies a little, thereís not enough of an improvement in noise or acceleration to make it necessary to venture beyond 5,500rpm.

I kept on being disappointed the Alfa wouldnít go beyond 6,800rpm. It would be nice if it revved a bit higher, but to be fair, itís already dispatched the BMW in a straight line. It needs more revs to really wake up, but once past 3,000rpm it forces itself harder down the road than the M4.

Make no mistake the Alfa will unhook its back end. When owners take theirs to a Cars and Coffee morning itíll be YouTube gold
The BMW cannot match the Alfaís top-end surge, which feels more vibrant and hedonistic, nor is the exhaust note as zingy. I know the figures say that the Alfa is only a tenth faster to 62mph (3.9secs plays 4.0), but donít forget the BMW is assisted by a quicker-shifting twin clutch gearbox, where the Alfa Ďmakes doí with a regular automatic.

You might think this gives the BMWís gearbox the edge, but no. Iíve said this before, but I think BMW was so nervous about the shift to turbocharging with the current M3/M4, that it deliberately made it a bit savage in other areas Ė traction specifically, but also gearbox response.

Up the shift speed (which you can, via the configurable settings) and an uncomfortable surge accompanies each shift. The Alfaís ZF auto makes a far better fist of being a sports transmission than youíd credit. Itís best when you pull the paddles yourself as I donít think Alfa quite understands this ZF gearbox software as comprehensively as BMW does in its non-M cars, but thatís no bother because the paddles themselves are a tactile delight.

In a straight line, then, the Alfa feels more urgent and brighter, hits harder and faster as long as youíve got some revs on the dial, and sounds better, too.

Thereís a downside to this though. In the BMW you have complete control over all the settings for engine, suspension, steering and gearbox. There are buttons on the centre console and you can have them wherever you like.

In the Alfa thereís a DNA mode dial Ė you twist it where you like (All-weather, Normal, Dynamic, Race) and the car configures itself to suit. However, the sport exhaust is only activated in Race, and in Race the traction control is turned off. As in totally disabled. Hmm.

But you want the sports exhaust all the time, because it sounds great. So you find yourself at traffic lights being concerned about possible massive wheelspin and at roundabouts about possible barrier interface just because you want to listen to the V6 sing.

Because make no mistake the Alfa will unhook its back end. You can see that in the picture above. Its 442lb ft of torque will easily overcome even the near-slick Pirelli P Zero Corsas that our test car comes equipped with. Properly smoky they are, too. Imagine whatís going to happen when owners take theirs to a Cars and Coffee morning. Itíll be YouTube gold.

As I mentioned earlier, the Competition Pack M4 is a much more cohesive, together car than the regular M4. It brings more feel and control to the back axle so you can manage it better on the way out of corners. Personally I always enjoyed the challenge of the standard car, but Iím happy to admit that the Competition loses nothing and gains considerably.

The M4 is a really good car in isolation Ė grippy, well balanced, predictable. Itís got great turn-in grip, thereís little roll, it delivers plentiful speed and as weíve found in the past, itís a sharper handling, more satisfying car than a Mercedes-AMG C63.

But alongside the Alfa it feels rather blunt and inert. The Alfa is not only a tremendously magnanimous car to drive, but its sharper, much faster steering rack (2.2 turns between locks) lends it a sense of energy and response thatís missing from the BMW. That could easily make the Alfa feel edgy and nervous, but the genius of this carís set-up is that it never feels less than stable, so although sharp, itís also driveable and friendly at the limit, which the BMW isnít. Even in this more approachable tune, itís more aggressive and unnerving.


Through medium and long radius corners the Alfaís nothing short of glorious: the tyres take up an edge and itís all tippy-toey. You feel it moving around, itís adjustable and controllable. Yeah, it has a little more roll and that ought to make it feel lazier on turn-in, but the super-fast steering overrules that.

The springs are detectably softer, to the benefit of the ride. And while road roar from the semi-slick tyres and (ahem) less well attached interior trim mean itís no quieter on a long journey than the BMW, around town itís calmer and gentler. It also has a terrific turning circle.

Just going back to the handling, you have to ask how much of the Giuliaís ability is down to the tyres, which are notably more aggressive than the Michelin Pilot Super Sports worn by the BMW. But even wearing identical rubber Iím certain the Alfa would feel the more alert, sweeter and controllable car. All the systems Ė steering, back axle, differential, chassis, engine power delivery Ė feel better integrated and amalgamated. Itís a purer, simpler and more satisfying car to drive.

One note here. All these impressions relate to road driving. On track, the more tautly suspended BMW does stage a slight fightback, a place where its on-limit chassis balance really starts to come alive. But it still never flows as happily as the Alfa, isnít as playful or forgiving in a tight spot. Itís a moodier, darker car.



Is there any dynamic area where the BMW has the edge? Well, it definitely has the more positive brake. Theyíre firmer underfoot from the word go, while the Alfaís need some heat in them before they start working properly. And of course there has to be some residual concern about how well built the Alfa is, and how itíll last.

But I tell you this. I ran a BMW M3 for a year and quickly grew to adore it Ė in fact I think itís one of the very best cars Iíve ever run Ė small enough to fit on British roads, big enough to be usable, beautifully assembled, subtle enough to be under the radar. It was more dexterous than an Audi RS6 and almost as rewarding as the R8. I adored it and love everything it stands for.

But given a straight choice now, Iíd have the Giulia QV. Yes, youíd have to shell out extra for the carbon brakes and carbon seats, and a part of me would (letís hope groundlessly) be concerned about mechanical reliability, electrical functionality and bits falling off Ė there is a hint of frailty to it Ė but Iíd totally take a punt on this Alfa Romeo. I think itís brilliant.

Fundamentally this is a better car than the BMW M4. More hedonistic, more exciting, more rewarding, faster, better balanced, brighter. Fully deserving of all the praise heaped on it, in other words.


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      04-22-2017, 08:24 AM   #2
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Very fair, balanced, accurate review.
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      04-23-2017, 07:26 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcc3456 View Post
Very fair, balanced, accurate review.
Are you a copycat or is this the real mc3456 (now Alfa troll) in a ironically obviously disguise?

Edit: all in good fun of course
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      04-24-2017, 04:10 AM   #4
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So that M4 opted for 19" for weight saving?
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      04-24-2017, 05:22 AM   #5
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M4 is such a sexy car. But, can they put a proper diffuser on to hide that hideous canister?
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      04-24-2017, 10:42 AM   #6
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Good read.

I've added this one to the sticky thread.
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      04-24-2017, 04:56 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M3Fury View Post
Are you a copycat or is this the real mc3456 (now Alfa troll) in a ironically obviously disguise?

Edit: all in good fun of course
If banned, it'd be wise to use a totally different user name, no?
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      04-24-2017, 06:28 PM   #8
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The Alfa is a cool car no doubt. Don't know if I love the front end, but they got all proper on the back end. I probably couldn't overcome my hesitation due to reliability concerns until they are at least a few model years in. Honestly there is no wrong decision here, both are great cars and far exceed any performance standard you can reasonably utilize on public roads. But since this is the Internet and reasoned opinions don't matter, buying the Alfa is simply telegraphing you couldn't afford the Maserati you really wanted.
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      04-25-2017, 02:10 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobbyMack View Post
But since this is the Internet and reasoned opinions don't matter, buying the Alfa is simply telegraphing you couldn't afford the Maserati you really wanted.
What exactly is that Maserati that you're talking about?

there is no Maserati similar to Giulia QV. Giulia QV outperforms any Maserati from the current line-up.
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      04-25-2017, 02:43 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CRtoE92 View Post
So that M4 opted for 19" for weight saving?
Says it was for a less harsh ride.
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      04-25-2017, 06:23 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobbyMack View Post
The Alfa is a cool car no doubt. Don't know if I love the front end, but they got all proper on the back end. I probably couldn't overcome my hesitation due to reliability concerns until they are at least a few model years in. Honestly there is no wrong decision here, both are great cars and far exceed any performance standard you can reasonably utilize on public roads. But since this is the Internet and reasoned opinions don't matter, buying the Alfa is simply telegraphing you couldn't afford the Maserati you really wanted.
You know nothing about cars if you choose any Maserati before this Alfa.
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      04-25-2017, 08:08 AM   #12
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They lost me at "Although the engine note varies a little, thereís not enough of an improvement in noise or acceleration to make it necessary to venture beyond 5,500rpm."

The S55 is at its best ABOVE 5500RPM .
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      04-25-2017, 08:11 AM   #13
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Another one: "but don’t forget the BMW is assisted by a quicker-shifting twin clutch gearbox, where the Alfa ‘makes do’ with a regular automatic"

A DCT does not shift any quicker than a well tuned automatic
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Last edited by CanAutM3; 04-25-2017 at 12:25 PM..
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      04-25-2017, 08:19 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CanAutM3 View Post
They lost me at "Although the engine note varies a little, there’s not enough of an improvement in noise or acceleration to make it necessary to venture beyond 5,500rpm."

The S55 is at its best ABOVE 5500RPM .
Exactly - I don't doubt any of the positive things they say about the QV - but it could not be further from the truth that there is no incentive to go above 5500 rpm's with the S55 - it truly pulls like a maniac all the way past 7300 rpm.

What is also completely inaccurate about that statement is that if you upshift between 7300 and 7600 - you're still in the max horsepower Rpm range as soon as you're in the next highest gear - conversely - if you shift at or below 5500, you're much less than the full 425 or 444 hp this engine offers - why would anyone shortchange themselves on not only peak horsepower - but even worse still - shortchange yourself on sustained peak horsepower??? :
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