The 2023 Alfa Romeo Giulia Lusso is the type of car that reminds you why you love cars in the first place … and why everyone has perhaps gotten a little too practical in their automotive tastes. This is a car filled with life and joy, with controls that speak to you in ways that most other cars and their brands have long ago forgotten. It’s far from the spiciest Giulia available, but if anything, I’d say the Quadrifoglio overshadowed just how enjoyable the base car is.
This was the most time I’ve spent in any Giulia, and whether I was driving my son to school, making the L.A. freeway trek down to the VW ID. Buzz reveal, or whisking through the Santa Monica Mountain roads, the Lusso made the experience extra special.
Here are 9 thoughts on the Alfa Romeo Giulia Lusso.
1. All-star steering
The steering is just incredible, one of the main reasons I find the Giulia so desirable. It’s quick and feelsome with a terrific wheel to grip. Let’s talk about D mode, which is the sportiest of the three “DNA” drive modes (N is normal and A is eco). A subtle amount of extra weighting on turn-in is added, and it’s perfect – utterly spot-on and natural. That weighting then lightens as you keep turning through tighter turns, which means the car isn’t fighting against you and allows you to genuinely feel the road free from excess weighting as you make minute adjustments.
Steering in N mode is still relatively firm on center, but that turn-in weighting is just a bit lighter. Still great during most of the times you’re driving, but D mode is so, so, so good. All-star, Top 10 board with various Porsches, Mazdas and the surprisingly great Aston Martin DBX on my scorecard.
2. Hey, I actually noticed the brakes!
Sadly, the Giulia is not available with a manual transmission. Like a giant tease, though, the brake pedal is closer in size and shape to one from a three-pedal car.
Pedal aside, wow are the brakes it’s attached to ever good. Wear thin shoes and you’re able to delicately brush the pedal, feeling the calipers brush the rotors in kind. So beautifully modulated. I could see someone finding them a little too responsive resulting in jerking stops, but either stop wearing work boots, try harder or buy a Lexus ES.
I don’t usually notice brakes unless they’re especially good or especially bad/weird. These fall in the former category, and what’s even more impressive, is that they’re brake-by-wire. The Giulia and Stelvio were two of the first production cars to get such a system, which effectively sends artificial responses through the pedal since there’s no mechanical connection. Robot for the win.
3. Where are the shift paddles?
Again, a manual would probably make me go out and buy one right now. As it is, though, the eight-speed automatic is very smart. I didn’t notice it upshifting prematurely or unnecessarily when driving in D mode in the mountains, and it always seemed to be in the right gear for me. No issues in regular driving in N mode, either.
That said, why are there no shift paddles? There were times when I want to anticipate a downshift just for grins and I’d reach for a paddle that wasn’t there. That’s possibly because there’s a noticeable vestigial gap between the wheel rim and turn/wiper stalks due to the big, beautiful paddle shifters available on the Veloce, Estrema and Quadrifoglio trim levels (pictured above). I know some things need to be left for upper trims, but come on. If you’re going to make the rest of the car’s controls so delightfully responsive and driver-oriented (and not offer a manual), why be half-assed here? If a Subaru Crosstrek can have shift paddles, every damn Alfa Romeo Giulia should have shift paddles.
4. The engine’s a bit meh
No complaints about the 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque from the Lusso’s 2.0-liter turbo-four. That’s a healthy amount of oomph and there’s no issue energetically getting up to highway speed in a manner appropriate for an Alfa Romeo painted fire engine red (0-60 time is quoted as 5.5 seconds). The character leaves a lot to be desired, however. It’s very direct-injectiony with a growly tone that hardly speaks to a zesty Italian character. Hearing less of it would be for the best. The auto stop/start system is also one of the least refined out there. It’s not overeager to shut things down, but when it does, a loud-and-lengthy starter motor is accompanied by an uncouth shudder. All in all, the Giulia’s least endearing element.
5. I could live with this infotainment system
The Giulia has an Alfa-unique infotainment system that is controlled by a redundant tandem of touchscreen and center console knob. I’m generally in favor of this as each input method has benefits that the other does not share (touchscreen good for selecting specific icons, knob good for scrolling through lists or zooming on a map). If you largely find yourself interacting with Apple CarPlay or the radio (be it terrestrial or satellite), I can’t see you having an issue with this. I certainly found it easier to use than Mercedes MBUX and the infuriating new BMW iDrive8. I also experienced no laggy responses or gremlins. The thing just worked.
6. The ride unapologetically says ‘I’m sporty’
The Lusso may not be one of the sport-tuned models (that would be the Veloce, Estrema and obviously Quadrifoglio), but it doesn’t take long behind the wheel to realize Alfa Romeo is A-OK with the Giulia always being one of the sportiest sedans in the segment. Specifically, the ride makes no attempt at being plush. There’s no harshness over bumps and impacts are well damped, but there’s also not a lot of rebound, so you may find yourself bobbing a bit on certain highway surfaces. Maybe the adaptive dampers of those sportier trim levels would alleviate this, but then, I didn’t drive one of those.
7. The chassis is writing checks the seats can’t cash
The Giulia Lusso’s seats look terrific and are covered in a buttery soft tan leather. They offer sufficient adjustment up front and their firm padding made for consistent comfort during lengthy drives. But they could use more lateral support. Given its ride and handling, the Giulia Lusso drives like one of the zestiest sport sedans even if it’s not the zestiest Giulia. Much like the paddle shifter omission, I don’t understand why it doesn’t have the “sport seats” available on the Veloce and Estrema. I’m not talking racing seats here. Merely a bit more lateral support in the seatback that would prevent me from sliding around so much while zinging the car from turn to turn on a mountain road. The chassis is writing checks the seats can’t cash.
8. The Giulia should only come in Alfa Rosso
The Alfa Romeo Giulia Lusso trim level is only available with the following colors: silverish gray, dark gray, black and the Alfa Rosso red you see here. If you get one of those others, I shake my head at you. Alfa Rosso makes this car. Other Giulias blend into the background, but in Rosso, it proudly stands out and accentuates every angle and detail while maintaining a hefty degree of class. Curiously, the other trim levels above and below the mid-grade Lusso are available in other colors, including the flashy Misano Blue, Ocra GT gold and, for the QF only, Verde Montreal. None of those come off as classy and appropriate for such a wonderfully Italian car. Rosso all the way.
9. Seems well-built to me
Who knows about long-term reliability, but as far as I could tell, this Giulia was screwed together well and everything worked as it should, including the driver assistance tech. The switchgear is of a high quality; surfaces are padded where they should be padded and, in general, the interior looks and feels like it should come with a price tag of about $54,000.
It would be very hard to take the Giulia for a drive on a proper road and then turn around and buy something else because the Genesis infotainment system is better or the Mercedes interior is nicer or I won’t have to visit the dealer as much. Especially as that latter reason is an assumption – there is no third-party data I could find, nor have there been Giulia long-term vehicles out there since the initial and very iffy wave of QF’s back in 2016. Besides, German cars are hardly a paragon of reliability. Maybe I’d be nuts, maybe it wouldn’t be a gamble at all, but I think I’d take the plunge. I fell in love with this car.