We’ve established that the G80 M3 is not quite as fun to drive as an E90, or as special as a BMW M5 CS. But what happens when I take it outside the family and look to competitors? Perhaps no other sports sedan has kicked sand in the M3’s face like the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Every car reviewer has said the same things, citing “passion”, and “Italian” flair as reasons why the Alfa reigns supreme. Is it really true?
To find out, I take my 2022 BMW M3 and pit it against a 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. I drive both and have fun. I do it for you, dear readers.
Second place: Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
Get one: You want a sports car with four doors. Reliability matters not. The sounds it makes. Better steering. Easier performance adjustability.
Don’t get one: Not as refined. Engine is powerful but rough. So is the ride. Where’s your nearest Alfa dealer?
I want to love this car, and it fills in a lot of the gaps that the M3 misses.
Walking up to it, I find it to have attractive proportions, but if you find the G80 ugly and this pretty, I’d ask why. Parked next to each other, they have similar features, especially that large nose.
Once inside, you notice the seats are comfortable and supportive, and you sit low in the car. Alcantara resides throughout the cabin, and the steering wheel is perfectly shaped. Firing the Alfa up brings a loud roar to the cabin, but it’s only really noticeable under acceleration. It sounds terrific, and makes me wonder why BMW can’t bring out more voice in the S58. Turning a knob in the center console lets you select four driving modes, making on-the-fly changes much easier that then M3’s iDrive sub-menus.
With 505 horsepower (really BMW, you couldn’t find two more horses?), the Giulia feels a bit stronger than my base model. Attached to the same ZF 8-speed you’ll find in the Competiton, it has zero lag and amazing torque everywhere in the rev range. But if you’re looking for inline-6 smoothness, you won’t find it here.
Italian roots show in other ways. The steering provides more feedback than the M3’s, and the ride is equally free of body roll. But it’s not as smooth down the road. Smaller dimensions mean a smaller cabin. It’s fine in the front, but the back can be tight with the seat pushed back for taller drivers.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio starts to lag behind in the details. Column-mounted shift paddles are beautiful and big, but they get in the way of the turn signal. Which one will you use more? Aside from the sport knob, the remaining controls are hard to decipher at a glance. Even the start button on the steering wheel is misplaced. It looks cool, but it’s awfully prominent for a button you only push once per drive.
When asking the owner about reliability, he was happy to report that just one small issue had occurred, but because of how the engine was designed, an entirely new one was needed. It’s not a good look for a car with this pedigree, and in 2022, aren’t we past using “Italian” as an excuse?
I feel the allure of the Alfa. If the build quality was there, and it was just a touch more refined, it would be my choice.
First place: BMW M3
Get one: Spacious. Refined. Fast. Just as good-looking. The perfect daily.
Don’t get one: You’ve always wanted an Italian car. You like your ride a bit more rough around the edges.
Car magazines love to tell you what you should like. This is ugly, that’s faster, this feels better. But once they give the press car back, they have no concerns about everyday use.
If the M3 isn’t as fun to drive each day as the Alfa, it’s certainly no less capable. The stick helps it here, and it’s too bad Alfa doesn’t offer one on the Giulia.
But where it’s really better is the everyday usability. It’s 5 Series spacious inside, and the materials used are of high quality. The trunk fits my camera gear perfectly, and there’s plenty of room for my daughter in the back seat (with booster).
Speaking of boost, the S58 is as smooth as glass. No V-6 can hold a candle to it, even a Ferrari-derived one. This is still Motoren Werke, after all.
But while it’s just as fast and capable, this M3 feels so refined that you might find yourself wishing it were more like the Alfa at times. A few more vibrations through the wheel, or raucous sound from the exhaust. I still don’t know why BMW feels it’s necessary to give me so many adjustable settings for M Mode, not when I can just hop in the Alfa and drive off in Sport mode, tailpipes crackling. It’s amazing that the same ZF 8-speed is used in both cars (Comp model), but the Alfa’s fires off faster, more like the DCT in an F80.
But it’s not enough to overcome the reliability concerns, because the M3 still puts smiles on my face.
While you can’t go wrong with either car, on this day, it’s German precision over Italian passion. The M3 still has plenty of the latter in its fuel tank.
M3 vs Quadrifoglio mega gallery
Special thanks to @gtbeast88 for bringing along his beautiful Alfa!
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