Beautifully flawed but the Giulietta is an Alfa Romeo after all

1147352_giulietta-image-3

I wheel a Globe-Trotter suitcase with me on flights these days. To be honest, it’s not lightest or the most practical trunk on the carousel but hell, does it look good.

If you want to experience suitcase envy, just buy a Globe-Trotter. You can feel the Tumi buyers wishing they had gone for style rather than whopping price tag.

My case wasn’t cheap either but I can forgive all its little foibles because it makes me feel fab. And that should be the philosophy when buying an Alfa Romeo.

You have to accept the car’s strange ways and embrace the uniqueness of something that isn’t a Golf. Once that’s achieved, you’ll always yearn for an Alfa Romeo.

DNA? Nothing to do with the family in an Alfa Romeo…

cropped-1043557_f_9782.jpg

Italians love family more than EastEnders but the DNA switch in a Giulietta has nothing to do with the relations.

Everycar has to have driving modes these days it seems but the Alfa system was introduced way back in 2008.

Dynamic, normal or all-weather, it’s a neat way of changing the feel of the car at the flick of a switch.

It’s clever but I do long for a car that is one thing or the other – I don’t want to have to think about changing settings mid drive.

Sadly, I think most manufacturers are going this way. I was taught to drive more frugally by not pressing the accelerator so hard.

Now you can get the car to do it for you. I suppose that’s progress..

The Alfa Romeo Giulietta’s quirky ways will either amuse or frustrate you…

1147357_giulietta-image-4

When I was 22, I rented a property on an estate where all the houses were the same. One day I came home, parked on the drive and went to open to front door.

For some reason, the key didn’t fit. Then I looked to my left and a strange man was looking at me out of the window… I’d driven into the wrong driveway – just because all the houses looked the same and I must have been on auto-pilot.

This is similar to sitting in the Giulietta for the first time. Everything looks sort of familar but it isn’t. The steering wheel is round and it has one of those sticks for changine gear, year the Alfa isn’t like a normal car.

In the short term this proves annoying, especially if you haven’t got the time to get acquainted. How do you mute the sat nav, why is the infotainment system complicated – and why do I turn the hazard warning lights on instead of adjusting the air vent?

This is pure Afla Romeo. The pedals are off-set and rather high – the seats have an old-fashioned lever adjustment, the list goes on…

It takes time but I like the Giulietta’s quirky ways. It was either designed by a very cool Italian – or somebody doing a lot of dope. Perhaps both – but either way, I like it.

 

Old Alfas don’t die – they just rust away. Thankfully, the latest Giulietta won’t

alfa-gt-junior

I should declare an interest from the start. The first car I bought was an Alfa Romeo GT Junior. To me it looked like a mini Jag (well it was the 1980s), came loaded with Italian promise and was painted a sexy shade of red.

I had swapped it for the eminently sensible Datsun 120Y, given to me by my father. The Japanese car never missed a beat but was soulless. And bright orange.

Naturally I sold the Datsun when he wasn’t looking to bring the Alfa home. It was 12-years-old and riddled with rust. Soon things started to drop off and the front wings had been stuffed with filler.

Eventually, the Junior died on the driveway, the brakes locked up and it trashed the tarmac surface when a lorry came to tow it away.

I should know better but just the mention of Alfa still brightens my day. The Golf-sized Giulietta is far prettier than anything from VW, Ford or Vauxhall.

All those marques offer equally good cars but most of them cost more. They won’t make you feel good like an Alfa either, or prove quite so entertaining when the road clears ahead of you.

I know for sure that this top spec Super isn’t going to rust too…

The new Mercedes SLC AMG43 doesn’t have the power to set your pulse racing

cropped-1206199_beh_9860.jpg

Top Gear describe the new SLC as a shrunken SL – and that’s very good comparison. Driving around the countryside on a cold November morning, I feel warmly cocooned in a luxurious cabin that’s more comfortably than a Boxster but less agile and engaging too.

Sadly, by dumping the old V8 engine for a twin-turbo three-litre Mercedes has rather sucked the pleasure out of a potentially fun car. The folding hard-top makes it very usable as an all-year round two-seater but as a cruiser, not an out-and-out sports car.

Of course, that will make the Merc fit into many people’s lives perfectly well. They can choose from a range of frugal engines – including a diesel – costing considerably less than the AMG43 too.

But it does feel like Mercedes has missed a trick here with the new SLC. This revised model was a chance to leapfrog the Boxster and Audi TT with something ‘of the now’ rather than the past.

And that’s a shame because there should be an affordable Mercedes that makes the hairs on the back of your next stand up every time you drive it…

Porsche Boxster or Mercedes SLC – where would you rather sit?

cropped-1206243_beh_9975.jpg

It’s interesting to compare the interior of a Porsche Boxster with the SLC. Both are premium brand two-seaters but very different in the cabin.

I’ve long complained that Porsche are miserly with their equipment levels. Even my last 911, a 991 Cabriolet from 2012, didn’t have a DAB radio as standard – and there was no option for a retro upgrade either. I also find Porsche buttons and dials less tactile than those in a Mercedes.

For my money, the Merc is a far better place to sit. The big, comfortable seats feel more substantial, comfortable and refined. The Airscarf system (that blows hot air onto the back of you neck) is especially good and being a larger car, there’s extra elbow room.

Complaints? Only that the SLC infotainment system is starting to feel a little old tech. The screen is too small and functionality requires an upgrade…