I’m going to answer a question you never asked: Of the recently minted cars I’ve tested, which ones turned me on the most?
(Hint: All five are exciting athletes and, with the exception of a Ford hatchback that is merely cute, all are quite lovely. And no, none of them are crossovers.)
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio (base price $73,595)
The quadrifoglio (four-leaf clover), which long graced Alfa racers and high-performance street vehicles, now appears on the front fenders of one of the most exciting sport sedans I’ve ever driven.
This new, rear-drive Alfa Romeo is motivated by a freshly hatched aluminum V-6 that employs two muscular turbochargers to extract 505 horsepower from a mere 2.9 liters. Put that much power in a relatively light sedan and you wind up with a 0-to-60 sprint in a factory-claimed 3.8 seconds. Huge Brembo high-performance brakes shut it down in the same supercar fashion.
And yes, the handling is wonderful, thanks, in part, to sophisticated electronics like the computer-controlled aero front splitter that furnishes up to 220 pounds of downforce to maximize balance during cornering and braking.
Ford Focus RS ($36,995)
Even with its sporty styling cues, this guy doesn’t wander too far visually from its compact hatchback roots. So, it remains the ultimate wolf in lamb duds. It is in fact, a card-carrying stoplight terrorist that vaults from 0 to 60 in a Corvettish 4.6 seconds and handles exquisitely. That notable acceleration is courtesy of a massaged Mustang 2.3-liter turbo that develops 350 horsepower, which is delivered to all four wheels via a precise six-speed manual gearbox.
What’s also notable is the amount of sophistication and civility the engineers were able to bake into a hot-rodded economy car.
Fiat 124 Spider ($25,990)
This brand-new two-seat roadster is at once an evocation of the lovely, original, Pininfarina-styled 124 Sport Spider and a collaboration with Mazda. The Japanese automaker supplies the platform and some parts from its delightful Miata sports car and builds the Spider. Fiat furnishes the car’s body and interior pieces, and substitutes its 1.4-liter turbo for the Miata’s normally aspirated 2-liter. It also uses its own shocks, springs, and antiroll bars.
The car corners well and, at only 2,500 pounds, is fast enough to be fun with its 160-horse engine. It is a pretty car inside and out, as well as comfortable and fairly quiet.
Jaguar XF ($47,450)
This redesigned midsize sedan is a gorgeous car with driving dynamics to match. The redesign includes more aluminum use, and the resulting 132-pound weight loss bumps up fuel economy nine percent. That means the tester’s 380-horse, supercharged V-6 gets EPA’s of 20 city and 30 highway while getting from 0 to 60 in a brisk five seconds.
Between the perfect 50-50 fore-to-aft weight distribution, the suspension tuning, and steering response, the XF handles superbly. It also affords a supple ride as well as quietude and luxury.
Cadillac CT6 ($54,490)
This new flagship turns out to be a pretty and posh performer. It’s the most luxurious Cadillac I’ve been in, and the quietest, according to the automaker. Workmanship and materials are top drawer, and innovation and elite technology abound. The latter ranges from active rear steering to night vision.
Because these large sedans are so light for their size, thanks to an all-new structure that is mostly aluminum, even the base 2-liter turbo is quick enough to be fun. But the 404-horsepower, biturbo V-6 is a real trip, getting from stoplight to 60 in a mere five seconds.