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Alfa's new future finally kicks off. Image by Alfa Romeo.

Alfa's new future finally kicks off
New Alfa Romeo Giulia saloon wants to take on the 3 Series.
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2015-09-15: Alfa's 500hp Giulia has 191mph top speed

What's this then?

This is the Alfa Romeo Giulia and we're going to dispense with the comedy routines and get into the serious meat of this straight away. The headline stuff is arresting - rear-wheel drive, Ferrari-based engines and we can now confirm a body sexy enough to make jaws drop and eyes pop. This is a real contender for the crown of the BMW 3 Series.

Or is it? Certainly, Alfa Romeo has been making all the right moves with this car. Yes, it's much delayed but those delays were apparently made in order to get it right first time. Instead of being spun off from a cheap-o Fiat platform, it's actually sharing a chassis with an impressive Maserati (the Ghibli saloon) and has been engineered in a secret Skunk Works in Modena by a small, close-knit team.

So what's under that gorgeous body?

Suspension is by double wishbones at the front and a multi-link setup at the back complete with a torque-distributing diff. Alfa has also used a lot of carbon fibre and aluminium in the Giulia's structure to keep the weight down and achieve a BMW-matching 50:50 weight distribution.

It has a serious high-performance contender in the Quadrofoglio Verde (four leafed clover, or QV) edition, which takes just 3.9 seconds to do 0-62mph thanks to a 510hp turbo V6 petrol engine shared with a future Ferrari sports car, but also has 140- and 170hp diesels, which can match BMW and Audi for diminutive CO2 emissions, which will make the Giulia more tempting to company car buyers - or at least, so it is hoped.

The Alfa DNA switch makes an expected appearance but the A now stands for Advanced Efficiency, a mode that will maximise the economy and emissions of the Giulia.

Leather, aluminium, carbon fibre and even wood all make an appearance on the interior (for which we have no pictures as yet). And it apparently kicks off a glut of new Alfa models due to arrive in the next half-decade including some SUVs, a compact hatch to replace the Giulietta and a new BMW 5 Series rival.

Sounds like Alfa has a plan...

None of which is really going to matter unless the great buying public can be convinced that Alfa is a brand worth investing in. That's going to be the tough part. The brand has spent more time in the doldrums than Captain Birdseye and has been essentially starved of all investment (aside from the development of the 4C sports car) for the past decade. It hasn't had a sales success since 1997, with the 156 saloon and hasn't really produced something you'd call a world-beater since the original Alfasud. Now, it wants to take on the cream of the German premium car industry, a feat that has thus far proved beyond the likes of Lexus, Jaguar and Cadillac.

Alfa will have to not only flex its engineering muscles (which it would seem from this first sight of the car that it has), but will also have to market the car to the point where it achieves credibility, as well as providing a solid financial base of residual values and PCP deals, which company buyers can safely opt-in to.

That's a tall order, Andre the Giant tall, and even then, it may not be enough. There is a great deal of speculation that the Giulia, and the entire Alfa Romeo investment plan, is actually just smokescreen to try to entice a potential merger partner to take interest in Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). CEO Sergio Marchionne has been openly, even desperately, searching for a partner in the past months and is working hard to get General Motors to agree to a deal. The Alfa plan, along with the lure of Ferrari, could help seal a deal. Certainly that's the opinion of industry analyst Max Warburton at Bernstein's, who told Reuters this week that the Giulia will "look great and boast huge power and performance... we think it is still developed on the cheap, far from production ready and unlikely to sell in large quantities. It is a high-stakes plan, aimed at building credibility with any potential acquirer of FCA."

So, what's it going to be? A genuinely new, successful and desirable Alfa Romeo? Or a fatted calf, tied to a post in the hope of tempting some passing investor? No matter how technically good the Giulia turns out to be, its fate may already have been sealed.

Neil Briscoe - 24 Jun 2015

2015 Alfa Romeo Giulia. Image by Alfa Romeo.2015 Alfa Romeo Giulia. Image by Alfa Romeo.2015 Alfa Romeo Giulia. Image by Alfa Romeo.2015 Alfa Romeo Giulia. Image by Alfa Romeo.    - Alfa Romeo road tests
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