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SAUCY SPORT SEDAN: Alfa Romeo’s Giulia Ti challenges its premium-class competition with Italian design, exciting performance

It’s been a long drought for Alfisti (Alfa Romeo aficionados), but the storied Italian marque has leaped back into the U.S. market.

Offering a hot-blooded sports car (the 4C), a sports sedan (the Giulia) and soon an SUV (the Stelvio), Alfa at long last will have a line of vehicles fully worthy of going up against its premium-class competitors.

Last sold here in 1995, Alfa simply couldn’t keep abreast of the tsunami of German and Japanese imports flooding the U.S. market, let alone the homegrown American automakers’ offerings. Often maligned for questionable reliability, the Italians retreated, tail between legs.

But for Alfa, there remains a lingering mystique among U.S. car fanatics that gives the new vehicles a fair chance of making a go of it this time around.

Our tester, a mid-level Giulia Ti AWD with Sport Package, is solid evidence that Alfa Romeo, an upscale division of Fiat Chrysler, can deliver on its promise of sporty performance, svelte Italian design and tempting pricing.

Powering the lower-level Giulias is a potent, 2.0-liter, turbocharged, twin-cam four-cylinder pumping out 280 happy horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque, delivered to all four wheels via a snappy eight-speed automatic transmission. Large shift paddles provide the driver added involvement.

While not a rocket, this drivetrain is plenty quick for exciting driving. (The top-line, $74,000 Quadrifoglio ratchets up the ante with a 505-horsepower V-6 for near-supercar performance.)

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia interior

With sensitive, super-precise steering delivering excellent feedback, the Ti carves into corners with negligible body lean and gobs of grip. Ride quality is excellent, considering the car’s capabilities.

The Giulia extends its sporting theme inside the tidy cabin. Our tester’s Sport Package ($1,750) included excellent leather sport-style buckets that fit like a fine pair of Italian gloves. Most of the interior materials are up to par for its price range. Gauges and controls are attractive and logically located.

The Alfa Romeo Giulia presents a welcome change of pace from the usual suspects in this segment. Its aggressive design, superb handling, energetic power delivery and taut build quality make it a must-see option for sport-sedan shoppers.

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