Italian manufacturers have a distinct approach to automotive design and Alfa Romeo, the most accessible of Italian luxury marquees in North America, is no exception. So does Alfa's flagship Giulia sedan deliver?

Back in 2017, the Alfa Romeo's beautiful Giulia sedan was introduced with an all-new design as the brand made its re-entry into North America. When we drove that car we were impressed with its stellar good looks, but found a few details to be out of place. Specifically, we didn't like the Sport mode shift patterns and thought the interior lacked some comfort items that are now expected in the luxury segments. Since our review, Alfa has made a couple of changes to the Giulia. But those changes are minimal and (according to the company) not worth mentioning in any published model information. The changes are, however, clear to the observer.

The 2019 Alfa Romeo Giulia comes in six trim levels, starting with two base options (the Giulia and Giulia Sport), three mid-level options (Ti, Ti Sport, and Ti Lusso), and the high-performance Quadrifoglio. This year, as we did in 2017, we drove the Ti Sport model of the Giulia. The Ti Sport adds 19-inch wheels, painted brake calipers, upgraded aero styling on the front and rear fascias, and sport seating for the driver and front passenger.

The latest Giulia has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that outputs 280 horsepower (209 kW) and 306 pound-feet (415 Nm) of torque to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This normally runs to the rear wheels only, but all-wheel drive (as we drove it) is available.

That transmission is where we focused our attention this time around, having previously noted somewhat jerky gear changes when the Giulia is put into Dynamic (sport) mode on the Alfa Romeo "DNA" dial. For the 2019 model, Alfa appears to have improved mapping for Dynamic mode with gear shifting, though still rough, more in line with what performance driving needs. The car still drives very well in Normal mode, and is sluggishly fuel efficient in Advanced mode.

Bearing in mind that the Giulia in its standard (non-Quadrifoglio) format is a performance sedan akin to most entry-level luxury models in the segment, it's easy to find it appealing. There is plenty of kick from the turbo four, though the lag does have an impact off the line. Most drivers should expect to sprint to 60 mph (96 km/h) in about 6 seconds. Practice can put that closer to 5.5, and Alfa Romeo promises it's capable of 5.1-second 0-60 sprints.

A worthwhile add-on for the Giulia Ti or Ti Sport, is the Performance package, which adds adaptive suspension dampers and a limited-slip rear differential (in rear-drive models). This adds a lot of dynamism to the Giulia's ride quality and softens things for smoother highway cruising. Both good points for the car.

Probably the most disappointing aspect of the Giulia's overall design is the interior – not for its looks or feel, but for its lack of what are now expected norms in luxury driving. A full 360-degree array of parking sensors, for example, is an add-on package, as are adaptive cruise control (different package) and advanced collision avoidance. Some or most of these are standard equipment on many competitors.

That said, while it's not as high-end as some competitors nor as complex inside with gadgets and comfort as they can be, the 2019 Giulia is not austere either. Materials are where this Alfa Romeo seems to skimp. Many feel a little cheap, considering the car's price tag, but overall we'd say the Giulia is about average for entry-level luxury.

Cargo space is good and the split-fold rear bench adds to that for some pass-through options. The back seats are like jeans on an 80's hair band – slightly too small – thought that's hardly unexpected in a compact sedan. Still, we'd like to see better entry and exit space for the rear outboard seats, which seem crammed into place with an angled door shape and roofline that impede ease of exit.

Where the interior does shine is up front in the driver's seat. Controls are beautiful, if quirkily Alfa Romeo. The steering-mounted push-button start is odd, but endearing in its way, and the paddle shifters are huge. Seating up front is comfortable and form-fitting with a solid feel to enhance the performance appeal of the car. Infotainment, though purely Alfa Romeo, is very well executed.

But it's the exterior that really grabs the eye. This is a beautiful sedan from every angle. Strongly European in its swoosh, the Giulia has a classic look that's hard to deny. Every element of its lines and form come together in a beautiful package.

In all, the 2019 Alfa Romeo Giulia wouldn't be our first pick in luxury sports sedan choice, but it's got a lot of appeal. Not the least of which is its relative rarity on American roadways and its classic beauty. Retail for the 2019 Giulia starts at US$38,545 and it was priced at $51,885 (delivered) as we drove it.

Product Page: 2019 Alfa Romeo Giulia

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