Alfa Romeo has a long and storied history in the automotive world, but the Italian marque has suffered its fair share of difficulties over the years. Alfa's range was made up of just two small hatchbacks between 2008 and 2013, but exciting things are happening in Turin. The 4C supercar launched in 2013, and now the new Giulia has all the right ingredients to take on midsize sedans like the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.

Initially, there will be three different engines available on the new Giulia. For people who aren't worried about out-and-out performance there's an all-aluminum, 2.2-liter diesel that uses a variable-geometry turbocharger for quick throttle response.

The four-cylinder engine is available with 150 hp (112 kW) of power and 380 Nm (280 lb.ft) of torque, putting it squarely in line with the BMW 318d. Buyers who want a bit more power can opt for a variant with 180 hp (134 kW) and 450 Nm (332 lb.ft) of torque, which is 10 hp (6 kW) less power than the BMW 320d manages, but 50 Nm (36 lb.ft) more torque.

Depending on where it's being sold, a 276 hp (206 kW) 2.0-liter petrol engine will also be offered, while diesel and petrol cars can both be coupled with a six-speed manual or and eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Of course if you're after a practical family sedan, you're unlikely to wander into an Alfa Romeo showroom. This is a brand built around "the romance of performance," so lets forget about practicality for a moment and talk about how it's going to handle a twisting Tuscan road at sunset.

Taking a quick look at the spec sheet reveals plenty of potential. The base model Giulia weighs just 1,374 kg (3,029 lb), which is almost 300 kg (661 lb) less than a diesel Audi A4. It's worth remembering that figure is an unladen weight, but adding 160 kg (353 lb) to account for a driver and fluids isn't likely to prompt any panicked calls to Weight Watchers.

In the past, we might have been worried about an Alfa Romeo that makes bold claims about being lighter than its rivals, but we're confident that these weight savings can be accounted for by the carbon propeller shaft and aluminum-rich construction. What's more, the car has a perfect 50-50 weight distribution, and Alfa is adamant its body structure is extremely stiff.

Up front, there's a double-track control arm suspension system, which is designed to work in tandem with the car's 11.8:1 steering ratio for quick turn-in. At the rear, there's a five link setup designed to combine a compliant ride with solid body control. We're not sure whether that's enough to make it handle as well as the Jaguar XE we drove last month, but it seems like a good start.

We've deliberately left the final piece of the puzzle until last because, unlike the impressive light weight or well-endowed engines, this is up for debate. It mightn't be all that different from the rest of the mid-sized sedan crowd, but there's something about its long wheelbase and compact body that make the Giulia look just right. Are we getting caught up in the hype? Feel free to let us know in the comments.

Opening up the door reveals more design that, to us, looks absolutely fantastic. From the sweeping dashboard to the polished gearknob, the cabin pushes all the right buttons.

Speaking of buttons, there will be plenty to push when you sit down behind the wheel, because active safety features like blind spot warning, auto-emergency braking and lane departure warning are standard across the range. Moving up from the entry-level car brings an 8.8-inch touchscreen, along with nicer trim on the seats.

Currently there's no word on pricing for the Giulia.

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