ITALIAN car maker Alfa Romeo is back at the top of its game with a fire breathing sports saloon that can outpace a BMW M3.
So quick is the Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio that it has lapped the legendary Nurburgring faster than supercars such as the Lamborghini Murcielago and the Mercedes McLaren SLR.
Blasting through 150mph in less than a mile during a straight line sprint along the runway at the former home of the Red Arrows at Kemble airfield in Gloucestershire proved the point.
It also demonstrated the mighty stopping power of the new Giulia with its carbon ceramic brakes reining it in without drama and well within the 6,500ft confines of the landing strip before setting off for a handling session through a slalom course set up on a taxiway.
There the Giulia showed its agility and dynamism unfettered from its electronic handling aids.
The Giulia is the first rear wheel drive Alfa since the Alfa 75 of more than 20 years ago and the range topping Quadrifoglio with its trademark cloverleaf badge is a modern day purist's delight.
It's a Â£61,000 high performance saloon par excellence sitting between the M3 and the Mercedes C63 AMG on the price front and more than a match for either, beating both when it comes to acceleration, outright speed, power and economy.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio is powered by an all-new 2.9-litre V6 engine turbocharged to pump out 510 horsepower. With its roots coming from sister company Ferrari it's a twin turbo, aluminium unit targeting maximum performance.
Lightweight construction - the Giulia makes plenty of use carbon fibre, aluminium and composites throughout its structure - results in a power to weight ratio of 335hp per tonne which produces a 0 to 60 acceleration time of just 3.9 seconds, a theoretical maximum of 191mph and an official fuel return 34.4mpg with emissions of 189g/km.
Those are incredible statistics yet despite the muscle the Giulia feels light and nimble on the road, finely balanced and slick to operate.
Alfas of not so many years ago gave their drivers a sensuous experience and while the sensation of handling a wooden steering wheel may have fallen victim to modern safety regulations, the new Giulia has an intimate touch.
Sports seats, leather trim - picked out with green stitching on the Quadrifoglio models - carbon panels and an alcantara covered steering wheel complete with integrated starter button not only look the part but also give the car a classy feel.
All Giulias - and there are eight others in the line up apart from the Quadrifoglio - have eight speed auto boxes complete with paddle shifters as well as multi-mode drive programmes using Alfa's DNA set up which features dynamic, normal and an advanced efficiency setting.
On the Quadrifoglio the software includes a race mode which neutralises all of the electronic traction aids leaving the car to come alive in uninhibited fashion.
There's fun aplenty on tap with a splendid exhaust growl enhanced in the sportier modes for added thrill.
Technology includes an active front splitter which deploys above 40mph to help aerodynamics, torque vectoring and an advanced brake-by-wire system which Alfa claims reduces high speed stopping distance by up to five metres.
There's also a cylinder deactivation unit on the V6 turbo which in the advanced efficiency mode turns off three of the pots to boost economy. Even on a spirited 60 mile run we saw an average of 25.4mpg from the Quadrifoglio.
Lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking and forward collision alerts are standard while blind spot monitors and automatic cruise control are options seeing the car attain five star Euro NCAP safety ratings.
Despite its high performance the Giulia is a well proportioned saloon and capable of proper family transport with decent rear seat space and boot capacity of 480 litres.
Onboard equipment includes an 8.8-inch central display screen, a Harman Kardon hi-fi and on the Quadrifoglio the instrument panel is set off with a neat cloverleaf emblem in the corner of the speedo.
The Giulia line up starts with a 2.0-litre, 200hp petrol version priced from £29,180 and also includes two 2.0-litre diesels with either 150 or 180hp on tap.
Again these are new engines and priced from £30,750 and £31,950 respectively. Both are rated at 67.3mpg with emissions of 109g/km and neither are slouches.
We sampled the 180hp diesel which has a 0 to 60 time of 7.1 seconds and showed genuine potential as an alternative to any BMW 3 Series or even Jaguar's new XE Ingenium diesel.
The Giulia diesel delivered sporty motoring with a real world fuel return in the low 40s and that will appeal to business drivers who want to be seen in something a little out of the norm.
The Giulia is an Alfa Romeo the likes of which hasn't been seen for years and true to the marque's racing pedigree, harking back to its glory days of the 1920s when the first cloverleaf badge appeared, the Quadrifoglio is something very special indeed combining blistering performance with gorgeous design - just what an Alfa should be.
The original Giulia first appeared in 1962 and followed on from the first Giulietta which had arrived eight years earlier.
Not only did the Giulia become the backbone of Alfa's sporty saloon range for more than a decade its aerodynamic shape for the time (it had a drag coefficient of 0.34) gave rise to the claim that is was designed by the wind.
The newcomer is even more slippery, drag is down 0.25 and fair to say it goes like the wind.