THE arrival of an Alfa Romeo for evaluation always fills me with a sense of excitement - possibly because you never really know what you're going to get.
They are a bit of a Marmite brand renowned for beautifully sculpted cars with performance capabilities to match but, on the downside, rather let down over the years by reliability issues.
The Italian manufacturer recently resurrected a name that's a blast from the past in the shape of the Giulia and it has been received very well.
So, an opportunity to drive the Giulia Veloce (which is Italian for fast) was welcomed with great anticipation.
When it comes to looks, the Giulia Veloce is guaranteed to stop onlookers in their tracks. The Italian designers have a gift for producing exquisitely styled cars that are the envy of many other manufacturers and this model is another perfect example.
The sleek four-door sports saloon stands out from the standard Giulia thanks to the front sports bumper with enlarged air inlets, bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, 18-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels, gloss black window surrounds, dark tinted rear windows, dual chrome exhaust tips and yellow brake calipers.
Even the sporty rear bumper is characterised by a special rear diffuser to help achieve better aerodynamics. It's also worth mentioning the new colour option for the Giulia Veloce - it's Misano Blue and it looks amazing.
Move inside and the interior is clearly designed with the driver in mind with all controls, dials and readouts perfectly positioned for ease of use.
The black leather sports seats can be heated and offer excellent support and there's a generous level of techno treats to be explored, including Alfa Romeo's Uconnect 8.8-inch 3D navigation infotainment system which is controlled by a rotary dial (not touchscreen) and includes smartphone connection via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, a superb Harman Kardon sound system, DAB radio, dual zone climate control and lots more besides.
Our car, powered by a 280bhp, 2.0-litre petrol engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, was priced at £38,260 although a number of optional extras such as metallic paint, those yellow brake calipers, a climate pack, performance pack, convenience pack and the upgraded audio system meant the final cost crept up to £43,240.
As one would expect with such a dynamically-styled car boasting such firepower, the performance stats are not for the faint-hearted.
The Giulia Veloce can sprint from 0-62mph in a very rapid 5.7 seconds (fast by name and fast by nature) and maxes out at 149mph.
On the economy front, combined fuel figures are a reported 46.3mpg with carbon emissions of 141g/km.
Getting comfy is a quick and simple process with six-way power adjustable front seats along with full steering wheel adjustment and the all-round visibility is good.
But enough facts and figures. After all this is car that is designed to be driven and show off its capabilities and they don't disappoint.
There is a dial with the letters ‘d', 'n' and ‘a' on it and this is where the driving modes are selected. The lettering stands for dynamic, natural and advanced efficiency with dynamic really sharpening up the throttle, steering and brakes.
At the other end of the scale, select ‘a' and the Giulia becomes a much calmer and somewhat tamed beast and that means improved efficiency. It's a car for all moods.
The perfectly timed transmission can be controlled manually by huge steering column-mounted shift paddles and it soon becomes very apparent that the Giulia Veloce lives up to its name. Yes, it's fast, but it's also well balanced at the same time delivering excellent agility into sharp bends.
Acceleration is instant and the steering is both accurate and perfectly weighted. Another feature that impressed was how composed and refined the car was.
The highly effective suspension dealt brilliantly with rough surfaces and the cabin was well insulated against any noise intrusion from the engine or road surface. There is more engine roar when pushed hard in dynamic mode, but that just adds to the appeal of the car.
The Giulia scored a maximum five stars when it was tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating and is well equipped with safety features and driver aids, including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, automatic headlights, run-flat tyres, front and rear parking sensors and plenty more besides.