2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti Lusso Drivers' Notes | We've got a crush on Giulia

American car enthusiasts have pined over Alfa Romeos for decades. The automaker stopped importing cars to the U.S. in 1995, with only a brief appearance with the beautiful but exotic 8C Competizione. The 4C followed along a few years later, but it too was a niche product, mainly intended to raise brand awareness than raise sales. That's where the Giulia steps in.

As a compact sport sedan, Giulia is Alfa's BMW 3 Series competitor. Sure, the Giulia Quadrifoglio might get all the headlines, but cars like the Giulia Ti Lusso and Sport will be the real volume models. This is an extremely cutthroat segment with high expectations when it comes to both luxury and performance. Alfa has been out of the game for a long time, and the reputation it left wasn't exactly the greatest. Alfa Romeo has a lot riding on this car.

Associate Editor Reese Counts: I like this car right from the start. It's a looker. While I prefer colors that pop, the Giulia looks wonderful even in this metallic black paint. The proportions are all perfect, and that iconic grille has rarely looked better. If Alfa does one thing right, its the styling. I felt the same way about the interior. The design is all simple and clean. The seats are particularly nice, with Ferrari-esque ribs down the middle. I'm also a big fan of the wood and leather. Only some cheap feeling plastic bits brought it down.

This Giulia has a middling transmission, a good engine and great steering. There's some weird low-speed hesitation from the eight-speed that makes it feel like a dual-clutch. Once you're on it, the shifts are quick and smooth. The Lusso doesn't come with paddle shifters. That's fine. Not every car needs them. Buy the Sport if you want that sort of thing. Power and torque come on quick and effortlessly. It feels every bit as its class-leading (four-cylinder) 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet for torque would suggest. The 5,500 rpm redline comes in quick and abrupt, making me wish it had a little more room to breathe up top.

The steering is wonderful. It's quick and precise but doesn't feel jittery. I'd have to drive the competition back to back, but I think this has the best steering in the class. The wheel feels nice in your hands. Some of the other touch points are a letdown, but Alfa got the driving position and controls just right.

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Many of the powertrain components, like the 6.6-kilowatt onboard charger and the DC-DC inverter, are all mounted on a big bracket that is sub-assembled and then lifted into place when building the van. The new Pacifica Hybrid will be made on the same.

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