CHASING in the tyre tracks of the Giulia comes the Stelvio SUV - the car that should, if there is any justice, sell like hot torte for Alfa Romeo, writes William Scholes.
Excellent as the Giulia is, it is competing for a slice of a shrinking market as buyers are deserting traditional saloon, hatchback and estate body shapes for the new breed of SUVs and crossovers.
From representing only a small fraction of the European car market a decade ago, SUVs and crossovers now account for around 30 per cent of all registrations, with that share only set to grow.
That means that any car-maker serious about sales volumes needs to have at least one SUV in its range - making Alfa's decision to create the Stelvio a no-brainer.
Even before it has turned a wheel, the Stelvio - named after an Alpine pass famous for its hairpin bends - seems to have at least two things going for it compared to its BMW X3 and Audi Q5 rivals.
First, because it is essentially a jacked-up and SUV-ified Giulia, it should be good to drive.
And second, just look at it: SUVs may never have the elegance of a classically proportioned sports saloon, but the Stelvio is easily the most glamorous of its type.
For this writer, Volvo's new XC60 would seem to offer the sternest competition.
The Stelvio arrives in showrooms in September, with prices that more or less track rival cars and which start at a tenner less than £34,000.
Trim levels at launch start at Stelvio and rise through Super and Speciale to a limited edition Milano Edizione.
A 2.0-litre petrol engine is available with either 197bhp or 276bhp, and is four-wheel-drive-only.
A 2.2-litre diesel unit is available in either 178bhp or 207bhp flavours; the less powerful version can be had with either rear- or four-wheel-drive, while the more potent model is only all-wheel-drive.
All Stelvios for the Northern Ireland market will have an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Alfa Romeo is aiming to appeal to the enthusiast driver, who will appreciate the 50/50 weight distribution and the carbon fibre driveshaft
A Stelvio Quadrifoglio, using the same stonking 503bhp engine as found in the Giulia version, arrives later.
Alfa Romeo is clearly aiming to appeal to the enthusiast driver, who will appreciate the 50/50 weight distribution, carbon fibre driveshaft, the effort to keep the Stelvio's weight to a trim 1,660kg and its superior power-to-weight ratios.
It claims that the 276bhp car offers best in class acceleration, thanks to a 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds.
The 207bhp diesel, meanwhile, emits 127g/km of CO2 and returns 58.9mpg on the EU combined cycle, while also being able to accelerate from 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds.
The entry level Stelvio, priced from £33,990, comes with 17-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels, LED rear lights, dual-zone climate control, Alfa Romeo's 'D.N.A.' rotary driving mode selector, a 3.5-inch TFT colour cluster instrument panel, an 8.8-inch display infotainment system with DAB and Bluetooth connectivity, an eight-speaker audio system and two front and two rear USB ports.
Super, from £36,190, trim brings 18-inch alloys, front parking sensors, leather and cloth upholstery and a 3D satnav system.
The Speciale version, starting at £41,490, gains 19-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels with red brake calipers, chrome window surrounds, xenon headlamps, power folding door mirrors, leather seats - heated and electrically adjustable in the front - and the same gorgeous aluminium shift paddles on the steering column as found in the Giulia.
A launch version, called the Milano Edizione, adds to Speciale trim with sports seats, a 10-speaker audio system, 20-inch alloy wheels and a rear-view camera. It costs from £43,990.
- A left-hand-drive, European market Stelvio will be available for viewing at the Donnelly Alfa Romeo showroom in Mallusk next month, ahead of the right-hand-drive version's launch in September.