This is the Alfa Romeo Gloria concept, first seen at the 2013 Geneva motor show and regarded as a preview of the planned 2015 front-wheel drive Giulia sedan. Now, imagine the front wheels pushed way forward to stretch the wheelbase and the rear axle tucked in to make space for an eight-speed ZF transaxle, and you have the makings of a compact luxury sedan that will compare favourably with the BMW 3 Series GT.

Alfa Romeo has always built sporty cars - even the boxy little Giulia sedan of the 1960's, so belowed of the Polizia Volante, went like a bomb, thanks to a high-revving twin-cam engine, a rear transaxle for perfect weight distribution and yes, Cyril, rear-wheel drive. Very important, that.

So the reports flying around the cybergarage that Alfa Romeo is planning to ditch its front wheel-drive Mito and Giulietta in the next couple of years and replace them with an Audi, BMW and Mercedes-focused range of rear and all wheel-drive cars and SUV's will be welcomed by Alfisti everywhere.

Which means the long-awaited new Giulia sedan will be delayed yet again.

According to UK Car Magazine's George Kacher, it's part of a radical new plan by Fiat/Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne to distance Alfa Romeo from Fiat's mass-market FWD offerings and align it rather as a junior partner to Maserati, possibly even using Maserati's twin-turbo V6 engines and eight-speed auto transmission in upmarket variants.

MODULAR PLATFORM

Kacher quotes Alfa insiders as saying they will be working closely with the guys who engineered the Ghibli and the new Quattroporte to develop a new, modular, rear-wheel drive platform on which to build four model lines - a reborn Giulia to take on the 3 Series, C-Class and A4 in 2015, followed by a 5 Series/E Class competitor, the Alfetta, in 2016 and two SUVS, an X1 rival in 2017 and an X3/Q5 killer in 2018.

Kacher reports that the new chassis will have to be significantly lighter than that of, say, the Brera or 159, with a longer wheelbase and much shorter overhangs for better handling.

VOLUME TARGET

That will give Alfa Romeo six rear wheel-drive model ranges, given that the 4C coupé - due to debut this year - and the as-yet-unnamed roadster based on the next-generation Mazda MX-5 that Marchionne has promised for 2015 are already RWD and will keep right on rolling.

Along with the radical restructure of its model line-up, Marchionne has reportedly reduced his medium-term volume target for Alfa Romeo from 400 000 to 300 000 cars a year - but that's still three times the current 100 000 and quite ambitious, given that he will need to steal market share from the Teutonic Autocracy to achieve it.