The king is dead...long live the king!
The Alfa has now gone, and been replaced by the Seat Leon FR. Unbelievable difference in qualtiy of everything (except looks!) - handling, performance, ride quality on all surfaces, comfort, economy......I found myself overtaking someone and doing 80 in a 50 in no time, as in the Alfa I would have had to floor it just to accelerate a little bit. No more hesitation when changing up/down the gears or putting your foot down, much quieter at all speeds (no more stupid 'feature' noises), etc. etc. etc.
The issue with the drive shafts only just bcoming a service note is typical of the Alfa/Fiat customer service - I mentioned this noise almost every time I took it in, and was always told it's a 'feature' of the car, and they would do nothing about it, not even investigate it.
Shoddy workmanship, shoddy service, incompetent engineers, rude customer service representatives (remember the slamming the phone down incident?) - if I was that bad at my job, I'd be on the dole by lunchtime....
I sincerely hope you all have a much better Alfa experience than I have had, and I appreciate that nothing's perfect, but I'm afraid I wouldn't touch another one with a barge pole (the barge would be a preferable mode of transport).