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First Drive: Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Friday 03 March 2017, By Autovolo

First Drive: Alfa Romeo Stelvio

First Drive: Alfa Romeo Stelvio

What’s new?

This is Alfa Romeo’s first SUV and the Italians have gone to great lengths to make it unique. While Alfa could have borrowed components from sister company Jeep – leaders in the segment – it has started afresh with the Stelvio, basing it on the platform of the recently launched Giulia saloon. This will give the model a rear-biased four-wheel-drive system and provide much more car-like driving dynamics.

The chassis isn’t the only thing shared with the Guilia –  so are the engines. That said, the 2.2-litre diesel has been given a boost, to make 207bhp in its most powerful guise.

Looks and image

You’d be hard pushed to mistake the Stelvio for anything but a product of the Italian carmaker. Alfa’s trademark shield-shaped grille sits proudly in the centre, flanked by Giulia-esque headlights. From the side, the Stelvio’s sleek looks belie its SUV capabilities while in the cabin the Stelvio continues to impress with good-quality materials to complement the attractive and well-designed dash. The driving position is also spot on.

However, as aesthetically pleasing, sleek and sophisticated as the interior of the Stelvio is, it doesn’t quite achieve the wow factor that Mercedes, Jaguar and even Audi manage. There’s nothing that immediately stands out - no fancy quilted leather, touch-sensitive buttons or ‘virtual cockpit’ behind the steering wheel.

The infotainment system also falls short of that in rival models, as does the diminutive rear parking camera display. That said, Alfa has clearly put thought and effort into the cabin, with the flat-bottomed steering wheel and tactile metal paddle shifters standing out.

Space and practicality

The Stelvio doesn’t fit the form of a ‘traditional SUV’ – it is more of a svelte crossover – and as such isn’t as practical as some of its rivals. 

However, there is adequate room both front and rear for four adults, plus their luggage in the 525-litre boot. A relatively small rear window and thick rear pillars mean that rear visibility isn’t great, which can be a bit disconcerting. 

The Stelvio is full of safety equipment, with all the usual up-to-date bits, such as lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. 
While the Stelvio is yet to be tested by Euro NCAP, the Giulia saloon with which it shares many components has already received a five-star rating.

Behind the wheel

According to Alfa Romeo, this isn’t just a sporty-styled SUV, it’s a vehicle with driving dynamics at its forefront.
And this approach appears to have succeeded, with the Stelvio boasting a car-like driving position and a more driver-focused and enveloping cabin than that found in a typical SUV.

The Stelvio’s drive stands out. The steering is direct, accurate and delicate, without feeling over-assisted. There is very little roll around corners – surprising considering the SUV’s tall body – and the model is significantly lighter than its German rivals.

This all combines to make the Stelvio a composed car, with a firm, but not uncomfortable ride. 
Cabin noise isn’t the most refined in its segment – the familiar four-cylinder diesel rumble is quite audible – but aside from that the Stelvio would make for a comfortable motorway cruiser too.

Value for money

While pricing has not yet been announced for Alfa Romeo’s new SUV, it is expected to be in the region of £40,000 for a mid-range car. That puts it in the region of the Mercedes GLC, BMW X4 and Audi Q5.

Three trim levels called Stelvio, Business and Super are offered, with the entry-level model receiving an array of safety kit, front and rear parking sensors, a 6.5-inch infotainment screen, keyless entry and 17-inch alloys as standard. Super trim adds half-leather seats, bigger alloys and a number of other features, while Business trim is only available with BIK-friendly diesel engines.

An extensive options list includes a Harman Kardon stereo with either 10 or 14 speakers, a ‘full-grain’ leather interior and a heated steering wheel, among others.

While the usual electronic toys such as active cruise control are available too, the Stelvio falls short on VW-level specification. Those after LED headlights, active park assist or a head-up display are best looking at other models.

Who would buy one?

With the introduction of its first SUV and, aside from the Giulia, one of its first family-sized cars in five years, Alfa Romeo is looking towards new-to-the-brand customers.

The Stelvio is targeted at the SUV buyers who are more interested in design and handling than the latest in in-car WiFi hotspots.

Well, they’ve nailed that brief. The Stelvio is probably the sweetest-handling SUV this side of a Porsche Macan, and looks far more sophisticated than many of its German rivals. 

And for drivers looking for an economical SUV, the Stelvio is likely to be a strong choice – the most powerful diesel produces a mere 127g/km of CO2 on the combined cycle – that’s less than the equivalent Audi Q5 or BMW X3.

Model: Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Engine: 2.2-litre diesel
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Performance: 0 – 60mph in 6.6seconds, 133mph top speed
Economy: 58.8mpg (combined cycle)
Emissions: 127g/km