Alfa Romeo Stelvio: Italy's new luxury SUV passes muster
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It’s taken a while for Alfa Romeo to join the premium SUV segment but now that it has with the Stelvio, things are looking “molto bene” for the Italian brand.
The Stelvio debuted at the 2016 Los Angeles motor show (where I witnessed journalists queuing for an hour to take a peek at it in its own marque). Its next appearance was at the 2017 Geneva motor show.
It went into production at Alfa’s Cassino production plant at the end of 2106, but the 2019 models landed in New Zealand only in June with three models on sale at the moment; the entry level Stelvio, diesel and the Ti (pictured here).
The entry Stelvio and Ti have a 2-litre turbo petrol engine, the base model producing 148kW of power and 330Nm of torque. The Ti has output of 206kW/400Nm. The diesel’s 2.2-litre engine produces 154kW of power and 470Nm of torque, so is ideal for towing.
All models have an eight-speed automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive system.
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is priced at $82,990, the diesel is $84,990 and the Ti starts at $99,990. My Stelvio Ti sat on 20in alloys, giving it a more prominent look. The entry level and diesel had 19in.
Hopefully Alfa Romeo’s New Zealand distributor will get an early Christmas present with the arrival of the sporty Stelvio Quadrifoglio that boasts a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine. That version will definitely be on a few Kiwis’ Christmas wish lists.
“The Stelvio seamlessly blends everything the Alfa Romeo brand stands for; style, passion and exhilaration and adds the versatility of a state-of-the-art SUV to provide a vehicle that is uniquely suitable for New Zealand, be it urban driving, exploring our wonderful country roads or going off road on the ultimate adventure,” said David Smitherman, CEO of New Zealand’s Alfa Romeo distributor.
“The premium mid-size SUV segment in New Zealand is forecast to grow and the introduction of the Stelvio now enables Alfa Romeo further expansion of the brand,” he said.
“Stelvio opens the door to customers who may not have considered an Alfa Romeo in the past due to the demands of a family or business life. The Stelvio meets these demands while still providing the uniquely Alfa Romeo dynamic driving experience.”
The Stelvio is named after the Stelvio Pass, Italy’s highest mountain pass, with 48 circuitous switchbacks. That in itself should imply it’s a sporty model.
It is moving into a chocka segment here, competing with the likes of Audi Q3, BMW’s X2, Jaguar’s E-Pace, the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Mercedes-Benz’s GLC, Volkswagen Tiguan and Volvo’s XC40 and XC60.
But what sets the Stelvio apart — and caused a lot of head turning during Driven’s road test — is the unmistakably Alfa Romeo look. It starts with the signature Alfa “V” grille, the curvaceous bonnet and flared wheel arches, before adding dual exhausts.
Inside, there is a pure refinement and minimalism unseen in the above list.
I loved the 8.8-inch infotainment system with satellite navigation set into the narrow dash but it lost points for not being touchscreen — here’s something for the “to do” list when the Stelvio gets a facelift.
There’s also a 7in driver's display, an eight-speaker sound system, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, plus an electric tailgate.
While it’s a five seater, the room is the back is better suited for two passengers for long road trips, and the rear wheel arches do encroach into half the door sill area, although the boot area is good for a compact SUV.
Alfa says the Stelvio has 50/50 weight distribution, and at 1660kg is the lightest SUV in its class, giving it more of a sports car performance. It was noticeable on the open road where I felt confident at cornering at speed and taking on tight bends.
To add to that performance, the Stelvio has the innovative Alfa DNA Drive Mode Selector, which modifies the dynamic behaviour of the vehicle according to the driver’s selection.
In “Dynamic” mode, the vehicle has sharper braking and steering, and there is a more aggressive engine, transmission and throttle tip-in calibrations. I drove in that mode on the motorway.
“Natural” mode, my favourite, is comfort setting for daily driving.
“Advanced” efficiency mode is the eco-friendly system to help achieve the lowest fuel consumption. I used that in stop-start traffic in city driving.
The Stelvio has a 5 Star Ancap safety rating thanks to forward collision warning, great adaptive cruise control plus lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross path detection and front- and rear-park assist sensors.
With such a package, and smooth yet assured driving, the Stelvio will be on the shopping list for Kiwis wanting the popular compact premium SUV.