Inside the Alfa Romeo Stelvio
The Stelvio sits around 20cm higher off the ground than a Giulia which makes getting into it pretty easy, and once inside anyone who has sat in the Alfa saloon will find this car’s surroundings highly familiar.
The Giulia’s insides have effectively been transplanted straight into the Stelvio, and this is a good thing as the layout is well thought-out and the finish solid. Having said that, the inlays and trim of our test car did not exactly scream ‘premium’ in the manner of some of its rivals.
Where the disparity shows most is in the infotainment system. Yes, the Alfa Connect unit is present with all its bells and whistles, but it does not come close to rivals with its small display screen and somewhat last-generation graphics.
A selling point for the Stelvio is its not-that-SUV-like profile, so one expects a compromise in interior space. Actually it’s perfectly adequate, with enough room in the back for adults of reasonable height. At 525 litres boot space is adequate too, the luggage bay nice and flat and easily accessed through the electrically operated tailgate. It’s not very wide, however, and there’s no useful underfloor space to hide valuables in.
Driving the Alfa Romeo Stelvio
The brief to the Alfa engineers creating the Stelvio was to make it drive as much like a Giulia as possible. Notable steps towards that aim include serious weight saving – aluminium is used extensively, from the engine block to various panels, and the car even boasts a propshaft made from carbon fibre.
As a result, one revels in performance that is enthusiastic in a way SUVs just shouldn’t be. But it is enthusiasm without insistence – the car performs without making it obvious.
Our test car may be fitted with the most powerful engine option, but under acceleration it does not feel anywhere near as rushed as the increase in speed signifies. The engine note is hushed, perhaps too much so for a product from a brand with such a sporty image.
The transmission slickly shifts up through its eight speeds, though if one switches from Normal to the Dynamic driving mode it will hold onto a ratio right up to the rev limit – yet this is set well before the engine note could become significant.
The Alfa AWD transmission is a smart unit, with all torque to the rear in normal driving but able to divert 50% of the grip up front when conditions demand. And this contributes to what is a very good chassis – again Giulia inspired.
The double wishbone front, multi-link rear setup (the latter a new design patented by Alfa Romeo) makes for impressive handling prowess – the steering responds sharply to the touch, producing inch-perfect cornering even at speed, while the body remains obstinately upright. It’s so precise, so instantly responsive that some occupants may be slightly unnverved.
Cruising a motorway at close to the limit, the Stelvio remains well-behaved, ready to dial in the potency when needed but not making this ability at all obvious until it is needed.
It’s a pity that such an accomplished car on the road sheds some of the lustre from its performance courtesy of those irritations that Alfa Romeo owners are used to – odd dash notifications, confusing menus and little glitches that for too long have been justified by the phrase “Well it’s an Alfa.”
For this reviewer such oddities were summed up by the start stop system on our test car. In rain, with the wipers going, the system would cut the engine at junctions as it should, and then as it restarted cause the wipers to pause momentarily in their progress across the screen. Why? Other cars don’t do that, and after a while it becomes highly irritating…
Minor irritations apart, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is an effective new entrant to the crowded SUV market. It is generally well built, while crucially it offers a combination of attractive looks and sporting prowess that many rivals do not.
Traditionally Alfa Romeo owners have been fiercely loyal to the brand, insisting the image justifies the irritations that have been just as traditional a part of Alfa Romeo ownership.
The Stelvio retains some of these irritations, but not too many, but it also offers that rare quality in the Alfa image – it really is a sporty SUV.
|Make & model||Alfa Romeo Stelvio||BMW X3||Porsche Macan|
|Specification||2.0 turbo Petrol Q4 AWD Milano Edizione||xDrive20i M Sport||Macan S|
|Engine||2.0-litre petrol||2.0-litre petrol||2.0-litre petrol|
|Power||280 hp||184 hp||252 hp|
|Torque||400 Nm||290 hp||370 Nm|
|0-62mph||5.7 sec||8.3 sec||6.7 sec|
|Top speed||143 mph||134 mph||142 mph|
|Fuel economy (combined)||40.4 mpg||38.7 mpg||38.7 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||161 g/km||166 g/km||171 g/km|
|Euro NCAP rating||5 stars (2017)||5 stars (2017)||5 stars (2014)|