By: Jag Dhatt
Italy has always been associated with some pretty cool things – from pasta, pizza and wines for the masses to fine tailoring for the discerning professionals. Names like Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Fendi, and Giorgio Armani are just some that attract buyers who want only the finer things in life.
Another Italian name making a surge is Alfa Romeo, part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Alfa Romeo (gotta love the name) was known for building amazing high-performance sports cars and sedans, like the Alfetta, Stradale, Carabo, and of course, the much-loved Duetto Spider. The Alfa brand didn’t have as much prominence in North America as in Europe, but all that is changing now. And to keep up with the demand for SUV’s, Alfa has joined the trend and launched the Stelvio.
The name “Stelvio” comes from an Italian mountain pass, which I’m sure, offers beautiful views of its surroundings; thus, it’s fitting for this SUV because everyone looks at it. The Stelvio is stylishly gorgeous, and I believe competes with the Jaguar F-Pace as the most beautiful SUV in its category. Our test vehicle, the TI Sport AWD, was painted in beautiful Alfa Rosso (Red) and fitted with 20-inch wheels. Combine this with a design that features the iconic and aggressive Alfa Romeo grille, long hood, and sweeping lines, and you’ve got an SUV that isn’t just sporty, but means business as well. And of course, our premium tester also had bi-xenon adaptive headlamps with LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, Brembo brakes and bright dual exhaust tips.
If you think the Stelvio looks good on the outside, then you won’t be disappointed with the interior either. It’s driver-focused and sporty, especially with the Start/Stop button located on the steering wheel. Unlike any other vehicle in this category, the Stelvio comes standard with real leather seats (with memory position) and a heated leather steering wheel. That’s not bad at all. While the base Stelvio has decent and supportive seats, the TI Sport gets more aggressive side bolsters that keep you planted while taking corners. While it’s not as roomy as the BMW X3, I found that my family of 5 were reasonably comfortable in the SUV, especially when you consider that out of my 3 kids, one is in a car seat and the other in a booster. What did my kids like the most? That massive panoramic sunroof!
Enough of the design and interior features – I’m sure most of you want to find out how it drives, so let’s get to it.
As I mentioned before, the name Stelvio comes from an Italian mountain pass; what I didn’t mention is that this mountain pass has almost 50 hair pin turns. So, with the name of Stelvio, can this SUV tackle all of those turns? In a nutshell, we think HELL YES!
Even though I wasn’t on a circuit that had hairpin turns, I was able to put the Stelvio through some tight corners and nice straightaways, and boy was I impressed. What really stands out with this Alfa is how beautifully it handles and performs. The standard Q4 all-wheel drive system is matched with an Alfa Drive Mode Selector system that automatically adjusts to various road and driving conditions to find the perfect range of torque. And it’s torquy, with most of the grunt going the rear wheels. Under the hood is a 2.0L twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder engine that puts out 280hp and 306 lb-ft of torque. Paired with an 8-speed ZF transmission, the TI Sport can get from 0 – 100 km/h in just 5.4 seconds. See, told you it was fast! Now, full disclosure here. At lower speeds, at times, the transmission wasn’t buttery smooth. But trust me, it doesn’t take away from the fun factor.
If you wanted to compete with some of the faster boys like the Porsche Macan GTS and upcoming Jaguar F-Pace SVR, then opt for the Quadrifoglio, which churns out over 500 horses from a twin-turbocharged V6. You’ll have to dish out a bit extra cash than our TI Sport as well.
The Stelvio’s steering is precise and quick, like the reflexes of a cat. Point the steering wheel where you want to go and that’s where you go. You feel completely connected to the road in a way that’s not only fun, but confidence-inspiring.
Finally, there’s the suspension. Unlike Jaguar’s F-Pace or the Porsche Macan, the Stelvio absorbs bumps a little better. Now, this not to say that the ride isn’t stiff, but come on, this is supposed to be an agile SUV that’s meant to be driven aggressively. If you want a more plush ride, then the Mercedes GLC or Audi Q5 would be more to your liking.
Okay, so is SUV perfect? Well, while it is quite impressive, there are a couple of quirks that need to be mentioned. First of all, the infotainment system. I would say I’m pretty savvy, but I found the Stelvio’s system to be quite annoying – a rotary knob is used to interact with the system, but the menu structure is not clear and can be cumbersome and frustrating. This is sad considering the simplicity of FCA’s Uconnect system. Then there’s the front seats; while very supportive and comfortable, the bottom cushion’s angle cannot be adjusted separately from seat height.
After driving the Stelvio TI Sport for a week, it’s easy to see the appeal of this SUV. It can almost go neck and neck against the Porsche Macan, but has a much more attractive sticker tag. And, it rivals the handling and performance of the Jaguar F-Pace, but has more power. And that’s not all; remember, the Stelvio has the heart and soul of an Alfa.