Alfa Romeo has taken what it’s learnt from the success of its Giulia and created the kind of SUV that some consumers might have been waiting for. It’s good-looking, compact on the outside, yet spacious on the inside, light, quick and a whole lot of Italian fun!
Last week, (Friday 17 November 2017) I attended the launch of Alfa Romeo’s first ever consumer-focused SUV. Inspired by the Stelvio Pass (Italy’s highest drivable mountain pass) the name also represents a driver-focused, fun-to-drive, Italian passion. So Alfa Romeo thought it be best that we spend our test-driving time with the Stelvio on some of the Cape’s best Mountain Passes, and what a lot of fun we had!
Typical Alfa Design
The Stelvio expresses much of what you’d expect from an Alfa Romeo: quality and refinement with a strong emphasis on Italian flair. From certain angles, and while watching the Stelvios sprint through mountain passes at the launch, I could easily have mistaken them for big hatches, especially from certain angles.
This is the first time South African’s will see an Alfa Romeo SUV on the road, and if they aren’t yet familiar with the Stelvio, one thing they will recognise is that it’s definitely an Alfa Romeo! The Stelvio doesn’t compromise on the brand’s identifiable appearance, which for me is a good thing, because Alfa Romeo is known for some pretty good-looking pieces of machinery.
Inside, the Stelvio provides a surprisingly large amount of space, especially considering how compact it looks from the outside. Storage space is ample, with large cup holders, big door bins and other hidden compartments but what’s really worth noting is how spacious you feel sitting up front. As a front passenger to start with, I moved my seat as far back as possible and couldn’t believe just how much space legroom I had. I could happily have had a load of shopping bags at my feet and still have enough space to sit comfortably.
With a dashboard that swoops and elegantly brings everything together to make it a visually appealing place to be, design details in the cabin are really striking.
I drove the First Edition Stelvio, which offers slightly more sporty features, like paddle shifts, 20-inch alloy wheels and an electric sunroof. The Super version features 18-inch allow wheels, leather seats in three colours (black, brown and red), and complimentary colours for the dashboard, door panels and sill with steel insert.
An optional Luxury Pack is also available for an even more premium interior.
Light and quick
Extensive use of lightweight materials like carbon fibre and aluminum, balanced weight distribution, state-of-the-art suspension and direct steering ratio are just some of what contributes to a thrilling driving experience. Most of all is Alfa Romeo’s Q4 system, which combines all-wheel drive benefits with rear-wheel driving pleasure, giving it that sports-car-like feel.
Stiff suspension means that there’s little body roll (after six mountain passes, you can take my word for it) while its steering wheel is enjoyably light and sharp.
The Stelvio is powered by a 2-litre turbocharged petrol engine which offers a power output of 206 kW (280 HP) and 400 N.m of torque. It’s eight-speed automatic gearbox is smooth and responds quickly when needed, and a powerful feeling of in-gear acceleration is one of the first stand-out driving qualities noticed while venturing up various mountain passes at its launch. The paddle shifts on the First Edition model really enhance its driver-focused personality, although they do tend to get in the way of the indicator levers.
Fun, but safe
The Stelvio scores pretty high in terms of safety and protection. It achieved a Euro NCAP 5-star rating with a 97% score in the protection of adult occupants. Depending on which version you buy (entry or first edition) a number of safety systems are available as standard or optional. These include an Integrated Brake System, Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Brake with pedestrian detection, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross-Path Detection and Active Cruise Control.
Conclusion and pricing
If you’ve been put off buying an SUV because you’re worried that you’ll be losing out on thrill and exciting driving pleasure, the Stelvio might just change your mind. The Stelvio competes with the likes of the Jaguar F-PACE and Porsche Macan and prices start from R810 000 for the Super, and R946 000 for the First Edition.
The Stelvio Q3 is set to launch next year.