The Big Bang Theory
Our current family car is an Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Whether this gives me an unbiased view of Alfa’s latest model the Stelvio or not, I couldn’t say, but after spending some time driving this SUV, I came away delighted that Alfa have added a second great model to their portfolio joining the Stelvio in less than a year. Giulia looks great, drives well & gave the brand a well needed injection of cool just at the right time. However, with the European obsession with SUV’s the new Stelvio is far more crucial for the Italian marque & is expected to account for nearly two-thirds of Alfa sales in the UK in 2018, with a similar performance expected elsewhere in the world.
The range consists of the Stelvio, Stelvio Super and Stelvio Tecnica, with a choice of a 280hp 2.0-litre Turbocharged petrol or a 210hp 2.2-litre Diesel engine, both combined with an 8-speed automatic transmission & Q4 all-wheel drive.
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio version is equipped with 17″ alloy wheels, 8.8-inch Alfa Connect, Alfa D.N.A Rotary selector, 8-speaker audio system, black fabric seats (front with sliding, reclining & height adjustments), Integrated Brake System (IBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), and Forward Collision Warning (FCW) with Autonomous Emergency Brake (AEB) and pedestrian detection. This version also includes parking sensors, cruise control, electric tailgate and dusk & rain sensors.
Step up to the Stelvio Super & you’ll add 18″ alloy wheels, techno-leather & fabric seats in a choice of three colours (black, black/brown & black/red), with three options for the dashboard & door panels (black, black/brown or black/red)& door sills with steel inserts.
An additional Luxury Pack and Sports Pack are also available to customers looking to go the extra mile. Alfa Romeo Stelvio Super’s Luxury Pack includes full grain leather seats (in black, brown, red or beige) with electrical adjustment & heating system, as well as real wood inserts. The Sport Pack comes with heated sports steering wheel, specific grip & leather wrapping, racing-style leather seats in black, red or brown, with electric adjustment & heating system, aluminium inserts and steel pedals. The introduction of Alfa Romeo Stelvio Tecnica will most appeal to the corporate customer. Exclusively available with the Diesel engine, it features the 8.8″ Alfa Connect 3D Nav, Bi-Xenon headlights with AFS & electric folding mirrors.
The new Alfa Romeo SUV is the world’s first car in its segment to offer the new electromechanical system that combines stability control with a traditional servo brake. With its combination of electronics and mechanics, this system not only cuts weights, gives an excellent driving “feel” and eliminates pedal vibration but also guarantees instant brake response, meaning a much shorter braking distance. Furthermore, there’s a whole host of safety systems which are standard on the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, including Forward Collision Warning (FCW) with Autonomous Emergency Brake (AEB), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), Rear Cross-Path Detection & Active Cruise Control.
The premium SUV sector now contains a plethora of choices, from the Teutonic BMW X3, Audi Q5 & Mercedes-Benz GLC to the Jaguar F-Pace, so the Stelvio has a tough task on it’s hands. It’s a given, that being an Alfa, that it will look good, but in a market that’s more crowded than ever, this new Alfa has to offer more than just good looks.
Unsurprisingly, the Stelvio is extremely attractive with an unashamed nod to the Maserati Levante, whilst encompassing some of the exterior style of the Porsche Macan. The Alfa V shaped grille dominates the front of the car with the now ubiquitous off-set number plate adding extra kudos. Wrap around headlights & two deep set air-intakes with in-set fog lights finish off the look. The rear is more sanguine, but still manages to be more pleasing than anything else in the sector.
Inside, the cabin is a mix of that found in the Giulia, with again a touch of Levante by Maserati. The seats sit 190mm higher than in the Giulia & the extra space inside the cabin over the Giulia, means that all of the switchgear familiar in the slightly squashed Giulia, falls much more easily to hand in the Stelvio.. Even the door pockets feel of better quality than in the Giulia & overall there’s a nice mix of metal & soft-touch plastic finishes to run your fingers along. Importantly, it all feels built to last & after some time navigating the instruments & the tech on board, everything works well too. The only disappointment is the 8.8” infotainment system fitted, which actually looks less attractive than the one’s you can now find in a Fiat 500L. It all works well, but just isn’t what I had expected from a £40,000 car.
Both front seat passengers get plenty of leg & head room, whilst in the rear two adults will fit in comfortably, although if your front passengers are tall, there won’t be an awful lot of space for your legs. Seat adjustment is good & I found the drivers seat both supportive as well as comfortable. SUV’s are supposed to be more practical than saloons & estates, so Alfa have ensured that the Stelvio comes with some decent storage; two central cupholders, two larger carpet lined door bins than in the Giulia, which are deep enough for more than just a mobile & a cubby in the centre console.
Many customers actually buy an SUV because they want a decent boot & easy access to it as well. They;ll be happy with the Stelvio, because it offers easy access to the boot ,coupled with a decent load area. At 525 litres, Stelvio has a slightly smaller boot than its closest rivals, but there’s no lip to overcome when loading or unloading ,the boot floor is flat & the space on offer is almost uniformly square shaped, ensuring that more awkward items will fit in here.
I tested the 2.2 turbo diesel 210bhp Q4 AWD Super, which comes with exciting performance, going from 0-62mph in just 6.6 seconds. This rapid movement is partly due to the overall weight of the Stelvio topping of at just 1660kg, which is in most cases 120kg lighter than it’s competition, with the other noticeable benefit being the handling which is undoubtedly best in class. This large SUV feels light & agile & handles almost as well as the lower-slung Giulia, one of our favourite cars to drive.
As with my own Giullieta, Alfa’s DNA is on offer, which allowed me to adjust the Stelvio’s driving experience to Dynamic, which increased throttle response as well as the broad grin permanently fixed my face. Our test car was fitted with the Q4 all-wheel drive system, which can send up to 50 per cent of torque to the front wheels – yet engineers say it’ll never need to on dry surfaces. Amazingly, in October it didn’t rain so I didn’t get the opportunity to test the system out on any wet roads. Whether you can seriously off-road in the Stelvio or not I couldn’t say, but I believe it’s best suited to tarmac, where it never fails to satisfy.
Fleet customers will want to know how the Stelvio performs at the fuel stop. All models are driven by the ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox. On our test model the claimed combined fuel economy is 58.9mpg with CO2 emissions of 127g/km, both being competitive in this sector. A week in the Stelvio saw us average a pleasing 38.1 mpg, which makes us believe that if you drive carefully & in Normal mode, not Dynamic, 45mpg is achievable.
Our test model cost £38,490 OTR. If you want to add more goodies you can. Our test model was fired with additional leather upholstery, £850, gear shift paddles on the steering wheel £275, yellow brake calipers £300, metallic Montecarlo Blue paint £770, 19” alloys £850, a compact spare tyre £275, a Cold Weather Pack £550, Driver Assistance Pack Plus £700, 6-way power front seats £750, power folding outside rear view mirrors £275 & a Convenience Pack £525. This takes the Stelvio into “premium’ territory pushing my standard Super up to £45,610 OTR.
As I mentioned earlier, competition is fierce in the sector that Stelvio is competing in. It scores highest against the opposition in both looks & driveability, whilst it’s mediocre for fit, finish & tech up against the German dominated opposition & the Jaguar F-Pace. However, despite lagging behind the usual suspects in quality, the Stelvio smashed the others out of the ball park when it comes to one major factor, contentedness. Never have I smiled so much & so often driving an SUV & although I don’t want one – it’s too big for my family needs – I can’t wait to see if Alfa, just like everybody else has, makes a slightly smaller version, because I will be at the front of the queue.
Not quite perfection but not far off 4.5/5.