Alfa Romeo enters the SUV segment with this Stelvio model. Should you want one? Jonathan Crouch decides.
Ten Second Review
This Stelvio model is, according to its maker, very much an Alfa Romeo first and an SUV second. That sounds promising, as does the fact that most of the engineering here is shared with the brand's well-regarded Giulia saloon. The result should be a premium mid-sized SUV well able to mix it with class favourites.
Will any brand be able to resist the allure of the growing SUV market? It doesn't appear so. We live in a time when even Bentley and Rolls Royce feel the need to produce such a thing, so it is perhaps surprising that it's taken Alfa Romeo quite so long to join this lucrative band wagon. Still, join it they have with this car, the Stelvio, named after the famous European mountain pass.
It's the car that the Milanese marque hopes will give it an important foothold in the profitable segment for premium mid-sized SUVs currently dominated by cars like BMW's X3, Jaguar's F-PACE, Audi's Q5, Volvo's XC60 and the Mercedes GLC.
The Stelvio serves up plenty of Alfa character, thanks to a soundtrack that Chef Engineer Roberto Fedeli says was created working in concert with musicians, who helped perfect this SUV's addictive engine note. Buyers can choose between three mainstream engine versions - a 2.0-litre 280hp petrol Q4 AWD model and a couple of 2.2-litre diesels. The base 190hp 2.2 diesel comes with either rear wheel drive or 'Q4' four-wheel drive, while the more powerful 210hp version of this unit comes only in 4x4 guise. The two quickest derivatives both get an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission as standard. The potent petrol model offers best in class acceleration, going from zero to 62mph in just 5.7 seconds and onto a top speed of 143mph. The 2.2-litre 210hp diesel Q4 AWD meanwhile, registers a top speed of 134mph and accelerates from zero to 62mph in 6.6 seconds. In addition, at the top of the range, there's a 2.9-litre V6 petrolengined Bi-Turbo Quadrifoglio performance model boasting 510bhp and 600Nm of torque. It's 4WD of course and gets to 62mph in just 3.8s.
Even on humbler variants, thanks to perfect 50/50 weight distribution, Q4 all-wheel drive architecture, a best in class power-to-weight ratio and innovative engine and driver technologies, the Stelvio embodies everything a true Alfa Romeo should. Not only that, but this Italian contender is one of the lightest mid-size SUVs in the sector thanks to lightweight body structure and a carbon fibre driveshaft.
Design and Build
The Stelvio is styled very much the way you might expect an Alfa Romeo SUV to look and sits on the same 'Giorgio' platform used for the brand's mid-sized Giulia compact executive saloon. The brand makes much of the Stelvio's 'premium' architecture, which has made it possible to use copious amounts of aluminium and develop high-cost features like a carbonfibre propshaft. As a result of all this, this Alfa's very light by class standards, weighing in around 125kgs less than a comparable Jaguar F-PACE, itself a supposedly light SUV in this class.
Inside, the cabin design is centred around the driver with the main controls grouped together on the small steering wheel. The human-machine interface consists of two simple, user-friendly knobs for adjusting the Alfa DNA selector and the infotainment system. As for practicalities, the Stelvio offers decent rear seat room and a long, usefully shaped boot, although it might have been wider had its sides not been packed with components-unknown behind carpeted trim panels. The rear seats can be semi-released from the tailgate end, but only semi-released; when you pull on the levers that do this, the backrests don't fully move forward and you have to push them into place, which is annoying. Still, once you've done than, everything folds flat into the floor.
Market and Model
Prices start at around £34,000 and range up to around £45,000. There's a choice of four trim levels - standard, 'Super', 'Speciale' and 'Milano Edizione'. Even standard variants come with a decent kit tally, including 17-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels, LED rear lights and a double lateral chrome exhaust pipe. Inside, the cabin focuses on driver satisfaction with dual-zone climate control, the Alfa 'D.N.A.' rotary driving mode selector and a 3.5-inch TFT colour cluster instrument panel. Infotainment is taken care of by a 'UConnect' 8.8-inch centre-dash display with DAB plus Bluetooth/AUX multimedia connectivity, an eight-speaker audio system and two front and two rear USB ports. A multi-function leather steering wheel, houses all the main controls so the driver can focus on the task at hand.
If you want more, the 'Super' versions add larger 18-inch wheels and a larger 8.8-inch infotainment monitor complete with navigation, while the 'Speciale' variants get 19-inch wheels, Bi-Xenon headlamps and full-leather upholstery. As for safety, well the Stelvio has been awarded a five-star Euro NCAP rating with a score of 97 per cent for the protection of adult occupants; the highest score in its category. Credit for this goes to Alfa Romeo's segment-first Integrated Brake System, plus there's an 'Autonomous Emergency Brake with pedestrian detection' set-up, Blind Spot Monitoring, Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning.
Cost of Ownership
Under the bonnet, every engine in the Alfa Stelvio range looks decently efficient and pretty clean - which will of course be crucial if it's to attract company car drivers. Euro 6D technology now features. The 2.0-litre 280hp petrol Q4 AWD variant returns 29.8mpg on the combined cycle and emits 182g/km CO2. The 2.2-litre 210hp diesel Q4 AWD meanwhile, gives out 149g/km CO2 and returns 41.2mpg on the combined cycle. The best you'll get is with the rear-driven base 2.2-litre 190hp diesel, which manages 44.1mpg and 139g/km.
The figures quoted assume selection of the 'Advanced Efficiency' 'DNA' system driving mode, which softens off the throttle response to give better fuel consumption. There's a graphic fuel consumption display in the instrument binnacle TFT read-out. And there's an 'Efficient Drive' eco-coaching set-up on the centre-dash infotainment screen that grades the frugality of your progress based on three criteria - 'acceleration', 'deceleration' and 'gear changing'.
Okay, so what else do you need to know about the running costs of this Italian contender? Well, it comes with a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty that includes 'Roadside Assistance' for the same length of time, should you be unlucky enough to break down. It's not likely that you will. Despite what some might assume about Alfa Romeo, customer surveys suggest that the brand's reliability record is no worse than that of its premium German rivals.
The Stelvio represents a very decent first stab by Alfa Romeo at the premium mid-sized SUV segment. If all the brand had done was to copy its key rivals, then we might have feared for this car's prospects, because it isn't quite as polished as other contenders you can buy in this class. Fortunately though, this Alfa offers something a bit unique - and that could be enough to sway a small but significant number of buyers its way.
The engine note, the styling and the look and feel of the cabin are all completely different to what you'd get from any other car in this sector - and all the better for it. If you like the thought of that and find yourself in this part of the SUV market, then we think you'll probably like this car.