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Test drive | Alfa Romeo Stelvio: color in a monochrome landscape

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For some time now, a photomontage of white SUVs has been circulating on social media: our eyes get lost trying to identify the models presented with almost undifferentiated lines. Admittedly, the tendentious exercise is intended to grumble car enthusiasts fleeing the wave of elevated vehicles. It also reminds us how homogeneous this market is. This is where the Alfa Romeo Stelvio comes in, as an antidote.

Its design


PHOTO PROVIDED BY ALFA ROMEO

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

The similarities with the Giulia sedan are striking. The SUV thus sports the irreplaceable inverted trellis triangle of the Italian brand, a central point towards which many features converge. The arrowhead headlights are set rather low, and thus ensure a sporty posture to the presentation. From the side, the Stelvio recalls its rear-wheel-drive chassis with a long front hood. The whole is picked up with brief overhangs, like the sedan which provides its inspiration. The rear hatch can make this Stelvio look like it’s carrying a backpack due to the bulge present to increase cargo space. It’s probably the only slightly dissonant note of this SUV that manages to combine its sporting impulses with a concern for practicality with the right balance.

On board


PHOTO PROVIDED BY ALFA ROMEO

Alfa Romeo Stelvio interior

The Stelvio makes us forget that we are on board an SUV. The Veloce version tested receives front seats with enveloping edges, without losing sight of comfort. The dashboard is low and not too flashy visually, which clears the view of the front of the vehicle. It consists of parts that seem to be of higher quality than before. The dashboard is wrapped in leather and the example I tested combined everything with brushed aluminum trim in a beautiful way. We also notice a more marked attention to assembly than before. However, we are far from the technocentric aspect of many competitors. Almost everything is accessible by means of very well laid out physical keys and the instrumentation always uses needles to inform us. This Stelvio shines less on the volume of its cabin, rather limited for the passengers in the back.

Under the hood


PHOTO PROVIDED BY ALFA ROMEO

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

The mechanical offer of the Stelvio comes down to two engines: a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder and a 2.9L biturbo V6 that powers the fiery Quadrifoglio version. If the latter attracts – with good reason – more attention by exposing its Ferrari roots, the four-cylinder is nevertheless doing quite well. Featuring electro-hydraulically controlled valves allowing for a single overhead camshaft, it produces 280 hp and 306 lb-ft of torque. With his hushed manners and his grip, he has nothing to envy to the German competition. It sustains its power gradually over the entire range. The latter is however short, the switch intervening at 6200 rpm, 1200 rpm earlier than the V6. A ZF box completes the portrait with its usual qualities. Its configuration nevertheless seems a little drier in urban driving than on other applications of this transmission.

Behind the wheel


PHOTO PROVIDED BY ALFA ROMEO

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

With a fixed ratio of 12:1, the Stelvio’s steering seems hyperactive on first contact, but you get used to it and then love its great precision. The aluminum gearshift paddles fixed to the steering column add a touch of exoticism to the tactile aspect of the experience. The front axle, made up of a double wishbone suspension, sinks its claws with a tenacity that is out of the ordinary for an entry-level SUV. Traction, provided by an all-wheel drive with a limited-slip rear differential, is also flawless, with a tendency to favor the rear axle without obviously causing it to stall when you press the accelerator. Although improved over time, the braking does not always remain adjustable, a defect often associated with electromechanical systems. When it comes to comfort, the Stelvio ranks among the firmest contenders in the segment, without being harsh.

Embedded technologies


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Alfa Romeo Stelvio touchscreen

The Stelvio’s tech positioning undeniably lags behind in a category where warring parties place their advancements on a pedestal. The Italian has a small 8.8-inch touchscreen placed not far from the driver and the definition is from another era. The animations and the navigation are also much more jerky than one might wish and the layout of the menus and sub-menus requires a moment of learning to fully assimilate the particularities. CarPlay and Android Auto are there, but accessible only by cable despite the presence of wireless charging. We navigate through the information menu, sandwiched between the speedometer and the tachometer, by a button on the windscreen wiper activation arm which we must press successively to scroll through limited data, something that takes us back several years. Note also the presence of a semi-autonomous driving system that is still effective.

Verdict


PHOTO PROVIDED BY ALFA ROMEO

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Six years after its launch, the Stelvio lives on as a dynamic benchmark in its class. Its extremely well-tuned platform and employing a number of aluminum alloy components will benefit from another place in the sun with the arrival of the Maserati Grecale which employs it. To taste this eloquence, however, you have to accept certain compromises, including the undeniable technological backwardness of the SUV due to Alfa Romeo’s stagnation in this area. We also cannot ignore the always mixed reputation that the brand has in terms of reliability as well as its very small dealer network. Finally, the Stelvio does not help its cause either with an entry price much higher than those of the Audi Q5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC 300, very well established players. Notwithstanding these observations, you will undoubtedly smile more often while driving a Stelvio than many other SUVs in the register.

Notebook

Limited driving modes

While some offer highly configurable handling, the Stelvio is limited to a selection of three non-adjustable modes.

Evenly distribute the weight

One of the keys to the SUV’s success when it comes to its road manners is the almost equal distribution of its weight between front and rear, which ensures undeniable predictability.

It can tow more than you think

Despite its sporty positioning, the Stelvio can still tow up to 1,361 kg (3,000 lb), which is still high for a compact SUV.

Still assembled in Italy

While globalization has extended the tentacles of manufacturers all over the planet, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is still built in the Cassino assembly plant in southwestern Italy.

Instant gear changes

The ZF OEM transmission widely used by luxury automakers can shift gears in less than 100 milliseconds. It’s not always as instantaneous as a dual-clutch transmission, but it’s still extremely fast.

Technical sheet

  • Version tested: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Veloce
  • Price (with options, transport and preparation): $70,690
  • Engine: 2.0L L4 SOHC Turbocharged
  • Power: 280 hp at 5200 rpm
  • Torque: 306 lb-ft from 2000 to 4800 rpm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual mode
  • Engine architecture: Longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive
  • Consumption (EnerGuide): 9.6 L/100 km (premium gasoline)
  • Competitors: Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Infiniti QX50, Jaguar F-Pace, Lexus NX, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Porsche Macan, Volvo XC60
  • New in 2023? : No major changes



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