There is now a superb SUV which is stealing the heart of car lovers all over the world, and that is the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. The men and women of this iconic brand born in Milan have long waited to launch a SUV, and with good reason, as Alfa Romeo stands for a unique driving experience. The stunning “Giorgio” platform of the Giulia provided a sound basis for a SUV with extraordinary driving qualities, and the result is this Stelvio. Not only its name is synonymous for panache and character, the car itself scores, and how… Just read on further…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The art of style
Italy has always been the home of harmonious and artistic creativity. Just have a look at their buildings, their artifacts, their art and design. When they put their hand on cars, the same creativity unfolds, and timeless objects are the result. The proportions of this Stelvio set new styling benchmarks, and indeed, this SUV is beautiful from any angle. The Stelvio is sporting, without being ostentatious, elegant without being frivolous, breathing the character and styling language this thoroughbred marque from Milano has always been famous for.
The same sporting elegance is found in the interior, with harmonious lines and contours, beautiful instrumentation and a tasteful choice of materials and surfaces. It also offers more than adequate room for five, with also a capacious minimum boot volume of 525 liters.
State of the art turbo power
The heart of any car is its engine, and this certainly is true for an Alfa. ‘Cuore Sportivo’ is their adage, and this is also true for this impressive 2 litre turbo petrol engine, which develops not less than 280 HP. However, it is not only the pure power which matters, but rather the way this is delivered. And here the smoothness of this unit well and truly surprised us. This state of the art, all aluminium engine has BorgWarner’s advanced engine timing system, which includes the company’s next-generation silent timing chain for direct-injected, boosted engines.
It only shows the high level of technical maturity and perfection modern petrol engines have reached, and we all know that more can be expected soon.
As said, despite its power of 140 HP per litre, this engine is smooth, silent and delivers its power very progressively. Max power is developed at 5250 rpm, the massive 400 Nm of torque is already available at 2250 rpm. It is coupled to a ZF designed 8 speed auto box, which suits the torque characteristics of this engine beautifully.
The transmission changes timely and smoothly, and as with virtually all Alfa’s, can be adapted to three driving modes, normal, dynamic and all weather. In the latter ‘a’ mode, the gearbox will not only let the engine pull at very low revs, it will also go into freewheeling mode when you lift the throttle at speed. Needless to say that not only this driving mode with its frequent coasting is quite relaxing, it also is very good for economy. A clever driver can use the kinetic energy of this medium sized SUV to the full, and obtain quite interesting consumption figures, notably in fluent urban traffic. Of course, everybody knows that the consumption of this powerful SUV is greatly influenced by the chosen driving style, and can vary over a wide range between 7 and 11 litres/100 km on the same trajectory.
In the “normal” mode, the gearbox is quite alert and sufficiently dynamic to warrant a sporting and pleasant driving style. Of course, things really start to happen when you choose the “dynamic” mode. Then the Alfa pedigree truly awakens, revs are kept up so the abundant power of its 280 HP is always available at all four wheels. Indeed, our test car was equipped with permanent four wheel drive, proudly shown by the ‘Q4’ badge on the rear of the car. This leads to increased surefootedness and stability under full power on wet and uneven road surfaces, and add to the overall zest and sportiness of the Stelvio. One can easily understand that spirited Gran Turismo driving is something this Stelvio is born for, and its name is truly well chosen…
Outright performance is of course brilliant, with an acceleration time from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 5,7 seconds, hurtling further to a top speed of 230 km/h. The beautiful staccato and the lightning fast and alert changes of the gearbox add to the delightful experience of thoroughbred punch and agility.
Precise and dynamic handling
The Stelvio ‘Q4’ Four WD sends actually 100 % of the power to the rear wheels, unless there is insufficient grip, in which case a multi-plate clutch will send up to 50 % of the available punch to the front wheels. This means that long rear wheel power slides like you could perform in the Giulia are not possible in the Stelvio, it will only slightly come round at the rear end when pushed to the limit, after which also the front wheels start pulling you out of the corner, and only a slight twitch is the most dramatic thing you will experience.
But then there is massive grip and pulling power for you around corners, the car settling at the limit into a gentle understeer, and the Stelvio is very, very fast indeed, on winding stretches as well as long straights.
The steering is quite direct and precise for this SUV class, and feels quite like the Giulia. We found the overall comfort and quality of the ride quite good, although the suspension seems to react a bit nervously to even smaller road irregularities.
Another important thing we have to mention here is that the engine sits nicely back under the bonnet, avoiding any nose heaviness for this SUV, and all this results in quite impeccable weight distribution for this SUV, resulting in pretty formidable handling…compared to any car!
A few words about the Stelvio Pass…
Nestled in the Italian Alps, the Stelvio Pass is the highest mountain pass in Italy (and the second highest in Europe), and the 12-mile road that crosses it boasts over 48 bends, breathtaking views and a dizzyingly quick rise in altitude, all the way up to 9,000 feet. Over the years, champions of cycling and motorsports have done battle here, making the route a fully fledged sporting legend. An important transport artery in the wars of the last century, this winding road has now become a major tourist attraction. To enjoy it as it is meant to be enjoyed there is only one SUV capable to do so… The Alfa Romeo Stelvio.
It there is an SUV for true drivers, then it is the Stelvio. But there is a (lot) more. It is stylish, has panache, and is well proportioned. It has the Alfa ambiance in the cabin, with good quality materials not to feel you out of place when compared to the competition. It is also roomy and practical. It is quite docile and smooth in its drivetrain, its excellent gearbox makes it an ideal partner for everyday busy urban traffic, and if you let it, it can be quite frugal too, certainly when you compare its zesty performance and agility with the competition. So indeed, book it for a test drive when you consider buying a premium SUV, it will certainly let you rediscover passion and pleasure behind the wheel…
Hans Knol ten Bensel