We drove the Alfa Romeo Plug-in Hybrid Q4 Veloce in the historic roads near Biella…
Alfa Romeo is at an important turning point of its long history. With the Tonale, this potent, 280 HP stylish compact SUV, it wants to make a fundamental transition. It is the first milestone on the way to zero emission(s) – within 5 years the brand wants to see all its Alfa’s electric. It makes us shiver, quite frankly, and hopefully not literally, when a cold winter will bite us all in conflict ridden Europe nowadays.
But indeed, a positive mind and hope should fulfill our hearts, and looking at the mechanics of this Tonale, there is still plenty to let it beat a bit faster.
Hans Knol ten Bensel
An excellent and very convincing thoroughbred hybrid.
The Tonale is conceived when the merger between FCA and PSA was not yet achieved, and this is one of the (main?) reasons we find a so-called FCA “GSE” or Global Small Engine, also marketed as Firefly, under the hood as its combustion engine. This is a family of engines produced by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles or (FCA) starting in 2016, and subsequently Stellantis.
The unit in the Alfa is also dubbed as the “FCA e-engine” and is to be seen in slightly different power versions now also in the Jeep Renegade 4xe, in the Jeep Compass 4xe. It is being produced in the Brazilian Betim plant, now the largest vehicle plant in Latin America and one of the largest in the world. It was the production unit with the largest capacity installed of the entire Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) group. The Tonale itself rolls of the production lines at the Stellantis plant in Italian Pomigliano d’Arco, a municipality of the Metropolitan City of Naples in Italy, located north of Mount Vesuvius.
Of course, this engine embodies the very latest state of the art technology. Indeed, this new generation MultiAir III, present in the GSE family, has even more flexible valve control. The new cam profile with pre-lift allows the opening of the suction valves during the exhaust phase, aiming at the realization of the internal EGR, with reduction of nitrogen oxides and increase of the efficiency of the engine in the partial load. Besides, the lifting profile of the MultiAir III intake valve is more extensive and makes it possible to manage the effective compression ratio of the engine, keeping the tendency to detonation under control regardless of the fuel used. Wow!
The unit produces 180 HP or 132 kW, and is coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission, which provides traction to the front axle. We must say that the unit is not only smooth and very willing, it also produces the unmistakable, typical throb of a classic Alfa; the sound engineers did truly excellent work!
But then, this is a fully fledged hybrid, and this Tonale Q4 has an electric motor capable of supplying 90kW of max peak power and 250 Nm of torque to the rear axle.
The battery at the centre and the electric motor and its battery junction control box at the rear warrant an excellent weight distribution…
The 306-volt, 15.5 kWh lithium-ion battery supplies an electric range of over 80 km in the urban cycle and more than 600 km of total range. It is also excellent in terms of sustainability thanks to the new hybrid drivetrain which reduces Co2 emissions to 26kg/km, bringing the range’s total emissions down by 40%. A reduction has also been made in fuel consumption, which has been brought down to 1.14 liters per 100 km in the WLTP cycle. Plus, with the aim of providing maximum efficiency, it takes less than 2.5 hours to fully charge the battery when the 7.4 kW onboard charger is in use.
Driving is believing…
We took the Tonale “Q4” -as we shorten its name here – on an interesting 102 km road circuit laid out by the Alfa people in the surroundings of the Balocco proving ground. It led us via an interesting picturesque city Ricetto di Candelo and its beautiful Castello di Castellengo towards Biella, then took us on a nice curvy stretch back to the Autostrada direction Balocco. Endearing is the precision of its steering, and the feedback of the road surface in your hands at the wheel. You can really place this Alfa on the ideal line and adopt some razor sharp driving, even in the “natural” or “N” mode. We found the steering a bit too light however, except in the “D” or Dynamic mode, where the steering is more direct, even more responsive and feels a bit heavier.
The gleaming row of Alfa’s ready for the road test, aligned in front of the Balocco Proving Ground headquarters…
But pleasure at the wheel is to be had every inch of the way, and we found the Alfa also display excellent neutral handling, also thanks to its ideal weight distribution. Icing on the cake was a stint on the curvy circuit section of the proving ground, behind a Giulia Quadrifoglio pace car. It gave us the opportunity to drive flat out and (safely) close to the limits of this endearing Tonale, and the car could prove its qualities masterfully. Remember, the four wheels are driven, the front wheels being powered by the internal combustion engine and the rear wheels driven by the electric motor. Your servant could thanks to the e-AWD system, enjoy the instantaneous deployment of 100% of available torque from the electric motor, with a rear axle responding as soon as one steps on the throttle, and this resulted in excellent and stable out of corner acceleration, truly exhilarating indeed!
The performance is of course nothing short of astonishing. On the short straights of the circuit speeds well over 170 km/h were easily achieved, with stopping power to match. The “Q4” Tonale shoots from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 6,2 seconds and hurtles further to a top speed of 206 km/h. On e-power alone, the Tonale can achieve 135 km/h.
The suspension is well calibrated. For technical buffs we tell you here that the Tonale, as a result of its development history, runs on the FCA Small Wide platform of the Jeep Compass of the second generation.
The D.N.A. selector at the centre of action…
You can drive this Alfa exactly how you feel. We already applauded its qualities in the Dynamic mode, and the subdued but sporting roar of the engine still rings in our ears. But then you can also enjoy the agility, responsiveness and nimbleness of the Alfa Tonale in a more refined, “zen” way, which Alfa calls “modern sportiness”. We do agree, as the transgression between engine and E-power is ever so smooth as to becoming completely imperceptible, and that is no small feat. So when you select “N” or “Natural” mode, it keeps hybrid driving to all-wheel drive to optimize performance. The use of combustion engine and electric motor is automatically managed and allows for energy and fuel savings without giving up on performance.
Last but not least there is the “Advance Efficiency” mode, calibrated to obtain maximum energy efficiency in full-electric driving mode. It is the ideal driving mode in urban traffic. When you lift the throttle, the car continues driving in “Sailing.” Meanwhile, when one is going downhill, the new eCoasting Descent Control is activated to maintain a constant speed of 50 km/h, which is however adjustable with a light dab on the throttle or brake. Specifically, “E-Save” allows one to recharge or maintain the battery level when the internal combustion engine is on, and there is also the regenerative braking system.
Premium comfort and safety
The Tonale is quite roomy, remember, it rolls on the second generation Jeep Compass platform. Sound insulation is also quite good, enhancing the “zen” driving experience. Moreover, on-board comfort is also ensured by dual-zone climate control, pleasing ambient light, a sophisticated Infotainment system, ventilated and heated front seats, and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
It also includes ADAS systems for level 2 automatic driving, a hi-res camera which provides a 360° view of the car, a Blind-Spot Detector and Rear Cross-Path Detector, as well as superior structural and industrial quality which earned it a 5-star NCAP rating.
Amazon Alexa allows one to remain constantly updated on the state of the vehicle from the comfort of one’s home, as it provides useful information like the charge Tonale Plug-In’s battery. The built-in Infotainment system comes standard and offers contents, functionalities, and services which are constantly being updated via its customizable Android operating system and 4G connectivity with “Over The Air” (OTA) updates.
Thanks to a hi-res screen whose overall dimensions are 22.5”—a 12.3” totally digital screen and a 10.25” main touchscreen unit, the Tonale Plug-In ensures easy-to-use connection. The centre 10,25” screen is also seen by the way in the 500e. The Tonale Plug-in Hybrid Q4’s circular dials include ad-hoc upgrades like the electro-biscione in the lower part of the right dial which changes color based on the electric motor’s status (off, on, on and charging) and so provides all the information related to power and charging. Clever!
Four new functionalities of Alfa Connect Services make their debut on the Tonale Plug-in Hybrid Q4:
E-control: it allows the customer to control various functionalities based on the EV features—like charging and the climate control system—at a distance directly from the My Alfa Connect App, which you have to install on your phone.
Dynamic Range Mapping: it allows drivers to travel with peace of mind as it shows them the destination they can reach based on the battery charge both on the navigation system map and the My Alfa Connect app.
At the end of our 105,9 km road trip, the instruments tell the story: we drove 50,6 km on engine power, 55,2 km on batter e-power. This resulted in a consumption of 3,86 litres/100 km, but then with 8 km left in the battery, so we estimate some 14 kW consumed…
Charging Station Finder: it allows the customer to see the nearest public charging stations both on the navigation system map and the My Alfa Connect app.
My eCharge: it allows for the use of the My Alfa Connect app to directly access Free2Move eSolutions services to manage public and private charging. In fact, it is possible to locate the public charging stations, check the charging methods, make payments, visualize the charge history, manage one’s own Wallbox to decide how much electricity to use and even increase, decrease, suspend, and reactivate the charge.
Your Tonale has an NFT which lets you generate a certificate…
This means that specifically, based on the customer’s selection, the NFT generates a certificate which guarantees the identity and good maintenance of the vehicle, and thus supports its residual value. The NFT certificate provides a further source of credibility on the used car market and is even more valuable on the Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4 as it contains even more information.
A special “Edizione Speciale” at the launch…
The Tonale Plug-in Hybrid Q4 is the top-of-the-range model and is in line with the simplification and rationalization of Alfa Romeo’s lineup strategy. In fact, it can already be ordered in the exclusive EDIZIONE SPECIALE launch version and in the VELOCE trim which has been made to reach the most in terms of performance and sportiness.
The EDIZIONE SPECIALE offers inserts on the titanium body, a special badge on the fenders, and a “Tonale” black badge, 20” alloy wheels, metallic pedals, red Brembo brake calipers and aluminum shift paddles which are integrated into the steering column. Later on, customers will be able to order the Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4 in the Ti trim for a more elegant and distinctive character.
We have to wait a bit to get our hands on this remarkable Alfa for a more extended test, but stay tuned for more Alfa news soon!
Hans Knol ten Bensel