Should you consider the Alfa Romeo Stelvio for your next SUV?
Find out what Motoring Journalist John Swift thought when he took one for a test drive.
With everyone from Lamborghini to Rolls-Royce belatedly getting into the SUV market it makes complete sense for Alfa Romeo to fill the gap in its model range with this Stelvio. A pretty car, it’s based on the Italian manufacturer’s Giulia saloon and brings a considerable number of attractions and advantages to the party.
Bang on. Alfa has rediscovered its confidence in styling and is making the most of its trademark front end dominated by the bold radiator grille flanked by those neat headlamps. The car flows back from that into a rakish C pillar behind the rear seats and gives the Stelvio a very well proportioned and balanced look. It stands well on its own in this regard but when you look at it against some of its rather more slab-sided rivals then the Italian flair is even more emphatic.
OK, this is where we get to the nub of it because Alfa promises us that this is a car first, an SUV second. You can take that to mean that it is somewhat more agile and athletic into and through a bend than others. Basic physics says that something that is high and heavy (an SUV) will wallow more and be more ponderous than something lower and lighter (a saloon) and to compensate for that chassis engineers have tended to make the suspension far too stiff for our cratered roads.
Matters are improving but for too long the ride of many SUVs was pretty horrible, rough and crashy over our worn out surfaces, and you could feel their extra mass when you tried to slow and corner. In my mind few deserved the `sports’ tag in the Sports Utility Vehicle tag!
However, the Stelvio is very much one of the new breed but goes better still and is probably the standard setter in this price category because it is light. Alfa has invested considerable sums in removing weight, so there is lots of aluminium and carbon fibre in its bodyshell land components and you can tell. It’s more responsive, there isn’t that delay between you making a command at the steering wheel and the car responding. My test on one of my favourite routes includes a quick S-bend and the Alfa followed my intended line perfectly and instantly in the way I would have expected the Giulia to perform.
Even more impressive is that it delivers this poise without rock hard springs and dampers so the suspension absorbs the bumps, ridges and ruts pretty well, maybe not so good at low speeds but get it into a canter and it’s lovely. The last time I felt so instantly good about an SUV was at the wheel of a Porsche Macan.
Perhaps not quite as good as the rest of the car and I reckon that some of the touchy-feely bits, the plastics used on the fascia and the trim, are not quite up to par with the best of the Germans or the new Jaguar entrant. I can’t put my finger on any particular thing, it was just a general feeling that I expected a bit more from something billed as a premium car.
On the plus side I have to say that the Alfa is roomy and especially so for those in the back, which I found impressive. If you look at the sloping C pillar, that bit joining the boot to the back of the roof, in many SUVs they are quite slanted to lend a `sporty’ look but that eats into the headroom available. In the Stelvio that is nowhere near as big an issue and when I sat there I had plenty of room.
Still we wait for the Fiat Chrysler Alliance (parent company of Alfa Romeo) to give us a hybrid which you may join me in thinking a little bizarre given the way the market has evolved in recent years! For the time being there is a choice of petrol or diesel and if you want to go off the scale for fuel consumption you can order the semi-Ferrari engined 2.9 litre V6 bi-turbo Quadrifogilio version where the speedometer will sweep around to 190 mph. Good luck…
Back on Planet Earth, the engines are pretty good when judged on smoothness, performance and efficiency. I drove a 2.2 diesel which certainly has plenty of poke in it and being bolted to FCA’s sweet eight speed semi automatic gearbox there was a happy marriage between power and gears.
OK, it hasn’t got a hybrid offering but on paper at least its consumption and CO2 emissions compare favourably with many rivals.
Again, a big tick in the Alfa’s favour because it has a distinct advantage on the list price and the difference between it and others can be big; you’re talking of several thousand pounds which must make you pause for thought.
It is not perfect and there are a few areas which could be improved but I liked the Stelvio and that is speaking as one who is generally not a fan of SUVs. You really should take a test drive if you want to experience how well one of these things can ride and handle, the styling and interior room are spot on and if this is a pointer to the sort of cars Alfa will be making as it rebuilds its image, reputation and model portfolio then I say bring it on.
Just add in the hybrid option…
Test Drive Info:
- Alfa Romeo Stelvio
- From £33, 900
- Car tested Q4 Milano 2.2 210hp
- Price £43,990
- 0 to 60 seven seconds
- Top speed 130 mph
- Average mpg 59
- CO2 127 g/km
- Warranty. three years/100,000 miles