words & photos by: Jimmy Mak
Every manufacturer these days needs to make their very own SUV, Alfa Romeo feels they too need to join the party. After the successful Giulia, the Stelvio which shares the same platform is sure to entertain the masses with its dynamic styling. Being the 3rd vehicle in the Alfa lineup in North America, it’s vital that the Stelvio can follow the success of the Giulia, lets dive in and see exactly if it’s ready to live up to the Alfa nameplate.
The Stelvio is a looker, taking most of the hints for the Giulia it’s a bit more grown up. There’s nothing that stands out, and that’s precisely what I love about it. It’s elegant in its styling with the lack of any loud styling points it makes it that much more sophisticated.
Signature LED daytime running lights to cat-like wrap around bi-xenon headlamps dictates the front end and don’t forget the corporate Alfa Romeo grill. I do applaud them for moving the license plate off the side as if it was in the centre it may look a bit odd.
Around back, the Stelvio is treated with two rather large exhaust outlets, as the real exhaust tips are situated neatly in them these chrome tips are there only to add on to the overall look. Rear taillamps also get treated with LEDs making the Stelvio easily distinguishable.
Moving on the inside the sporty layout continues, the shape of the dash and thickness of the steering wheel gives the driver a sense that it’s something unique compared to other vehicles. As unique as the vehicle itself, the Stelvio incorporates the Start/Stop button within the steering wheel itself. This will take some time to adjust as most cars have it on the dash. Especially when you park with the wheel turned, it may take a minute to find the button before leaving the vehicle.
Something to note, as FCA owns Alfa Romeo, I generally would find a lot of lower end Chrysler bits and pieces, much to my surprise those bits were all nicely hidden away, and it’s not strikingly apparent any parts bins are shared. The only area that felt low-rent was lower dash plastics were a bit scratchy, but that’s it!
As said there’s no doubt the vehicle is driver focused, the cluster is simple and clearly laid out. There’s even a small display in the centre to show vehicle’s status like fuel consumption as well as a very important to any SUV owner a G-meter.
Just off to the right, you’ll find the infotainment system. This is one of those things I wished they had taken from FCA as the Uconnect system is vastly superior to this. That said, it’s quick and responsive, and all of it is controlled with a rotary knob in the centre console rather than a touchscreen, thus entering street address will take a bit of time. With the display is turned off the screen hides nicely behind a glossy plastic piece, it’s nicely integrated and a nice sight when compared to the tablet like infotainment systems found in others vehicles.
The infotainment system may not be the most intuitive system to use due to the lack of a touchscreen, however, it is connected to a fantastic audio system with 14 speakers including a subwoofer with 900 Watts of power. Not only do they sound good, but they also look fantastic integrating to the door cards.
Moving on to the seats, these heated front buckets and they are buckets, they hold and support the front occupants like no other. Those of you who have a wider frame may opt for the regular seats as these buggers have some beefy bolsters.
In comparison the bolster is about the same height was as an iPhone X, luckily there is a small switch on the side of both front seats where it’s able to deflate them, however even when thoroughly deflated they still hug the occupants quite snug. Personally, these seats are perfect for my 170lb 5’11 frame, but anyone that’s has a fuller frame would find these very uncomfortable.
Those in the back are not as blessed as the front. The rear seats are flat, but they still offer plenty of support and space for those who sit back there. There’s nothing all that extraordinary back here, and with bigger front seats the view forward is a bit blocked.
Something all occupants will enjoy is this rather large sunroof, spanning over both rows it lets in tons of light giving the cabin a lovely airy feel. While the look is good, like most panoramic roofs only the front half of the sunroof opens.
Behind the rear seats, the Alfa has a clever in cargo rail system that allows items to be tied down, so the cargo doesn’t move about during those twisty roads. The cargo volume isn’t bad at 525L and 1600L with the 40/20/40 while the rear seats are folded. Comparing to its main competitor the F-Pace by Jaguar it’s quite a bit smaller.
Now on to what matters, the feel. Alfa Romeo has always been the brand that gives the owner a sense of gratitude when piloting their vehicles. It’s unlike any others, and in the Stelvio, I must agree it’s truly one of a kind. To aid handling, Stelvio incorporates a trick rear suspension in which they call the “Alfa link rear suspension” it’s designed with vertical rods which are supposed to aid performance when retaining passenger comfort. The ride may be a bit too sprung when comparing to softer offerings from BMW or Audi, but it gives the driver a sense of the road. Turns are sharp and precise with a rather quick ratio rack. Brakes, on the other hand, is a bit of a toss-up. Alfa uses a brake by wire technology, although it works as it’s connected to large Brembo units it lacks the feel found in traditional units.
Powering the Stelvio is a 2L Turbo Charged 4 Cylinder that produces a healthy 280hp and 306 lb-ft of torque, enough to push this 4037lb SUV from 0-100km/h in 5.4 seconds. All of this power is placed to the ground through an 8-speed automatic with a manual override operated via big aluminum paddles behind the steering wheel. Connecting to the transmission is Alfa Romeo’s Q4 All-wheel drive system which sends most of the vehicle’s power to the back. Like any good sports car this Alfa is confident on its feet, and it delivers senses to the driver, unlike others. The Jaguar F-type while close regarding feel, it’s doesn’t have the soul that the Alfa brings to the table.
The Stelvio is truly a performance SUV. It may not have the outright power of the Macan Turbo, but that’s exactly why there’s soon to be a Quadrifoglio version making 505hp. For the more sensible buyer, this $65,000 SUV is one of the best in the business. With minimal downfalls and one of the best dynamics, it’s sure to be a winner in the crowded compact luxury SUV market.
Thank you to Alfa Romeo Canada for providing the vehicle.