Alfa Romeo Stelvio brings Italian flair to the world of SUVs
This is the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, a car that Alfa hopes will bring its brand of Italian flare and automotive passion to the world of SUVs.
And we've come out to the Swiss Alps to give it a go on the one road that made the most sense to do so, the Stelvio Pass.
At least that was the idea.
But as you can see, it's the middle of winter and Stelvio Pass is under five meters of snow.
But I think this will do.
With a name like Stelvio, Alfa is making a bit of a statement.
Named after Italy's highest mountain road with a legendary challenging set of twists and turns, the Stelvio has a lot to live up to its moniker.
Not only that to compete in the every expanding world of SUVs it's going to have to work hard to stand out from the crowd,
For starters can we just stop and appreciate the fact that there's a new Alfa Romeo out on the road?
The last couple of years the company has been going through a renaissance, reinventing itself.
And actually making cars that people want to buy, and that are actually pretty damn good.
But how does this car actually compare to other SUVs on the market?
Styling wise, it has a. Softer rounded off kind of appearance although that's not to my personal taste it does make it look slightly bit more distinctive parts back to things like the HC, those lovely curves that we saw on that.
The really small front over hang and the ragged back give a nice balance to the car and it doesn't look quite as big as it actually feels on the inside The wheelbase is actually the same as Julia.
In fact they share a lot with stable mate and the idea is that this is just made to handle just the same.
The main difference is just the sitting position am sitting significantly higher than the Julia.
The interior too is stylish, if a little paired back and simple.
There's a distinct lack of switch gear around the cabin but that certainly does help keep your mind on the job at hand, which today was negotiating some challenging switchbacks Whilst trying not to launch the car off a cliff due to being distracted by the frankly preposterously gorgeous views of the Alps.
If you were going to experience body roll anywhere, it would be here on these mountain switchbacks.
And it's cornering relatively flat, which is making it feel a lot more sporty than you'd imagine an SUV would be.
Sports e-touch has also extend to the interior, with things like these flappy paddles for the gearbox.
And I really love the metallic feel of them.
In fact you're gonna want to use them a lot, because the ZFHB Gearbox, which in every other car is absolutely fantastic, feels like it's been meddled with and In this car.
It holds onto gears way longer than I want it to even in the end mode of the DNA setup.
And it just doesn't quite me the response in this that I want.
So I've been using the floppy pedals and even though that [UNKNOWN] gear box is a single clutch, the changes are crisp.
And once you take control of the car, it really unlocks.
The sporty potential.
And these roads, it's not about speed but about control.
And for an SUV I'm able to place this thing relatively well.
At slower speeds I felt the steering wasn't quite as communicative, but I'm pushing around these bends now and I'm finding I'm able to place it quite accurately.
So this is an SUV that doesn't necessarily give you the off-roading capability, although there are a couple of touches to push in that direction.
This is mainly meant to be a sporty ride that just so happens to be an SUV.
In fact, that's what Alfa said.
They built an Alfa first and turned it into an SUV second.
Really, this is not going to go up against SUV, this is what you buy instead of a sporty estate.
Now at 280 brake horsepower from a two-liter turbocharged engine, you're not going to be drowning in power.
But as I mentioned roads like this, it's just the right amount to keep you on the right side of sporty.
And definitely within the realms of usability.
It doesn't have any more than it needs, and you can make use of every last horse under the bonnet.
At city speeds and at pedestrian use, it's relatively unremarkable in its driving characteristics and perhaps that's on purpose, and most of the time that's what you need.
But if you start to push it, if you start to have a bit of fun, then the car comes alive, responds, and rewards you.
The handling characteristics of this are sporty enough for me to believe in it as an alpha, it doesn't feel out of place.
This feels like it's been built from a, well from a blank sheet of paper, but what that allows it to be is sporty first and an SUV second.
And that makes it an alternative prospect to anything else in this sector.
The all wheel drive system normally sends all the torque to the rear wheels, giving this a real wheel drive driving characteristic.
But, when you need to, it can immediately send up to 50% of the torque to the front wheels, giving it the all wheel drive niche you need in difficult conditions.
That change happens so smoothly and so invisibly, you are never really aware of where the power has been sent to but when you want it to feel sporty it happens to feel sporty, when you need it to be a wheel drive it has already selected a wheel drive, it's a smart system that works really well and now here in these mix conditions of perfect is road it really kept us in line.
Kept us safe, and kept us on the correct side of the mountain.
There will be in the future a rear wheel drive only version, but given that this car sends 100% of the torque to the rear wheels most of the time, that's sporty enough for me.
That all wheel drive system when it kicks in, it kicks in because you needed it.
If you tend to spend a lot of time on boring commutes on the [UNKNOWN], you're not really going to get the most out of his car, but if you happen to live in an area that you can take it for a mountain drive from time to time I think you're in for a surprise.
SUV's can be a manufacturer's meal ticket.
A sure fire way to tap into a large market and subsidize the cars that they really want to make in the first place.
What's great about [UNKNOWN] the is that it generally feels like an alpha.
that just happens to be an SUV.
Take it to a cinematic mountain pass, put your foot down, and the car thanks you for it by giving you an exciting and exhilarating ride.
Not so much a compromise between a sports car and a family car.
Rather more like having your cake And eating it, too.
If the Stelvio allows Alfa to keep growing and give us more small Italian sports cars in the future, then that's a good enough reason on its own for it to exist.
The fact that it's also a great little motor is a bright red cherry on an Italian cake.
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