THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: The Stelvio is a crossover SUV with the soul of a true Italian performance sedan.
- What’s Worst: The interior is simple and refined, but not up to the standards of some other luxury brands.
- What’s Interesting: We can’t wait for the Stelvio Quadrifoglio to arrive in Canada later this year.
The premium crossover market is a bit more crowded these days, as the iconic Italian automaker Alfa Romeo has added its new Stelvio model to the mix.
Named after an historic Italian mountain road considered to be one of the best driving routes in the world, the Stelvio joins a growing market segment that is red hot, competing against the likes of the Jaguar F-Pace, Porsche Macan, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC and others.
While Alfa Romeo is a latecomer to the party with its first sport utility vehicle, the Stelvio should have an immediate impact on the firm’s sales numbers as the F-Pace did for Jaguar when it debuted.
It’s an undisputed fact that the majority of buyers these days prefer crossovers ahead of sedans, so it was an opportune time for Alfa Romeo to bring its first SUV to Canada, following on the heels of the 4C and Giulia models.
Alfa Romeo, part of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles family, is a niche player in the Canadian market because of their limited number of dealerships. At present there are less than 20 across the country, all located in major cities.
Nevertheless, if the F-Pace pattern repeats itself, the Stelvio is destined to be Alfa Romeo’s sales leader on this side of the pond.
What makes it appealing, to this reviewer at least, is the Alfa Romeo DNA and its more than 100-year history of automotive manufacturing specializing in high-performance and racing automobiles.
Our tester was the 2018 Stelvio Ti Sport AWD, the mid-range offering in a three-trim lineup that starts with the base Stelvio at $53,395. The Ti model is priced at $54,995, although our test vehicle had a number of optional features taking the as-tested price to $67,502.
At the top of the food chain will be the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, slated to hit the North American market later this year and with quite a reputation already.
This fire-breathing 505 horsepower halo model of the lineup is the world’s fastest production SUV, according to the manufacturer, doing the 0-60 mph sprint in 3.9 seconds with a top speed of 177 mph.
In addition, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio performs as well on the turns as the straightaways, taming the famed Nurburgring circuit in seven minutes 51 seconds, the fastest time ever for a production SUV.
But back to the Ti model as tested here.
It features a direct injection 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, making 280 hp and 306 lb/ft of torque. It is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters that shift in less than 100 milliseconds.
Handling is superb, thanks in part to near 50:50 weight distribution. Driving the Stelvio during a period of extreme winter weather, it proved to be equal any task.
We were so happy to have the Q4 all-wheel drive system during a white-knuckle drive along Hwy 402 between London and Sarnia in southwestern Ontario.
Plodding along in near blizzard conditions, the Stelvio was stable and well controlled as the wind howled and the snow swirled across the road in all directions.
This system operates on demand and transfers up to 60 per cent of the torque to the front wheels as required.
When first behind the wheel, the Stelvio Ti felt slightly underpowered, but once the turbos kick in there is push aplenty.
In fact, Alfa Romeo lists a 0-100 km/h time of about 5.5 seconds, a time one would expect more from a sports sedan than a mid-size crossover SUV.
There are three drive modes (Dynamic, Natural and Advanced Efficiency) selected via a dial on the centre console.
The steering and handling is extra special, particularly for a crossover and exactly what one expect from an automaker that has built its reputation on high-performance sports cars and in the world of auto racing.
The Stelvio is a handsome vehicle; I particularly like the front-end design with its distinctive grille. It is just different enough from most other mid-size sport Utes, to make it stand out from the crowd.
Inside, the look is rather basic for a vehicle in its price class. While simple and elegant, the cabin doesn’t have the pizzazz of say an Audi or a BMW.
But it is comfortable and easy to live with, featuring a neat looking flat-bottom steering wheel with the start/stop button on the left hand side.
Among the other options on our test vehicle was a harman/kardon premium audio system ($1,200), a dual pane sunroof ($1,595) and a sport package ($2,500) featuring sport seats with power adjustable seat bolsters, 20-inch aluminum wheels and more.
The base Stelvio comes with 18-inch aluminum wheels, while the Ti has 19-inchers with added features like wood interior accents and an 8.4-inch display screen.
Cargo room is generous with 1,677 litres behind the front seat and 525 litres behind the second row. The Stelvio has a tow rating of 1,361 kg (3,000 lb).
Among the safety features available are Forward Collision Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path detection and front and rear park assist sensors.
As mentioned earlier, the Stelvio will be a niche vehicle in the market due to the limited dealer numbers. However, it is a welcome addition to the mid-size premium crossover market and, one which select buyers are sure to find appealing.
2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport
BODY STYLE: Mid-size sports luxury SUV
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters
ENGINE: 2.0-litre SOHC twin-scroll turbo inline four-cylinder (280 hp, 306 lb/ft of torque)
CARGO: 525 litres (18.5 cu ft) behind second row seat; 1,677 litres (66.0 cu ft) second row folded
TOW RATING: 1,361 kg (3,000 lb)
FUEL CONSUMPTION: (Premium) 10.8/8.3L/100 km city/highway.
PRICE: Stelvio, $52,995; Stelvio Ti, $54,995. As tested $67,502 including $1,795 destination charge.
WEB SITE: Alfa Romeo.ca
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