Our Alfa Romeo Stelvio meets the tough mudders

Published:08 August 2019

Our Alfa Romeo Stelvio meets a very muddy Jeep, G-Wagen and Jimny
  • At a glance
  • 5 out of 5
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  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Steve Moody

Our reviewers: fresh perspectives for inquisitive minds

By Steve Moody

Our reviewers: fresh perspectives for inquisitive minds

 New Alfa Romeo Stelvio review
 SUV based on Giulia saloon
 We live with a Stelvio diesel in 2019

We're living with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio in 2019 as part of our long-term test. Read on to find out how we're getting on with the 2.2 TD Milano Edizione - and click here to read our full Stelvio review.

Month 2 living with an Alfa Romeo Stelvio: meeting some real mud-pluggers

The Alfa Stelvio joined an off-road sludge-fest for a future CAR story, acting as camera car as we shot the new Suzuki Jimny, Jeep Wrangler and Mercedes-Benz G63. In this kind of company, the Stelvio is a bit of a wishy-washy, lily-livered city-dweller – it’s based on the Giulia’s platform, remember, so it really is a saloon car in SUV clothing. Drill into the nerdy 4x4 details – departure angles, suspension articulation – and the Stelvio can’t compete. Heck, Alfa doesn’t even publish the Stelvio’s ground clearance in millimetres! What kind of off-roader is that? 

Well, in truth it’s not any kind of off-roader. Look at those 20-inch wheels and Michelin tyres – in the quarry they got clogged with clay within seconds. And the Alfa’s Q4 all-wheel-drive system is actually rear-wheel drive most of the time, until it starts to run out of grip and then it sends up to 50 per cent of the torque to the front. There is an optional limited-slip diff available for the rear axle (not fitted to our car) but compared with the G-Wagen’s fully-locked monster mode, the Alfa is a child’s toy, a bauble, a plaything. 

Still, away from the quarry and out on the road, I’m really impressed with the Stelvio’s ride and handling. Despite the SUV styling, you actually sit pretty low in it, and it’s relatively light too, at 1659kg (for reference, the tiny Jimny’s kerbweight is 1135kg, the gargantuan G-Wagen is 2560kg).

Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 TD Milano Edizione

That’s down to lots of aluminium in the engine, wishbone suspension, bonnet, wings, doors and tailgate, plus a fancy carbon driveshaft. Like the Giulia before it, the Stelvio feels properly engineered with real conviction.

The result of all this? I’ll be honest, after my first few miles I was a teensy bit disappointed – the modern 207bhp 2.2 diesel is smooth and quiet but it’s not terrifically sporty; and while the car’s responses were lively enough, it didn’t feel terrifically engaging. 

And then I remembered the ‘DNA’ system – that little rotary dial by the gear selector that allows you to choose between Dynamic, Natural and Advanced Efficiency modes. Dynamic noticeably sharpens the Stelvio’s throttle, steering and brakes, and – combined with gearchanges using the lovely alloy paddles – the Stelvio really does step up a level as a driver’s car. 

Most evenings now, I drive home as fast as I can in Dynamic mode, and with its relatively low centre of gravity and 50:50 weight distribution it’s not wishy-washy at all. Like the Macan before it, you really have to think of the Stelvio as a high-roof sports estate rather than a traditional SUV.

So the Stelvio may not have the swamp-crossing credentials of our three ‘proper’ 4x4s, but that’s fine with me – I don’t drive in many swamps.

By Mark Walton

Logbook: Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 TD Milano Edizione

Price £45,590 (£47,510 as tested)
Performance 2143cc turbodiesel 4-cyl, 207bhp, 6.6sec 0-62mph, 134mph
Efficiency 43.5mpg (official), 32.5mpg (tested), 147g/km 
CO2
Energy cost 20p per mile
Miles this month 716
Total miles 2934


Month 1 of our Alfa Romeo Stelvio long-term test: the introduction

Alfa Romeo Stelvio: CAR magazine long-term test

Stelvio. Go on, say it. In fact, say it with an exclamation mark. Stelvio! The Alfa Stelvio! What a great name, a classic Alfa name, a name so good it’s a wonder it’s never been used before. I think from now on all Alfa Romeos should be named after legendary mountain passes: the Alfa Turini, the Alfa Furka. Maybe a future model could be named after that great pass in the Yorkshire Dales: the Alfa Buttertubs.

Actually that doesn’t work. Moving on.

So we’re agreed the Stelvio has an awesome name, and because I’m shallow I’m already enjoying casually slipping it into conversations at dinner parties, because I think it makes me sound so stylish and Italian. ‘Yes, I drive an Alfa Romeo Stelvio,’ I say, with a slight accent. 

Which means Alfa’s new SUV passes a crucial first test: it’s a cool car to own and a cool car to admit to driving; but what about the more meaty substance?

Does the Stelvio follow the Giulia saloon in being a proper, well engineered alternative to the German mainstream? Can it live up to the positive launch reviews it garnered back in 2017? CAR described it as ‘borderline brilliant’ on first acquaintance. Bold. Then, late last year, Chris Chilton compared the top-of-the-range Stelvio Quadrifoglio with the Macan Turbo, and declared the Alfa the winner. Brave.

To find out if the Stelvio stands up to closer scrutiny, we’re driving this example for the next six months, living with it every day and drilling deeper into its character.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio UK prices, specs and what it's like to live with

Alfa’s SUV is available with five engine options: there are two 2.2 diesels (a 187bhp and a 207bhp); two 2.0-litre petrols (197 and 276bhp); plus the 503bhp turbo V6 Quadrifoglio, of course. 

Trim on the non-Quadrifoglio models comes in four levels: Super, Nero, Speciale and the top-spec Milano Edizione. Ours is a 207bhp diesel in top spec, which means our car retails at £45,590. It’s finished in Alfa Red paint with a black leather interior, both standard specification on this trim level, and I think the car looks great. 

The stand-out feature has got to be those optional 20-inch wheels, which look absolutely sensational – like they belong on a Lamborghini supercar rather than an SUV. I also love the mad-staring bi-xenon.

Logbook: Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 TD Milano Edizione

Price £45,590 (£47,510 as tested)
Performance 2143cc turbodiesel 4-cyl, 207bhp, 6.6sec 0-62mph, 134mph
Efficiency 43.5mpg (official), 31.9mpg (tested), 147g/km CO2
Energy cost 16.2p per mile
Miles this month 376
Total miles 2218


First drive review: Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Where have we heard that name before? You’ll be thinking of the Stelvio Pass, an Alpine road famed for its challenging hairpins and uncompromising nature. Naturally enough, it's where Alfa chose to launch its new model.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio SUV

It’s a statement of intent from Turin, a clear suggestion that despite entering SUV territory the Stelvio is not about to sacrifice any sports car lineage in the name of versatility.

Jaguar gate-crashes Alfa Romeo Stelvio launch with its new E-Pace

Reminds me of the Alfa Giulia from the front…

And deliberately so. There’s plenty of shared hardware with the Giulia saloon, but the Stelvio’s looks are a big draw. That nose is just as eye-catching as on its sibling while the overall shape successfully blends the need for space with attractive curves.

It’s a bit retro compared to the ultra-modern F-Pace, but who doesn’t love Alfa’s back catalogue? It’s possibly the only SUV you’d buy on looks alone...

Alfa Romeo Stelvio SUV

What about the Alfa Romeo Stelvio hardware?

All Stelvios ride on double wishbones at the front and multi-link at the rear (Alfa says it’s a ‘four-and-a-half-link’), as well as what we’d say is among the most direct steering set-ups in the segment.

Q4 four-wheel-drive is standard, albeit with a rear-bias to the power distribution: 100% in normal driving conditions and up to 50% pushed to the front when circumstances demand it. You can also option in a mechanical LSD at the rear if you’re planning on hot laps (as if!).

 Alfa Romeo Stelvio SUV

For now the engine line up is restricted to two choices, both with a pair of power outputs: the 2.2-litre diesel comes with either 178bhp or 207bhp and a new 2.0-litre aluminium four-cylinder petrol gets 198bhp or 276bhp.

Even though there’s the rampant Quadrofolgio still to come, the highest-powered petrol also offers up a hefty 295lb ft of torque, and feels like a genuine performance crossover.

Read our review of the hotter, Stelvio Quadrifoglio here

Alfa claims 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds – we didn’t think it felt that quick, but it responds sharply to the throttle and spins happily to 6000rpm, although peak power arrives at a relatively modest 5250rpm.

It’s just a shame it doesn’t sound particularly interesting in the process – we think Alfa could have done more to enhance the engine’s character. It’s a highly strung motor, and Alfa’s engineers report it’ll need some hardware changes to push power up any further. 

Alfa Romeo Stelvio SUV

We’re expecting a Veloce version akin to Audi’s S models to join the range below the Quadrofoglio just like you get on the Giulia saloon.

The standard eight-speed automatic transmission works happily in tandem with the petrol engine, shifting without fuss in automatic mode but it’s even better when you use the elegant aluminium paddle shifters. Zipping up and down through the gearbox and exercising the motor is a genuine pleasure.  

We came away less enamoured with the lower-powered petrol, because it sounds less interesting again, and its performance felt lacklustre. The pair of torquier diesels felt better-suited to the Stelvio – especially with the Alfa-tuned ZF automatic gearbox, which shifts smoothly and accurately.

Of the two diesel options, the lower-powered version makes the most sense to us. Its torque output is as near as makes no difference – there’s just 15 lb ft in it – and both engines perform almost identically on the road.

Sure, the top-spec one hits 62mph a second quicker, but when you work these engines that hard they’re at their worst, the din intruding into the cabin unacceptably noisily. With that in mind the extra performance isn’t relevant.

But does it handle like a phonebox on castors?

Not a bit of it. Of course it’s taller than a Giulia and similar in width, but there’s aluminium throughout the body and suspension which helps to keep the centre of gravity low.

You’re also sat relatively low for a crossover; you still get some of the raised driving position but body roll is kept well in check and that inspires confidence if you need to push on.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio SUV

The flip side is a relatively firm ride, and there’s no electronic trickery to soften things up, but on balance it’s a worthwhile trade-off. Only the Porsche Macan drives better. 

So is there any SUV in the Alfa Stelvio at all?

More than enough to get by. Up front, head and legroom is competitive, if not exceptional, and the same can be largely said for the rear, although the boot is usefully big at 525 litres, enclosed by an electrically operated tailgate.

It’s a pleasing cabin, too; our car added the Luxury pack which brings a smart wood finish and more leather. The quality on this early example was fairly decent (apart from a few questionable plastics such as those around the air vents flanking the dash) and, although not rammed with new tech, it was easy to operate and a refreshing change from much of the competition.

Verdict

If you want a crossover that sacrifices as little of the conventional-car driving experience as possible, then the Alfa Romeo Stelvio should be given serious consideration. It’s a great car in its own right, but given it is Alfa’s first SUV, it’s borderline brilliant on first acquaintance.

Read our review of the hotter Stelvio Quadrifoglio here

Specs

Price when new: £35,000
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1995cc 4cyl petrol, 276bhp @ 5250rpm, 295lb ft @ 1750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive
Performance: 0-62mph 5.7sec, 143mph, 40.3mpg, 161g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1660kg/aluminium
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4687/1903/1648mm

Rivals

Other Models

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Cars for Sale

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Leasing Deals

Photo Gallery

  • We are living with an Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 TD Milano Edizione in 2019's long-term test
  • Our Alfa Romeo Stelvio meets the tough mudders
  • Our Alfa Romeo Stelvio meets the tough mudders
  • Our Alfa Romeo Stelvio meets the tough mudders
  • Our Alfa Romeo Stelvio meets the tough mudders
  • Our Alfa Romeo Stelvio meets the tough mudders
  • Our Alfa Romeo Stelvio meets the tough mudders
  • Our Alfa Romeo Stelvio meets the tough mudders
  • Our Alfa Romeo Stelvio meets the tough mudders
  • Our Alfa Romeo Stelvio meets the tough mudders
  • Our Alfa Romeo Stelvio meets the tough mudders
  • Our Alfa Romeo Stelvio meets the tough mudders
  • Our Alfa Romeo Stelvio meets the tough mudders
  • Stelvio rivals F-pace and Macan
  • More of a big estate than a proper SUV
  • We tested the Alfa Romeo Stelvio on the Stelvio Pass.... where else?

By Steve Moody

Our reviewers: fresh perspectives for inquisitive minds

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