► New Alfa Romeo Stelvio review
► SUV based on Giulia saloon
► Prices start from around £34k
Nothing is sacred in SUV territory, not even the Alfa Romeo badge. Still revered for its back catalogue of sporting saloons, hatches and coupes, the sleeping Italian giant is gunning for mainstream success with the Stelvio SUV, the first car in the category to come from the brand.
Can they mimic the success of countless other premium crossovers? Will the quality match up to the Germans'? And does the world want an Alfa 4x4? Read on for our full Alfa Romeo Stelvio review. Keep reading for our long-term review of the Stelvio, or click here to skip to it.
Read our review of the hotter, Stelvio Quadrifoglio here
First drive review: Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Where have I 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.
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...
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Long-term test: month 1
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’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.
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