2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Review
Toby Hagon’s 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Review With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict And Score.
In a nutshell: Alfa Romeo took more than a century to build its first SUV, the Stelvio, which has come out fighting with a sporty demeanour in a competitively-priced mid-sized package.
2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Specifications
Price $65,900+ORC Warranty 3 years, 150,000km Service Intervals 12 months, 15,000km Safety 5-star ANCAP rating Engine 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol Power 148kW at 4500rpm Torque 330Nm at 1750rpm Transmission 8-speed auto Drive Four-wheel drive Dimensions 4687mm (L), 1903mm (W), 1648mm (H), 2818mm (WB) Kerb Weight 1619kg Towing 2000kg Towball Download 200kg Boot Space 525L Spare Repair kit (space saver spare optional; reduces boot space by 5 percent) Fuel Tank 64L Thirst 7.0L/100km
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It’s been a long time coming but the Alfa Romeo Stelvio signals the Italian brand’s intent to take on the luxury elite in the growing SUV space. The Stelvio is arguably Alfa Romeo’s most important model in more than 100 years of producing cars, not only competing with established players but also helping revive the once storied marque and cement it as a genuine luxury competitor.
What’s in the range and how much does it cost?
It’s a sea of German and Japanese rivals – as well as an impressive Swede – that the Stelvio goes up against. Without any history in the mid-sized luxury SUV category, the newcomer is heavily relying on its distinctive Italian design, from the deep shield grille to the svelte tail.
Colours help tell the story, too. As well as the classic Italian red – there are two to choose from – Alfa Romeo offers some bold options, including a chocolate brown, metallic racing green and deep metallic blue. The colour option depends on the model, as does the interior hues, with options including a chocolate or red interior to offset the standard black.
But value also plays a key role to cement itself on shopping lists. Fortunately, Alfa Romeo has come out swinging with with a four-model range that mimics that of the Giulia sedan with which it shares so much with beneath the skin. Each Stelvio drives all four wheels through an auto transmission.
The car tested here is the base model, known simply as the Stelvio and priced at $65,900+ORC with the least powerful engine, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol. It comes with stylish 19-inch alloy wheels, powered tailgate, electric front seats, tyre pressure monitors and an 8.8-inch infotainment screen with sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
Whereas many rivals offer fake leather trim in their base vehicles, all Stelvios come with the real cow-derived stuff. There’s also parking sensors at either end, a reversing camera and auto emergency braking.
Ours also came with the First Edition pack, which adds $6000 and includes a host of extras, including red brake calipers, Harman Kardon audio, heated sports seats, ambient lighting and a sunroof. However, that First Edition sees the removal of the two smartphone connectivity techs.
Those wanting a diesel can get the same specification level with a 154kW 2.2-litre diesel engine for $67,900. Or, if you want more of everything there’s a Stelvio Ti ($78,900), which gets a more powerful version of the base car’s petrol engine (206kW versus 148kW). It also steps up to 20-inch wheels and adopts many of the features from the First Edition pack as standard. Plus, the Ti picks up active cruise control, using a radar to maintain a pre-determined distance to the car in front.
If you’re after more pace then the Quadrifoglio, or QV, is for you. As well as bigger brakes and a bespoke suspension setup there’s a Ferrari-inspired 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 engine that lowers the claimed 0-100km/h time to 3.8 seconds. The QV also gets styling tweaks, including vents in the bonnet and a more aggressive lower rear bumper incorporation quad exhausts.
What’s the interior and practicality like?
It’s a mix of tradition and technology inside. Tradition with the circular air vents and circular speedo and tachometer. Technology with the pistol grip electronic gear selector and electric park brake.
Despite the infusion of modern thinking there’s enough old school Alfa, with a clean layout allowing quality materials to shine. With the exception of the textured metal surfaces on the dash and centre console there are lots of greys and blacks – even on the usually-colourful Alfa badge, snake and all.
Size-wise, the Stelvio is in the mix with its key rivals, which include the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60. No surprises, then, that interior space is also competitive, although rear legroom is tending towards tight for a five-seater that will invariably carry people in the back.
No issues up front, where the sports seats on our car lived up to their promise of better hugging occupants. Space in all direction is generous, too. The boot is narrow by SUV standards, but there’s a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat, adding to the functionality when it comes time to load long or bulky items.
What are the controls and infotainment like?
There’s a cleanliness to the centre stack layout, the collection of dials and buttons for the ventilation indicative of Alfa playing it safe. That’s understandable, especially as this car is a key piece of the brand’s renaissance and its focus on the US market.
Metal paddle shifters for the gearbox are as elegant and purposeful as any. A smattering of buttons on the steering wheel is similarly thoughtfully laid out, while a central control knob between the seats weaves you through the menus of the main 8.8-inch infotainment screen.
Less impressive is the screen itself. While it’s beautifully integrated into the dash, butting nicely up against its trapezoidal surrounds, the display itself is disappointing. That mainly comes down to graphics, with the resolution of the screen low by modern standards.
That’s particularly noticeable with the reversing camera, which is dull and grainy. Plus, the camera display only takes up a small portion of the screen (the whole screen is never used, its outer edges broadened to integrate into the dash). Even the sat-nav is very 1990s in its graphics, with any smartphone providing far more detail and richness.
What’s the performance like?
The base Stelvio gets the least powerful version of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine. There’s 148kW on offer, but it peaks relatively low in the rev range, at just 4500rpm. That’s unusual for an Alfa Romeo, the Italian brand often about lusty top-end performance with an associated snarl to go with it. Alfisti, then, might be disappointed with what’s on offer.
But confine the engine to its middle engine revs and there’s respectable, if not stunning, performance. A hearty 330Nm of torque arrives at just 1750rpm, enough to shift the 1.6-tonne wagon.
But there’s a catch – and it comes down to how the driver’s intentions are sent to the engine. The Stelvio has three drive modes, selected through the DNA button; Dynamic, Normal and Advanced Efficiency, the latter dulling things down to reduce how much fuel is used. But neither the Dynamic or Normal modes nail the brief. Normal is too restrained, teaming with the eight-speed automatic for more leisurely responses. Dial up Dynamic and things go the other way, even minor throttle inputs having a big impact, or the transmission too eager to bump down a ratio (or two). Something in the middle would be just right. Better still, allow a customisable mode that can separate the actions of the transmission with those of the throttle to give the driver more control.
Fuel use is claimed at 7.0 litres per 100km, a figure largely unachievable in everyday driving. Expect to use 11 or 12L/100km.
What’s it like on the road?
Those who’ve travelled to northern Italy may be familiar with the Stelvio Pass, one of the most challenging and technical collection of corners diving up (and down) an equally spectacular mountain. That Alfa Romeo chose to name its first SUV after that strip of bitumen gives some idea of the intent of the car.
Even around town there’s an athleticism to the Stelvio’s manners, something that belies its 1.6-tonne weight. There’s a genuine alacrity to the way it charges into a corner, in part because of the super direct steering, which responds to any twitch.
If anything, that steering is too direct, requiring more moderated inputs on the steering wheel to save darting too far across the corner. It takes a few corner to reprogram yourself.
Not that the car complains; there’s loads of cornering grip and an enjoyable playfulness that gets better the harder you drive it. It’s also beautifully balanced, the nose tucking into the inside of the corner succinctly and the tail diligently following suit.
The independent suspension is firm, but not uncomfortably so. Given the trade off it gives in dynamics, it’s a fair compromise. However, potholes can catch it out, the big tyres stumbling in with less of the elegance displayed elsewhere in its bump suppression.
What’s it like off the road?
Yes, the Stelvio is a four-wheel drive SUV with a raised ride height (running clearance is about 190mm) but it’s not about going off-road. Instead, that AWD system is more dirt tracks and trips to the snow. That said, there is hill descent control, which uses the anti-lock brakes to maintain a set speed down slippery slopes – if you’re game!
Does it have a spare?
In its standard guise the Stelvio comes with a repair kit, tyre pressure monitors keeping a lookout for punctures (another reason it’s not designed to go off-road).
But a space saver spare can be optioned, where it is hidden beneath the boot floor. However, even that space saver brings a compromise, its depth increasing the height of the floor in the luggage area, in turn reducing the usable space by about 5 percent.
Can you tow with it?
Australians love towing and SUVs are popular tow machines, so it’s expected they can lug something. In the Stelvio’s case it’s rated to tow 2000kg.
We didn’t test it but suspect that sort of weight would dull performance considerably. If you’re looking to tow something of that mass there would be better vehicles for the job.
What about ownership?
The Stelvio is covered for three years of warranty protection and the kilometre limit is longer than many, at 150,000km. That’s largely academic, as it’s difficult to imagine many Stelvio owners travelling more than 50,000km each year.
Servicing must be performed every 12 months or 15,000km (the diesel pushes that kilometre limit to 20,000). Service costs for the 2.0 petrol range between $345 and $1065, totalling $2865 for the first five services. The diesel costs more – $4475 over the first five years – although it can travel up to 20,000km between check-ups.
What safety features does it have?
Six airbags provide head protection all round and frontal protection for those up front. Along with its basic crash structure that helps it achieve a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
There’s also various active safety systems, including a forward-facing camera for lane departure warning and to look out for other vehicles, at which point the autonomous emergency braking (AEB) can kick in if the driver fails to react. The Ti also employs a forward-facing radar for active cruise control.