Alfa’s take on the SUV maintains most of what we love in the Giulia sedan
June 23, 2017
Two engines are on tap: a 2.0-liter direct-injected turbo-four (280 hp/306 lb-ft) in base, Sport and three Ti models, with the mighty 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 (505 hp/443 lb-ft) coming early next year under the Quadrifoglio’s hood. Let’s not forget this engine’s bloodline: It’s the twin-turbo V8 in Ferrari’s GTC4Lusso T, 488 and California T, minus two cylinders. Alfa says it’s good for a 3.9-second 0-60 mph time and also has cylinder deactivation. Regardless of engine choice, weight savings is key: The Stelvio’s front and rear subframes, suspension pieces (control arms front, multilink rear), fenders and doors are all aluminum while the rear crossmember contains composite plastics.
Handling the power is an all-wheel-drive system able to transfer up to 60 percent of torque frontward if needed; otherwise it’s 100 percent rear-wheel biased. It works with what Alfa calls the Chassis Domain Controller (CDC) and DNA drive-mode system. Like in the Giulia, the drive-mode system has dynamic, natural and advanced efficiency modes, adjusting accordingly the turbo-boost pressure, throttle response and (on the Ti and Quadrifoglio) suspension settings.
The base car’s equipment includes 18-inch aluminum wheels, chrome exhaust tips, LED lamps front and rear, 7-inch TFT display, eight-speaker stereo, backup camera and a whole lot more. Sport upgrades include 19-inch wheels, aluminum interior trim and a beefier suspension. Ti adds heated seats and steering wheel plus an 8.8-inch screen while the Ti Sport gets 20-inch wheels, 12-way power seats and the Ti Lusso has wood interior trim.
Walking around the Stelvio it looks like, well, a taller Giulia. That’s a good thing — check out the body-side crease and the hood and grille, the short overhangs and coupeish roofline, all of which look good. The well-built interior also looks familiar if you’ve been in a Giulia. The Stelvio’s is stylish, with a large tach and speedometer front and center, starter button mounted on the racy flat-bottomed steering wheel and snug, comfy buckets. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard — the cost of doing business these days.
The engine start stop button is mounted on the steering wheel just like a Ferrari.
As for Bigland’s comment about blowing customers away, is he right?
We spent time first in a Ti Lusso wearing a $54,490 sticker. Most of our drive in and around the Nashville area was in pouring rain, thanks to Tropical Storm Cindy. The conditions weren’t ideal, but it gave us an opportunity to test the all-wheel drive, and we got enough decent wheel time to learn the Stelvio drives about as we guessed — like a tallish Giulia. That’s good news for Alfa: The sedan has plenty of fans at Autoweek HQ.
Cruising around Nashville in efficiency mode, we find upshifts come early, the four is flexible and the ride soaks up road imperfections well. Once clear of town, we turn the DNA knob to Dynamic; this is clearly the mode the Stelvio feels most like it wants to play. The 2.0-liter has quick throttle response and a nice, even powerband. The eight-speed automatic is well mated, with quick, snappy shifts, even giving off cool little popping noises. The four emits a nice little growl, sounding sweeter as the revs get higher. Alfa doesn’t mess with piped-in sound. It doesn’t need to.
The buckets held us in place well, helpful because this is among the rare crossovers that can carve through corners smoothly and quickly, even the wet ones. The ride is firm but compliant, while body control is impressive — roll stays admirably on the lower side for an SUV, and rainy weather grip is impressive.
Even the lesser powered versions of the Stelvio are quick, hitting 60 in the mid fives.
Alfa says it figures the Lusso and Sport will be the best-sellers, so next we tried a Ti Sport at $54,090. Its big aluminum shift paddles are fun to play with; again, Dynamic mode is by far the best mode in terms of having the most fun.
The turbo four-powered cars obviously aren’t the hot rods we anticipate the Quadrifoglio will be, but the lesser powered versions surprised us -– they’re not dogs, hitting 60 in 5.4 seconds with a 144 mph top speed, plus they’re refined and quiet. The ride quality is comfy in the lower modes and about perfect in Dynamic.
Beefs? Not really, though at one point, an “electronic throttle” warning light came on. We had no idea what it meant, and it went away once the car was turned off for a while. That’s Italian!
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s engine shares its origins with the twin-turbo V8 found in Ferraris like the 488 and California T, minus two cylinders of course.
Staring down the gun barrels that are the Lexus RX, Audi Q5, BMW X3 and their ilk, the Stelvio carries a heavy weight in terms of keeping the historic brand’s U.S. return forging ahead while duking it out in the thick of a huge, well-heeled market. I went in skeptical and came away impressed. You just might, too.
City / HWY