While the Giulia did a lot to cement Alfa Romeo’s place in the euro luxury-sport market here, these days no brand can really compete stateside without an SUV. And indeed, the Stelvio was always a part of Alfa’s return strategy to America. So, let’s take a look at this upstart utility and find out why more familiar European brands should be getting a little nervous.
The 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio is indeed the right vehicle at the right time, as even with luxury-sport brands, utility vehicles continue to take sales away from sedans. So it’s not just a good idea for this re-emerging Italian brand, it’s really a necessity.
And while no one may have seen that coming 20-years ago, it almost makes sense at this point; as car makers have been able to infuse utilities with the same amount of performance, comfort, style, and even efficiency as their 4-door siblings, while giving buyers more flexibility for carrying cargo.
Behind the wheel of this Italian two-row ute, things are very quiet and luxurious. It’s very stable; and like most of its competitors, drives more like a tall hatchback than a crossover-style utility.
Seats are more than comfortable, but if you don’t mind a sportier ride, upgrading to the Ti Sport will get you some phenomenal sport seats.
For now, all Stelvio’s come with a smooth-running 2.0-liter turbo I4 engine. It offers best in class standard horsepower at 280, accompanied by 306 lb-ft. of torque. At full song, it sounds more like an exotic 6 or even 8. In opposite fashion from the Giulia sedan that the Stelvio is based on, we’ll have to wait a little while longer for the high-performance Quadrifoglio version to arrive.
Huge column-mounted paddle shifters are available to control the 8-speed automatic transmission with great precision; and if you ask for manual control, that’s what you get. All Stelvios are all-wheel-drive.
It doesn’t feel leaps and bounds more spirited than the competition, at least without having the opportunity to drive them back to back; but it sure does feel hellaciously fast and super capable. 0-60 is 5.4-seconds, and only a few ticks behind the Giulia 2.0.
Like Giulia, there’s a DNA drive mode selector. Leave it in Dynamic for the best results, and you won’t find the ride harsh at all.
Steering is quick, it feels planted and just right; with loads of grip for cornering.
With Alfa’s Q4 all-wheel-drive system, the front wheels only are fed power when necessary, otherwise it operates as a rear-wheel-drive sportster.
Now, Stelvio performs just fine in all other drive modes as well, it just kind of gives you the impression that’s not where it wants to be.
At 111.0-inches, wheelbase is exactly the same as the Giulia, but with a little more material outbound, overall length comes in about two inches longer.
For the most part it shares the same aggressive face, but lines are a little more pronounced, especially down the sides.
There are 9-different tire and wheel packages, ranging from standard 18s to 20s.
Even the back end treatment is gorgeous. We almost whish Alfa would have just called it a Giulia wagon, even though we all know to most Americans that would kill it.
Base Stelvios come fairly well equipped, but most buyers will either travel down the Lusso or Sport road for upgrades that match their priorities; wood and nicer leather for the luxury-minded, aluminum trim for the sport-minded.
Like the Giulia, there are only minor traces of any Fiat-Chrysler lineage; materials and fit and finish are on par with European alternatives. It’s a very inviting space, with only a fussy electronic shifter to detract from the serenity.
Rear seat room is not plentiful, but certainly doable for two adults. Capacity in the cargo hold, at 18.5 cubic-ft. is decent, but short of most rivals. Folding the rear seatback will expand the space to 56.5 cubic-ft.
Also like the Giulia sedan, the Stelvio is technically mid-size, but lies more in the middle ground between compact and middle-weight SUVs.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 22-City, 28-Highway, and 24-Combined. For a reasonable Energy Impact Score of 13.7-barrels of yearly oil use with 6.0-tons of CO2 emissions.
Stelvio base pricing is a very reasonable $42,990, though options are many and costly. We figure most Stelvio’s will go for low to mid 50’s.
According to the folks at Alfa, there was no point in adding yet another utility vehicle into a congested pool full of very nice import and domestic-branded luxury crossovers; unless it was the most powerful, highest-performing vehicle in its class. The 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio is just that. It’s a fabulous effort. So, Alfa’s biggest challenge will be getting butts in seats to try it out. Once they do, Stelvio will sell itself.
Engine: 2.0 liter
Torque: 306 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 5.4 seconds
EPA: 22 mpg city / 28 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 13.7 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 6.0 tons/yr