Style… Character… Panache…
Alfa Romeo originally returned to the American market in 2008, but it was 2016’s Giulia sport sedan that marked the point in which they really got serious about selling cars in the US. And it was quickly followed up by the Stelvio SUV which has naturally become their best-selling model. So, what’s next? Well, it looks like Alfa is going to extreme measures to take the Stelvio to the next level.
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio arrived 5-years ago with a bang. Not only bringing a much welcomeD splash of Italian style to the small sporty luxury-minded crossover scene, but bringing the most power and highest performance we’d seen yet. For 2023, there’s a new option for buyers, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Estrema AWD.
Starting with Veloce trim, the limited edition Estrema adds an adaptive suspension and limited-slip differential; essentially giving you some of the Quadrifoglio’s go-fast goodies without having to spend quite as much dough. It's all integrated into their DNA drive mode setup, which Alfa says is tuned hand-in-hand with their Formula One team. The Estrema doesn’t get the Quad’s race mode, but Dynamic mode is quite aggressive; delivering a ride that’s about as firm as you’ll find in a production street vehicle. It can feel hyper, almost twitchy at times; seemingly unhappy tooling through commuter traffic, having higher speeds and freer flowing pavement on its mind.
4 unique colors are available, including this Misano blue; and all Estremas get a new rear diffuser, unique 21-inch wheels, and additional black trim; plus, carbon fiber covers for the grille and side mirrors. They’ve added plenty of carbon-fiber inside as well; on the door panels, console, and dashboard; along with leather sport seats stitched up with the same red thread as the dash. All of the additions are well executed, and breathe new life into a space that was starting to look somewhat dated compared to the newest rivals.
Both rear seat space and cargo area at 18.5 cubic-ft. are tighter than most as well, though max capacity of 56.5 cubic-ft. compares better. Rounding out the list of upgrades in the Estrema are a dual-pane sunroof, wireless phone charging, and a 14-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system for cranking tunes.
Cranking away under the hood is the standard Stelvio’s 2.0-liter turbo I4 engine. It may fall short of the Quadrifoglio V6’s 505-horsepower, but still pumps out an impressive 280-horsepower and 306 lb-ft. of torque to all four wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission, which has some beefy aluminum paddle shifters mounted Italian style on the steering column.
Unleashed at Mason Dixon Dragway, the Estrema, with its standard all-wheel-drive, has plenty of grip for a healthy launch; but from there, power delivery is more moderate than overwhelming, taking 6.3-seconds to hit 60. Shifts from the trans, whether triggered with those nice paddles or done automatically, are extremely smooth and barely noticeable. There’s not a lot of excitement inducing engine noise either, just a very calm and luxury-like cruise through the quarter in 14.5-seconds at 95 miles-per-hour.
Everything took a turn for the better when we turned through the cones of our handling course. Here is where this utility vehicle really shines, feeling absolutely great when it comes to handling performance. That ultra-firm suspension and hyper nature of Dynamic mode helps this Stelvio feel more like a sport sedan than just about anything else in the crossover world. Very little body roll, virtually no understeer or oversteer, and the perfect amount of feel through the steering wheel, made for an incredibly precise, spirited, predictable, and fun run through the cones.
Brakes are by Brembo, but they’re not Quadrifoglio spec., and we felt substantial ABS pedal pulsing. Still, stops from 60 took only 113-feet; consistently staying straight and true, with only moderate nosedive.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 22-City, 28-Highway, and 24-Combined. We averaged a spot-on 24.2 miles-per-gallon of Premium. Making for an average Energy Impact Score, using 12.4-barrels of oil yearly, with 6.0 tons of CO2 emissions.
Stelvio pricing begins at $48,170, and for that, you’ll get the same engine found here in the Estrema. It’s starting price of $60,920, slots it well below the top Quadrifoglio, yet gives you a healthy dose of its performance.
So, whether you call it style, character, panache; the 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Estrema has it by the boat load; giving you a perfect option for increased handling performance without having to break the bank. It's still beautiful to look at, unique to see out on the road, and now even more fun to drive on that road than ever!
Engine: 2.0L Turbo I-4
Torque: 306 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 6.3 seconds
1/4 Mile: 14.5 seconds at 95 mph
60-0 Braking: 113 feet (avg)
EPA: 22 City / 28 Highway / 24 Combined
MW Fuel Economy: 24.2 mpg (Premium)