Doubtless there are still those who would decry Alfa Romeo‘s choice to shove heritage aside and introduce a crossover utility vehicle. Bad enough that the likes of Porsche, BMW, and Jaguar have already decided to put profit before pedigree; et tu, Alfa?
We felt rather the same when the Alfa Romeo Stelvio was first revealed in the US at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show last November, all the while cognizant of the realities of the auto market. Cars are out, crossovers and SUVs are in, and if the Alfa Romeo marque is to survive into the future and make the most of its reintroduction to the United States market, it will have to follow the money.
And then, we had the chance to drive the all-new Stelvio at the Midwest Automotive Media Association’s 2017 Fall Rally. The Fall Rally is an annual event that brings together some of the hottest new cars on the market, and scores of automotive media professionals from the region, for an epic one-day drive-a-palooza at Autobahn Country Club and the surrounding area. With hordes of other journalists clamoring to get behind the wheel, we didn’t have much time with Alfa Romeo’s handsome new crossover, but it almost didn’t matter; we were smitten from the moment we first squeezed the throttle.
Nonetheless, what follows shouldn’t be considered a complete, all-bases-covered review of the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio; with luck, we’ll be able to provide one of those sometime in the coming months.
A High-Riding, Five-Door Sportscar With Space
The blisteringly-fast Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, powered by the same twin-turbocharged, 2.9-liter V6 as the Giulia Quadrifoglio sedan, hasn’t yet been released in the US. But you won’t hear us complaining about the base 2.0-liter turbo-four.
The brand-exclusive powerplant produces 280 horsepower and 306 lb-ft in the US-market model, spinning all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission sourced from ZF. With just 4,000 or so pounds to haul around, that translates to a claimed 5.7-second sprint to 60 mph – commendable for a sportscar, downright impressive for a crossover, and more than just a little bit absurd considering it’s the base engine.
So let’s not waste precious space discussing the forthcoming 505-horsepower Quadrifoglio, because the run-of-the-mill Alfa Romeo Stelvio is a driver’s delight in its own right. Acceleration is quick, and even without a dual-clutch gearbox, gear changes are crisp and satisfying in manual mode. The shifter paddles are mounted to the steering column, not the wheel – ideal for a vehicle that’s going to be used on the road nearly 100% of the time, where some shuffling of the wheel is inevitable. Steering is quick and effortless, although there’s plenty of feedback through the till.
At 4,000+ pounds, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is quite light for a vehicle of its size, thanks to the utilization of aluminum throughout the suspension, subframes, hood, and doors. In earnest, though, the crossover doesn’t even feel that hefty; a double-wishbone-front/multi-link-rear suspension design keeps body roll in-check and makes the CUV astonishingly nimble through lane-change and corner-carving maneuvers. In the captain’s chair, it’s easy to forget every once in awhile that you’re driving a crossover, and not the Stelvio’s smaller, platform-sharing cousin: the Giulia.
Best of all, you’re not asked to make too many sacrifices for such driving pleasure. Front and rear legroom are plenty good enough for five average-sized adults, and the trunk is surprisingly capacious. It’s no stretch to imagine the Alfa Romeo Stelvio ferrying a gaggle of thirty-somethings and their stuff on a cross-country road trip in relative comfort. We didn’t get a look at the window sticker, but we estimate that the example we drove – a Stelvio Ti with 19-inch wheels and custom-painted brake calipers – probably had an MSRP right around $50,000.
Yes, $50k, for a sporty Italian crossover that does just about everything shy of making breakfast. Or going off-road. This is most certainly not the SUV you want for that.
While we’re at it, we might as well mention some other shortcomings we spotted during out 20-minute drive. The interior, though well-laid-out and generally upscale in feel and appearance, does incorporate some cheap-feeling plastic pieces that belie the Stelvio’s premium Italian roots. And the infotainment system, while feature-rich and user-friendly enough, suffers from a notable amount of lag. Nothing ruins such a system quicker than latency.
Still, if you’re in the market for a family-hauler/grocery-getter that’s as fun to drive as your aging German sedan, these small quirks are only too easy to overlook.
The US-market 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio is available now, with a starting price of $41,995 excluding destination.