First and foremost it’s an Alfa Romeo – and then it’s an SUV
Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0 280 Super AWD
On sale Autumn
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo petrol
Torque: 295lb ft
Gearbox: Eight-speed auto
Top speed: 170mph
CO2/tax: 161g/km, 29%
It looks like a large, high SUV, but underneath is the lightweight chassis of the 503bhp Giulia Quadrifoglio. With 276bhp on offer, is this an SUV or is it a road car with off-road pretensions? To find out we took it to an Italian track.
It’s certainly light. All the lightweight metals and construction give it a kerbweight of 1660kg, over 100kg less than even the lightweight Jaguar F-Pace. The bodywork is also extremely rigid, so the basics are there for some surprising handling and performance, given the silhouette.
On a billiard-smooth racetrack, there is only so much you can find out compared to a schlep round some mountain roads in Wales on a wet Wednesday. But what you can explore is the performance of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. With 276bhp and a generous 295lb ft of torque, there’s no lack of go, even from fairly low revs. Give it the gun over 2500rpm or so even in a high gear and you are propelled rapidly forward, accompanied by a mild but attractive rorty rasp from the engine.
The steering is quite quick-acting, as it is in the Giulia, and the Stelvio changes direction eagerly. The driver sits fairly high, in usual SUV style, but on the track this is almost forgotten as you can throw the vehicle around with some abandon. Although it has all-wheel drive, power goes to the rear wheels unless things get rather more out of shape, at which point it can switch to 50/50 torque, to mirror the 50/50 weight distribution.
You can’t turn the stability control completely off, and that’s probably a good thing since, with it switched down, you can get that quite large backside twerking quite easily. Equally, understeer can raise its head sooner than you’d like, so on normal roads we’d not be trying to outwit the safety tech on board.
The suspension was a standard passive set-up, which managed to cope easily with the slow and fast corners on the track. But a smooth racetrack is not able to really probe the ride quality so we’ll have to wait for a UK test to show whether it can ride as well as it handles.
There’s no low box or serious off-road hardware or software, although there is a hill-descent control. The Stelvio is aimed more at the fast-moving family market, and to that end we’re hoping that production versions will feature less road noise than our test vehicle. Otherwise, occupants get a welcoming cabin in the Stelvio, with a stylish interior shod with what felt like high-quality materials. The rear features plenty of space and the boot is large, accessed on all models by a powered tailgate.
Obviously it takes more than a track sprint to show up all the qualities of a vehicle that is trying to be more than two-dimensional. But so far it looks like the Stelivo is going to put Alfa Romeo right among some impressive competitors, including the Jaguar F-Pace and the Porsche Macan. Next stop – the Stelvio Pass.