MILAN, Italy — The rumour mill was in overdrive last month about the possible sale of certain FCA Group assets, but our hosts from FCA have confirmed that it’s all pure hogwash. It is true, however, that Alfa Romeo, a member of the large group, intends to make inroads in North America. We had initially criticized their decision to return by introducing the 4C, but the numbers speak for themselves.
Since its 2014 comeback, more than 8000 Alfa Romeos have been purchased and now their sales are skyrocketing with the arrival of the Giulia. Several versions will be added to the lineup in the next year or two, and the introduction of the Italian manufacturer’s first SUV will help establish the historic brand in the North American market. They are already announcing five new models in addition to the 4C, Giulia and Stelvio.
And the Stelvio is the reason we travelled to this neck of the woods. Its name comes from the infamous eponymous road, the Stelvio Pass. At 2758 metres of altitude, it is the highest paved road pass in the Italian Alps and second only to the 2764-metre Iseran Pass overall.
Where style is king
Everyone knows that Milan is the fashion capital and one need only look at the Alfa Romeo style for proof. I don’t know what they’re feeding them in the design department, but brand’s products flaunt irresistible style. The4C and theGiulia are very enticing, and the same can be said of the Stelvio.
The triangle-shaped grille and slender headlights integrate perfectly with the peerlessly meticulous silhouette. The slightly plunging hood combines with muscular wheel wells, while two body pleats carve and lighten the beltline. All of the details are important, like the insertion of the large logo above the V of the grille that engulfs the front end. In the rear, the lights are just as stylish, and the exhaust tips blend seamlessly into the lower part of the bumper.
The cabin borrows most of the Giulia’s features. As our hosts explained to us, there’s nothing extravagant here. I like how the multimedia screen is integrated into the dashboard and the engine ignition button is found in the most original of places: in the steering wheel! Overall, there’s nothing negative to say about it. That said, I must report the dismal performance of the navigation system. It is disarmingly slow and not very user-friendly. Entering a new destination will try your patience.Honestly, it’s time for a proper update.
Agile and powerful
The 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio comes with a choice of two drivetrains. The first—which we put through its paces in the Alps—is the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo with direct injection. The 280 horsepower and 306 lb.-ft. of torque provide strong acceleration, pushing it to the top of its class,outpacing the Audi Q5, Porsche Macan, Jaguar F-PACE, Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 and BMW X3 xDrive28i.
It is also equipped with Alfa Romeo’s Q4 all-wheel drive system. The distribution is 50/50 in four-wheel mode, but all the power can be sent to the rear wheels if necessary, which highlights the SUV’s sporty nature. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic. After a few tight turns, the steering is remarkably precise, particularly in Dynamic Mode, one of the three available driving modes. The well-adapted suspension glues the Stelvio to the ground regardless of how aggressively you drive. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that these features were in high demand on the Alpine roads.
At the beginning of the year, the Quadrifoglio version will be added with the twin-turbo, 2.9-litre V6 engine generating 505 horsepower and 443 lb.-ft. of torque. You’ll have the pleasure of reaching 100 km/h in under 3.9 seconds.
The new Stelvio should be a success. It is attractive and seductive, roomy and fun to drive, which is a rare quality in this category. Reliability remains the brand’s biggest challenge, but if this issue can be addressed, they’ll be in business.