Alfa Romeo Stelvio

   Think Alfa Romeo and if you’re anything like me you’ll probably think of delicate sports cars, pretty little saloons, racing red cigar-shaped single seaters, and legendary drivers such as Fangio and Farina. What you probably won’t envisage is four-wheel drive, suburban school-run mums - no doubt from the pricier parts of town – and, SUVs. However…

    Alfa Romeo are under no illusions that if they continue to do what they always did  i.e. make delicate (read unreliable) sports cars they’re not going to be around much longer; they’re marketing types are no-doubt all too aware the luxury SUV is a current must-have item too. So, they’ve built this: it’s called the Stelvio.

    Based on the same oily bits as their lovely Giulia– an Italian executive mid-size saloon that at-last serves as genuine competition to the ever-dominant likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz – the Stelvio too has to take on the Germans. Not to mention the British as well. The Stelvio rivals the Jaguar F-pace, the Range Rover Velar, Porsche’s Macan, BMW’s X3, Volvo’s new XC60, the Mercedes GLC, and that’s to name but a few. It’s also been named after what many consider as one of the best driving roads in the world. No pressure then.

   The question is: Can it live up to such expectation?

  Well, they’ve certainly made it stylish enough. Alfa Romeo deserve full credit for making the Stelvio standout in what otherwise is a somewhat boxy crowd, creating an all-new SUV that is instantly recognisable as an Alfa Romeo is no mean feat. And, let’s remember, in this market sector, to prospective buyers, style and the accompanying right badge counts for equally as much anything else.

   If only Stelvo’s interior was as impressive, sadly it just can’t compete with the quality offered by its competition. Where Volvo offer minimalist Scandi-chic, Porsche multiple legendary black on white dials and a near-perfect driving positon and Range Rover more touchscreens than you can wave a manicured finger at, Alfa Romeo manage only to muster a low definition and already outdated sat-nav screen, variable quality plastics and switchgear that really shouldn’t to be fitted to something costing skywards of £40K. Whilst (optional) aluminium paddle shifters do at least offer some welcome tactility, there simply isn’t the feeling of class here that’s so instantly evident elsewhere. Thick C- pillars make reversing difficult (at least there’s a camera), and rear headroom isn’t the best in class either.

    Fortunately though the Stelvio drives nicely – at least on smoother surfaces, choose your wheel and tyre combination carefully – and Alfa Romeo have gone to great lengths to give the Stelvio a sportier feel than many of its rivals. Drive is sent rearwards via an 8 speed automatic gearbox whereas in models fitted with the Q4 All-wheel drive system, as per “our” car, should any slippage be detected, up-to 50% of the engine’s power is re-directed to the front wheels.

   Add in brisk acceleration, surprisingly quick steering and minimal body-roll thanks to taught suspension and Alfa’s extensive use of aluminium that not only lowers overall weight but also the Stelvio’s centre of gravity, and the end result is an SUV that can be hustled along rather swiftly. Despite its size the Stelvio changes direction and picks up pace with aplomb.

   Alfa Romeo expect most Stelvios sold will be fitted with their 2.2 litre turbo-diesel engine which is available with either 170bhp, or as here with 210 (a 2.0litre petrol is also available, as is 503bhp V6 - if you’ve the funds). It does get a bit vocal at times, but for the most part remains hushed enough for relaxed cruising and never feels lacking in either power or torque. Official fuel figures suggest a combined average of 58.9 Mpg, whereas I struggled to better 44. CO2 incidentally, for those working out the BIK, is 127g.

    There’s no denying that building the Stelvio was a huge leap for Alfa Romeo and it must be said that overall they’ve made pretty good fist of it.. It wears one of the most evocative badges, and in the right colour it looks great too. It also retains most Alfa Romeo’s sporty and entertaining DNA whilst also gaining the ability to carry you, your passenger, the kids, and the dog all at the same time.

  Nevertheless the Stelvio remains very much a mixed-bag; it’s the minor details that let it down. You really have to love all things Alfa Romeo in order for the Stelvio to win both your head as well as your heart.

 

Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 Turbo Diesel 210bhp Milano

 

Engine: 2,143cc, 4Cyl 16V turbo-diesel

Transmission: 8 speed Automatic with manual mode. Four Wheel Drive.

Power:  210 bhp @ 3,750 rpm

Torque:  367 lbft @ 1,750 rpm

0-62MPH: 6.6 Sec

Max Speed: 130 mph

CO2: 127 g/km

MPG: 58.9 combined

Price: from £43,990 otr.

 

Many thanks to Thomas at Alfa Romeo’s UK Press office for the loan of the Stelvio

@bird_liam

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Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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