It’s a CUV that is combination grocery getter, kid kaddy, and pet picker upper. And everything it does is performed in a manner that screams “Pronto!” It’s the 2018 Alfa-Romeo Stelvio Sport CUV. And it’s Italian. That could go both ways, by the way…
It’s quite the ride, especially when you become so steeped in Italian culture that you begin to think of yourself as il Commendatore (The Commander). I mean really! It might be because we are so excited to see the Alfa-Romeo badge back on this side of the Ocean. So, put on your latest Prada, hop in, and buckle up. It’s going to be quite a ride!
The 2018 Alfa-Romeo Stelvio Sport is, like the recently introduced Jaguar E-Pace, a “tweener,” that bridges the gap between, for example, the BMW X3 and its larger X5 sibling and the Mercedes-Benz GLC which will all likely be shopped against this EPA-classed Mid-Size SUV. It gets its power from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that sports a turbocharger to force feed it for more power.
Power is either a put-up or shut-up proposition. This engine deals in put-up, laying down 280-horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 306 lb-ft of torque starting at 2,000 rpm and peaking at 4,800. A ZF-built 8HP50 8-speed automatic transmission sends power via a carbon-fiber drive shaft to all four corners for all season, all-wheel drive. For those needing more in the way of oomph, there is the 505-horsepower Alfa-Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
From the outside, we were impressed with the angular exterior looks that could clearly have come from the best styling ateliers in Milan. Starting with an aggressive lean that jutted forward to the express “eyes” which lead to the triangular shaped Alfa-Romeo intake, the car screams of its Italian heritage.
Inside, the Stelvio surprisingly casts off any apparent Italian flair in favor of an interior that appears much more minivan than master of the autostrada. Embossed headrests bearing the Alfa crest join the steering wheel insert as the only hint you are in anything from Italy, save for the larger than large aluminum paddle shift levers and the steering wheel-mounted ignition button.
The center console is marked by a rather non-descript shifter, that we have seen before, and is flanked by controls that change the Stelvio’s drive dynamics from dynamic to natural to sport, while a joystick-style nob takes care of the audio system on the other side. A matrix style graphic panel stretches from right to left across the dashboard and the Harman/Kardon audio aurally fills the space, but we were left a bit disappointed by the appearance overall. Give us some tan Ferrari-style leather, we say.
The cargo hold is nicely finished with strap-in guide rails, and 18.5 cubic feet of storage with the rear seats in the upright position. Fold them forward, and that area jumps in size to 56.5-cubic feet.
Behind the wheel
Despite the interior decoration shortcomings, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Alfa-Romeo Stelvio, which turns out to be the sports car among other SUVs in the segment. It did not have, nor through its marketing campaign, display any off-road pretensions, which is quite alright for us in the sense that this SUV will never go camping, mudding, cruising through Baja California or so on. In fairness, even if you found yourself in a Land Rover, you most likely would not take that vehicle off-road either.
While others have complained of inherent problems from this Italian designed and manufactured vehicle, we were pleasantly surprised with an SUV that just worked. No drama, difficulties, or side of the road coffee breaks waiting for Alfa service to come rescue us. Progress, we say!
Acceleration from the 2.0-liter four-cylinder was about average for the segment and provided spirited handling throughout our weeklong adventure with it. We were disturbed by the roughness that appeared with the auto start/stop function, becoming so annoyed that we ended its pain by disabling the option. During around town driving at a somewhat respectable speed, we felt the engine had a tendency to drone on. It was quickly alleviated when we force fed it more fuel. But at the end of the day, perhaps it could be attributed to the mid-profile Continental tires.
Still, the Alfa-Romeo Stelvio is an impressive handler, thanks to its double wishbone front suspension and newly designed and patented Alfa Link vertical rod link rear suspension. It’s quite easy to see why, despite its quirks, it is easy to have an emotional attachment to an SUV, especially when it is known by its “La meccanica delle emozioni” (the mechanics of emotion) tagline.
Story and photos by Mark Elias
2018 Alfa-Romeo Stelvio Sport
Base MSRP: $43,795 As tested: $53,585.
Includes: Driver Assistance Static Package with Front Parking Sensors, $800; Driver Assistance Dynamic Package, $1,500; 8.8-inch Display with 3D Navigation, $1,550; Sirius XM Radio, $350; Harmon Kardon Premium Sound System, $900; Dual-Pane Sunroof, $1,350; Cold Weather Package, $795; Convenience Package, $200; 20-inch Aluminum Wheels, $750; Metallic Paint, $600; Destination fee, $995.
Cylinders: 4-cylinder Inline twin scroll turbocharged
Power: 280-hp @ 5,200 rpm
Torque: 306 lb-ft @ 2,000-4,000 rpm
Fuel System: Gas Direct Injection
Acceleration: 0-60mph in 5.5-seconds
Drive Type AWD
Gearbox: ZF 8-speed Automatic with paddle shift levers
Tire Size: 255/45R20 Continental ContiCrossContact LX
Unladen Weight: 4,044-pounds
Cargo Volume: 56.5-cubic feet rear seat folded
18.5-cubic feet rear seat up