From £45,3908
The 276bhp version of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is the most convincing iteration of the SUV to date, although not quite the finished dynamic article
Richard Webber
20 September 2017

What is it?

Until the 503bhp Quadrifoglio version arrives next year, this 276bhp turbocharged petrol four-pot is the range-topping Stelvio. Having sampled it on the smooth surfaces of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Balocco test track in Italy, we’re driving it for the first time in the UK. Built alongside Alfa Romeo’s twin-turbo V6 at the Termoli plant, the all-aluminium 2.0-litre engine is familiar from the Giulia Veloce saloon and is also available in 197bhp tune.

As with all Stelvios, there’s an eight-speed torque converter from ZF and a carbonfibre prop shaft, while drive is shared between the axles by a multi-plate clutch that’s also common across the range apart from the rear-drive 2.2-litre 178bhp diesel that props up the price list. All the engine’s 295lb ft is channelled to the rear by default, but up to half can be sent forward if conditions dictate.

Our test car comes in limited-run Milano Edizione trim – a plush, top-dollar launch specification that’s only available with this engine and the 207bhp diesel. Highlights include 20in alloys, leather sports seats that are both heated and electrically adjustable up front, parking sensors at both ends, reversing camera, heated steering wheel, enormous aluminium shift paddles and sat-nav, plus the likes of power tailgate, hill-descent control and Alfa’s DNA drive selector that feature on all Stelvios.

What's it like?

There’s lots to like about this engine and it makes a fine match for the athletically inclined Stelvio. It’s a relatively subdued and obedient partner during gentler sorties, the auto ’box helping it mosey through urban shuffles and easy A-road canters promptly but without undue fuss with the DNA selector in N, for ‘Natural’ (A, for ‘Advanced Efficiency’, overly retards the drivetrain). It’s suitably quiet when cruising at 70mph, too.

But it really starts to shine when pressed, with robust acceleration available from just over 2000rpm most of the way to the rev limiter at 6000rpm. Turbo lag is perfectly manageable given the engine’s healthy specific output, and while the soundtrack won’t feature on Alfa’s greatest hits LP, it becomes quite racy as revs rise and is firmly an asset more than a liability.

Back to top

With DNA in D, for ‘Dynamic’, the engine’s full repertoire is unlocked, throttle response improves and the gearshifts become enjoyably brisk, giving a nice little thump on the way up that’s more often seen in cars with a sleeker silhouette. Likewise, hold the left paddle and the ZF trips through downshifts sequentially, hold the right paddle and it upshifts then slips back into auto, or pull both to find neutral for a neighbourly blip of the throttle. Combined with the steering wheel-mounted starter button, these features heighten the sensation that this high-riding five-door is more game than most.

The Stelvio certainly feels capable of its impressive 5.7sec to 62mph claim and, when employing this eagerness, you’ll find its cornering skills are up to snuff, too. Roll is well contained, grip is strong at both ends and there’s a sweetness to the car’s mid-bend attitude that speaks of both its 50/50 weight distribution and keen, aluminium-clipped kerb weight of 1660kg.

The steering is very quick for this class and is more apt here than in lesser-powered Stelvios, but feel is limited and the weighting, which never quite reaches what you’d call heavy, doesn’t seem especially natural or progressive.

As with the steering set-up, the Stelvio’s front double wishbone and rear multilink suspension architecture is inherited from the Giulia, but the taller car’s different springs and dampers can’t muster the saloon’s ride quality. While never harsh, it can even get a little busy across smooth-looking surfaces, and the rippled back roads of our test route unearthed a reactiveness that had us trimming our speed at times. The brakes are strong but employ an electro-mechanical actuator, and the resulting pedal feel takes some getting used to.

The balance of the Stelvio package is as before: generous occupant and luggage space, cabin materials that manage the ‘premium’ tag but not much more and a good driving position with well-placed controls. Niggles are a limited rear view, headrests that nudge your pate forward a bit and an infotainment system that is effective enough but idiosyncratic.

Back to top

Should I buy one?

With this engine, the Stelvio’s on-paper attractions are manifold. Around this price point, it’s both quicker and more efficient than the 296bhp petrol Jaguar F-Pace and manages similar performance to the significantly heavier Porsche Macan S, yet it is much cleaner and more spacious. A 249bhp Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI isn’t quite as swift but is otherwise a close statistical match for the Stelvio, yet the Q5 can be had in its simplest trim for a few grand less.

The Alfa can’t equal the Macan’s class-leading dynamic credentials, but it wouldn’t be a million miles away were it not for that animated ride. A Performance Pack is in the pipeline to include a limited-slip rear differential and adaptive dampers, the latter of which could prove an upgrade worth waiting for.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0 280 Q4 AWD Milano Edizione

Where Belfast, UK; On sale Now; Price £45,390; Engine 4 cyl, 1995cc, turbo, petrol; Power 276bhp at 5250rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 2250rpm; Gearbox 8-spd auto; Kerbweight 1660kg; Top speed 143mph; 0-62mph 5.7sec; Fuel economy 40.4mpg; CO2 rating 161g/km; Rivals Audi Q5, Porsche Macan, Jaguar F-Pace

Join the debate

Add a comment…
jer 12 November 2017

Already an option at £400 is

"Alfa dynamic suspension" is this the adaptive shocks. It doesnt say on the configurator!

Jimbbobw1977 21 September 2017

They won't be owned by a

They won't be owned by a Chinese company as they are joint owned by Chrysler hence FCA

martin_66 21 September 2017

"Woolly four leggers"!!!

There is a reason so many people buy and drive cars like that - the overall ownership experience is so much more satisfying.  You get a level of quality in the car an Alfa Romeo owner can only dream about, along with a superb driving experience.

You have stated that you drive a 320d - I have driven a couple of them in the past two years, and I honestly thought it was a superb car to drive - brilliant handling, superb, responsive engine, great economy and fabulous quality.  What's not to like and desire about that?

As to the long term future of Alfa, despite my preference for BMW (obviously!), even I can see that they are making some pretty nice cars these days (I would love a 4C, for instance!).  As they are owned by Fiat I can't see them letting Alfa go for a long time.  God forbid the Chinese ever get their hands on Alfa.  They won't need to - one of them is bound to just copy the cars Alfa sell anyway!

Despite  my comments I actually quite like the Stelvio.  I just prefer the X3!