What is it?
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio has a big boot. It has rear seats that conveniently split-fold in 40/20/40 portions. It has sensible black plastic wheel arch lips. It has multiple cupholders, a power tailgate, several shopping hooks and… 280bhp. Which is quite a lot for a high-riding five-seat family car.
This certainly isn’t the first time that Alfa Romeo has set about building a more practical vehicle – it made a rugged, Jeep-like 4x4 called the Matta in the early 1950s - but what its Canadian boss Reid Bigland underlines is that ‘the Stelvio is an Alfa Romeo first, and an SUV second.’ And, as any car enthusiast knows, that should mean a recipe to include excellent handling, feelsome steering and a tunefully characterful soundtrack. To this end, chief engineer Roberto Fedeli points out that Alfa Romeo consulted a couple of musicians (of rock, blues and pop leanings rather than orchestral, rap or trance, apparently) to create a backing track in harmony with the rest of the car in the interests of bestowing it with a ‘coherent character’.
That character is built on the so-called Giorgio platform that also underpins the Giulia saloon, with Fedeli pointing out that the Stelvio was developed at much the same time in a ‘cluster’ of models that will grow from this architecture. Meanwhile, Bigland reminds us that Giorgio was developed as a premium architecture, and that by making its debut on the 503bhp Giulia Quadrifoglio it was possible to develop high-cost items such as a lightweight carbonfibre propshaft that also appears below the floors of all the mainstream Giulias, and the Stelvio besides. Had the less potent versions been developed first, he explains, the finance department would have vetoed such functional indulgences.