From £31,6908
Entry-level petrol Stelvio doesn’t get much standard kit, but drives extremely well. Well worth serious consideration in this hard-fought segment
27 July 2017

What is it?

Alfa Romeo’s long-awaited new Stelvio SUV sampled on road for the first time, albeit in its homeland and over the very Alpine pass it is named after.

While most UK-bound Stelvios will be diesel-powered, Alfa reckons the two petrol variants available from launch will make up a significant, and increasing, percentage of sales volume. Both of these use the same basic 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that we’ve already seen in the Giulia saloon, with both 197bhp and 276bhp variants. The less powerful version, tested here, is also the entry-level petrol Stelvio, costing £34,690 in standard form and £36,890 in the plusher Super trim.

As with all Stelvios, an eight-speed automatic gearbox is the only transmission choice, with the 2.0T also getting Alfa’s Q4 all-wheel-drive system as standard.

What's it like?

There's much that impresses. The Stelvio sits on the Giulia’s expensively developed Giorgio platform, which makes extensive use of aluminium. That makes the car lighter than its obvious rivals; on Alfa’s numbers, the 1660kg 2.0T is more than 100kg less than the equivalent Jaguar F-Pace, with the company also claiming that the bodyshell is exceptionally stiff.

It certainly feels taut and agile, with a well-damped ride that stayed civilised over the roughest surfaces that the car’s eponymous pass could throw at it. High-speed refinement, as tested on the Autostrada, is also excellent; only the slightest wind whistle from the top of the front door seals disturbed the tranquillity at a rapid cruise.

Handling responses are essentially those of a taller Giulia, with the two cars sharing their major chassis components and electric power steering systems. The Stelvio’s helm is direct and fast-acting, the front end turning keenly, and there’s an impressive absence of body roll even under harder use. What’s missing is any real sensation through the steering wheel beyond raw weight. Alfa is justifiably proud of how well the Stelvio resists understeer - something it demonstrated well on the pass’s numerous hairpins - but in slower turns this seems largely due to the unswitchable stability control system aggressively winding back the engine when the front axle is in danger of running out of grip.

Despite the rear bias of the Q4 all-wheel-drive system and the claim of torque vectoring across the back axle, there’s little give or throttle adjustability in the chassis; even with the controller for Alfa’s so-called DNA system turned to its most permissive 'Dynamic' setting, the engine is never allowed to overwhelm grip. Given the fundamental excellence of the Stelvio’s well-balanced chassis, it feels like a shame that the car isn’t allowed to play more. Roberto Fedeli, Alfa’s chief engineer, confirmed the forthcoming 493bhp Quadrifoglio will have fully defeatable stability control and that the company is considering it for lesser models.

Despite its peak 197bhp output, the basic petrol engine feels more effective than exciting. It’s tuned for torque, the peak 243lb ft available from just 1750rpm, and the eight-speed autobox shifts its ratios adeptly to keep it in the lower reaches of its mid range, where it’s happiest. It will rev when called upon to do so, from the lowly 4500rpm where peak power arrives and all the way to its 6000rpm limiter if forced to. But, although never harsh, the soundtrack lacks the zing and sparkle that used to characterize even Alfa’s humbler four-cylinder engines.

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The electrical servo assistance of the brakes also takes some getting used to, with the pedal lacking feel under harder retardation. The system automatically compensates to eliminate the sensation of fade too; a questionable benefit on the descent from the Stelvio Pass, where the pedal stayed rock hard even as the front pads started to smoulder. Some indication of the overworked anchors would have been welcome.

The rest of the car feels less developed than the chassis. While the cabin is spacious and has some nice touches, many of the materials lack the sort of quality that buyers in this segment expect by right these days; an omission considering Alfa’s insistence that we view the Stelvio as a premium player. Scratchy door trim plastics and the insubstantial controllers for the infotainment and DNA systems stood out for particular criticism.

The satellite navigation feels dated and off the pace too; it won’t be standard in the UK on the base model, and this might be one of the few occasions when it’s not worth ticking the box.

Should I buy one?

The Stelvio’s success is vital to the future of the Alfa brand and it is certainly set to enter the marketplace with some very aggressive pricing against key rivals.

The entry-level 2.0T doesn’t have much standard kit, but it undercuts the cheapest petrol-fired Jaquar F-Pace, the 2.0i Prestige, by more than £7000 and the Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI SE Quattro by £4500. While both of those rivals have more power, even the quickest and plushest Stelvio from launch, the laden 276bhp 2.0T Milano Editione, looks conspicuously good value at £45,390.

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All of which means that, if you’re considering a premium mid-sized SUV with petrol power and for private money, the Stelvio deserves to be high on the list.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0T Super  Location: Passo Del Stelvio, Italy  On sale: September 2017  Price: £36,890  Engine: 1995cc four-cylinder, petrol, turbocharged  Power: 197bhp @ 4500rpm  Torque: 243lb ft @ 1750rpm  Gearbox: Eight-speed auto, all-wheel drive  Kerbweight: 1660kg  0-62mph: 7.2-sec (claimed)  Top speed: 133mph  Economy: 40.3mpg  CO2: 161g/km  Rivals: Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI Sport, Jaguar F-Pace 2.0P Prestige

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jer 4 August 2017

The rear seat back

Is way too vertical to be comfortable?

jer 4 August 2017

Like the look of this

I think it might look better in the metal. The engine is a good compromise and none of LRs silly pricing (an owner complaint).  Don't get too hung up with the stars read the words and make you mind up. The hole bleedin world seems to feel the need for winners and loosers or a 1-5 rating to make people think its quantifiablely better or worse, when you all know its totally subjective / opinion? A form of bias..

bomb 1 August 2017

Had a good look over the

Had a good look over the Stelvio at both Goodwood and Carfest, very impressed. So much so my wife signed up for a test drive. She wasn't impressed with either the E-Pace or F-Pace. I can't say I agree with the assessment of the interior quality in this piece either, being easily as good as anything you'd see in the Jaguar. We're yet to drive the car so cannot comment on that but it's the only vehicle in the segment we would consider.

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