What is it?
What we have here is the range-topping diesel version of the new Alfa Romeo Stelvio, driven in Italy over a route including the famous Alpine pass the car is named after.
The oil-burning Stelvio uses the same all-alloy 2.2-litre diesel engine that we’ve already sampled in the Giulia saloon, albeit in a higher 207bhp state of tune and with drive sent to all corners through a standard all-wheel drive system.
Numbers are certainly impressive, with Alfa claiming a 6.6-second 0-62mph time but also combined economy of 58.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 127g/km. The brawnier diesel engine is available in three trim levels from launch: Super (£38,490), Speciale (£42,290) and the fully laden Milano Edizione, as driven here; its £43,990 price second only to that of its range-topping 276bhp petrol turbo sister.
What's it like?
While British buyers have grown used to selecting diesel SUVs pretty much by default in recent years, the wider Stelvio range makes an excellent case for looking beyond the once-inevitable black pumper. While the diesel options certainly aren’t bad, petrol Stelvios, including the cheaper 197hp 2.0T, have markedly more of what might be termed Alfa-ness.
The diesel is as effortless as you would expect it to be. The engine’s peak 346lb ft arrives at just 1750rpm, and the quick-shifting autobox fitted as standard shuffles its eight ratios intelligently to keep the engine in its comfort zone. Everyday pace is delivered without effort, but requests for higher speeds have the engine revealing both the narrowness of its powerband, which fades quickly after the 3750rpm at which peak power arrives, but also a soundtrack that turns harsh under harder use, something that’s emphasized by how refined the rest of the car is. Unlike the Porsche Macan and Jaguar F-Pace, cited by Alfa as the Stelvio’s biggest rivals, there’s no option of a six-cylinder diesel engine.
Alfa claims near-identical kerbweights for both spark and compression ignition versions of the Stelvio, the 2.2D 210 being just 1kg more than the 2.0T 280. Yet the diesel’s languid power delivery gives it a more laid-back dynamic character, one that makes it feel markedly less keen over a challenging road. The diesel still turns-in crisply, although the electric steering provides only weight rather than true feel, and the diesel engine’s greater low-down brawn keeping the unkillable stability control busier in low-speed corners. As with the petrol, the electronic nanny is determined to prevent any real exploitation of the well-balanced chassis and rear-biased power delivery.
As with other variants, the Stelvio’s light but rigid body makes it feel impressively composed on rougher roads. Ride quality over frequently broken Alpine tarmac impressed, even with our test car wearing the largest available 20-inch alloys. The Stelvio feels firmly suspended, but never harsh, with body control remaining excellent even over bigger bumps and at higher speeds.
The Stelvio is practical, too. While the cabin lacks the quality feel of some of its premium rivals there’s generous space for adults both front and rear, and the 525-litre boot is large enough to warrant comparison with an actual cavern. The power-operated front seats that come with Speciale and Milano Edizione trim proved comfortable over a three-hour stint behind the wheel, offering comprehensive adjustment for occupants of almost any size. The days when ergonomic compromise came as standard on any Italian car seem increasingly far-off, thankfully.