There used to be a number of auto brands we’d never expect to even consider producing an SUV. To them, the idea of producing anything other than a sports car, grand touring car, or sports sedan was anathema. As recently as a decade ago, if you’d suggested Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bentley, or Aston Martin would have SUVs in their lineups (or in the pipeline for production), the men in white coats probably wouldn’t have been too far behind.
That’s all changed now. Even the Italian luxury brand Alfa Romeo has got in on the act with an SUV of its own called the Stelvio. So, what exactly is the Stelvio? Does it offer something different? And should you consider buying one? Let’s take a closer look at the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio and find out.
If you read a lot of media reviews of Alfa Romeo models from over the years, it would be easy to think they are the most beautiful things ever to be put on four wheels. The exterior styling is, therefore, one of the biggest features of any Alfa Romeo review. However, the Stelvio is a model that has much more to offer than just an attractive exterior.
To be fair, most current Alfas are very attractive, and the Stelvio isn’t ugly by any means. It’s a sporty design that looks like a slightly squashed Jaguar F-Pace from the side, and the rear-end has a hint of Porsche Cayenne about it. Perhaps surprisingly, the front fascia is actually quite unremarkable, and apart from the Alfa Romeo signature grille, it could be from any number of different manufacturers.
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is an attractive compact crossover SUV, but it’s up to you to decide whether it’s as attractive as a Mazda CX-3 or CX-5 or a Lexus NX. If it just came down to styling, the Stelvio would be a contender. But when it comes to other aspects, like performance, you’ll find the Alfa leaves the competition for dead.
The base engine under the hood of the Stelvio helps its performance live up to the promises made by its sporty exterior styling. The unit in question is a 2.0-liter turbo four that develops 280 horsepower and 306 lb.-ft. of torque. The base version of the Stelvio gets that power sent to the rear wheels in standard form through an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, but all-wheel drive is standard throughout the rest of the range.
To get an even more powerful engine and incredible performance means spending extra to get the Quadrifoglio model. Then you’re getting a 505 hp twin-turbo V-6 lifted from the Giulia Quadrifoglio.
Both versions of the Stelvio offer excellent performance, and most SUV buyers will be more than happy with the way the models equipped with the turbo four performs. The standard models have a top speed of 144 mph and they can get from 0 to 60 mph in as little as 5.4 seconds. That puts the Stelvio at least on a par with most luxury rivals, but the Quadrifoglio is an entirely different matter.
Quadrifoglio variants get to 60 mph from a standing start in just 3.6 seconds. It is currently the fastest SUV to complete a lap of the world famous Nürburgring. It’s not just the power that impresses here though. The Quadrifoglio is available with a whole raft of performance upgrades such as carbon-ceramic brakes, a sports exhaust, fat tires on massive wheels, and enhanced engine cooling and air-intake components. This is very much a performance SUV, and it more than lives up to that billing.
Interior Comfort and Quality
At first glance, the interiors available in the Stelvio family certainly look the part — real wood and metal trim are available, and even carbon-fiber on the Quadrifoglio model. But look a little closer and have a good poke around inside, and you’ll find it lacks a little of the quality of German and Japanese rivals. The materials used are good, but perhaps not of the very highest quality. The interior is more like a range-topping model from a mass-market automaker than an out-and-out luxury model. This certainly isn’t a deal-breaker, though, when you consider how the Stelvio out-performs its luxury rivals.
Although the back seats are best used for children because there’s less legroom than in some rivals (especially for longer journeys) the seats in both the front and back are well bolstered and quite comfortable.
Features and Equipment
Standard kit includes: power features, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, a 7.0-inch instrument cluster display, and a 6.5-inch infotainment system that’s now Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible.
Moving up to the T- trim level adds wood trim, heated leather seats, an upgraded 8.8-inch infotainment system, satellite radio, larger 19-inch alloy wheels and front parking sensors. There are plenty of extra options that can also be added – at a price, of course, but adding things like the Sport package does start to make the Stelvio pretty expensive.
Fuel economy is an area where you might get a pleasant surprise from the Stelvio. Rear-drive base models are rated at 22 mpg in the city, 29 on the highway, and 25 mpg combined. The all-wheel-drive models return 22/28/24 mpg. That’s not bad at all for a compact SUV that performs like the Alfa, and it puts the Stelvio right on par with the competition, many of which don’t offer the same performance or efficiency.
Of course, the Quadrifoglio is considerably thirstier with ratings of 17/23/19 mpg from its twin-turbo V-6, but who cares when you’re enjoying that kind of power and performance?
- Italian styling
- Superb handling
- Standard rear-wheel drive
- Cramped in the back
- Inevitable questions over reliability and quality
- A lot of advanced safety kit are only optional
The Last Word
If you want an attractive, sporty, and desirable compact crossover that drives and handles even better than it looks and really is a great deal of fun, it’s hard to think of anything that fits the bill better than the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio — especially for the price.
If what you’re looking for is exotic Italian styling combined with genuinely thrilling performance, you can get it for a little less than the Stelvio’s $40,295 starting MSRP by going for the Alfa Romeo Giulia. But if your new vehicle has to be an SUV, which is a must for many buyers today, the Stelvio is an extremely tempting proposition. Once you test drive it, you’re unlikely to consider anything else.