REVIEW | The 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0 Turbo Q4 is a jack of all trades

Corner-loving Italian SUV is also surprisingly proficient in the dirt

10 May 2019 - 08:15 By Denis Droppa
The Stelvio’s one of the sharpest-handling SUVs on the road, but isn’t afraid of getting its wheels muddy. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The Stelvio’s one of the sharpest-handling SUVs on the road, but isn’t afraid of getting its wheels muddy. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

As a brand that built its reputation on sporty-feeling drivers’ cars, Alfa Romeo didn’t divert from the script when it introduced its first SUV.

Based on the sweet-handling Giulia sedan and named after an iconically twisty mountain pass in Italy, the Stelvio was designed from the outset to appeal to drivers with 95 octane running through their veins.

High-riding it may be, but all the engineering is focused on making this vehicle slice corners with maximum driver-pleasing poise. The suspension, along with several body panels, are made of weight-saving aluminium while the driveshaft is carbon fibre. In a further quest for agility the Stelvio has 50/50 front to rear weight distribution, and what Alfa says is the most direct steering in its segment.

Thus endowed, the Stelvio very effectively counteracts the affliction of standing a high 200mm off the ground. "Car-like handling" is possibly too often used for SUVs, but I’m happy to use the term to describe this Alfa’s direction-changing abilities.

The Stelvio feels impressively poised, charging through curves without any major wallowing or top-heavy feel.

What puts you into the heart of the action is the sharp steering, which tends  to bring out the inner boy racer and goad you into enthusiastic cornering. The 20-inch tyres grip doggedly, and ensuring that it doesn’t all end in frustrating understeer is a rear-biased Q4 system that sends 100% of the drive to the rear wheels in normal driving, but can transfer up to 50% to the front as the wheels approach their traction limit.

It’s the Stelvio 2l turbo model on test here, but the more powerful Stelvio Quadrifoglio 2.9T is the second fastest SUV to yet lap the Nurburgring Nordschleife, behind the Mercedes GLC 63 S but beating the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S.

The Stelvio is one of the best-handling SUVs I’ve driven, and it feels especially alive in Dynamic mode which sharpens the steering, engine and transmission responses. There are two other modes selectable by the DNA controller, one for normal driving and the other for maximum fuel efficiency.

Under that eye-catching designer Italian sheetmetal is a roomy family vehicle with all the latest comforts and gadgets. Pictured: SUPPLIED
Under that eye-catching designer Italian sheetmetal is a roomy family vehicle with all the latest comforts and gadgets. Pictured: SUPPLIED

The 2l turbo petrol engine delivers satisfying urge, with claimed figures of 0-100km/h in 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 230km/h putting it into almost hot-hatch territory. The power picks up nice and clean from low revs, and the eight-speed auto flicks through gears very efficiently.

Our test vehicle averaged 11l per 100km, which is reasonable if nowhere near the optimistic 7l factory claim.

The Stelvio’s straight-line performance and road-clawing agility didn’t come as much of a revelation given Alfa’s sporting heritage. More of a surprise was how competent it proved to be offroad.

Rather than being just another pavement-perching softroader, it got through a muddy, hilly course without getting stuck. The ground clearance was sufficient to prevent major belly scraping, and the all-wheel drive kept it going over some deep ruts on the slippery surface. For additional traction the Stelvio can be optionally ordered with a mechanical locking rear differential.

The 255/45 R20 tyres were up to the task too, providing decent cushioning over the rough tracks, even though this vehicle’s primary nature is a sporting one.

Under that eye-catching designer Italian sheet metal is a roomy family vehicle with all the latest comforts and gadgets.


Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0 Turbo Q4 First Edition

WE LIKE: Handling, style, surprisingly good offroad ability

WE DISLIKE: Price

VERDICT: You can have your sporty SUV and muddy it


Alfa’s learned how to make classy interiors and the Stelvio’s high-quality trimmings reflect this. In a fairly minimalist setting, the infotainment is bundled into a 22cm display that is controlled by a knob, not a touchscreen, while the climate controls are separate. It’s all quite intuitive and user friendly.

Seating space quite comfortably accommodates four full-sized adults. The boot is a spacious 525l and has a low-set lip for easy loading, while the tailgate opens and closes electrically.

Modern driver-assistance technology includes active cruise control which keeps a safe following distance, blind spot alert, and automatic emergency braking.

At R972,900 the highly-specced Stelvio 2.0 Q4 First Edition is one of the priciest SUVs in its segment, but the standard version of the vehicle sells for a more palatable R834,900.

Summary

From twisty mountain passes to rough gravel, the Stelvio has things covered. It’s an accomplished allrounder imbued with Alfa’s sporting heart and eye-catching styling.

I suspect many owners won’t even find out how good it is on the gravel, which would be a pity.


Tech Specs

Engine

Type: Four cylinder petrol turbo

Capacity: 1,995cc

Power: 206kW

Torque: 400Nm

Transmission

Type: Eight-speed automatic

Drivetrain

Type: Q4 permanent all-wheel drive

Performance

Top speed: 230km/h

0-100km/h: 5.7 seconds

Fuel Consumption: 7.0l /100km (claimed); 11.0l/100km (as tested)

Standard Features

Front and rear parking sensors, rear parking camera, Uconnect touch infotainment system with navigation, power tailgate, electric windows, leather seats, electric and heated mirrors, automatic headlights, automatic wipers, stability control, ABS brakes, tyre pressure monitor, lane departure warning, autonomous emergency brake, forward collision warning, 20-inch alloy wheels, ten-speaker audio system, blind spot monitoring, keyless go, active cruise control, sport pedals, sport steering wheel, electric sunroof, electrically adjustable front seats, adaptive front lights with auto levelling.

Warranty: Three years/100,000km

Maintenance plan: Six years/100,000km

Price: R972,900  

Lease*: R20,766

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit


Competition

BMW X3 xDrive30i - 185kW/350Nm - R818,181

Jaguar F-Pace 30t AWD R-Sport - 221kW/400Nm - R1,030,831

Mercedes-Benz GLC300 Coupe 4Matic - 180kW/370Nm - R847,565

Porsche Macan - 185kW/370Nm - R862,000


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