Italian cars are perhaps best known for their beautiful styling, impressive power, and nimble handling. Ultra-premium sports cars from Ferrari and Lamborghini are some of the most coveted machines worldwide. But they aren’t the only remarkable vehicles made in Italy. Before Ferrari was established as a standalone marque after World War II, it began life as the racing branch of carmaker Alfa Romeo. Today, Alfa is a part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and is making a strong effort to reestablish itself in the United States. Its Giulia sports sedan has already scored the 2018 Motor Trend Car of the Year award. And Alfa is currently introducing a mid-size crossover SUV known as the Stelvio.
An Alfa SUV?
Successful SUVs have been produced by other manufacturers known for sporty cars, like Porsche and Jaguar (even a Lamborghini SUV is on the way). So, a sport ute from Alfa Romeo is logical. This is especially true when considering that trucks and SUVs now outsell traditional sedans and coupes in the U.S. Like virtually all modern, sportier SUVs, the Stelvio—named after the twisty Stelvio Pass road in Italy—is intended to be a versatile utility vehicle that also produces inspiring acceleration and handling.
Packing a 280-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-four, the base Stelvio is capable of accelerating from 0-60 miles per hour in 5.4 seconds and to a 144 mph top speed. A 507-hp 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 Quadrifoglio ultra-high-performance version of the Stelvio will be available in the U.S. this spring. It will be capable of reaching 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and max out at 177 mph. For perspective, the $41,995 base model Stelvio is not far off from the performance of the $68,900 2018 Porsche Macan GTS, which runs to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds and 159 mph.
More Than Just A Pretty Face
But there is more to Alfa’s SUV than just impressive power. The Stelvio uses the same “Giorgio” vehicle platform as the Giulia sedan, which means it can handle impressively too. While the base model Stelvio’s 4,044-pound curb weight is not extraordinarily low, it is on par with the Porsche Macan. The overall competence of the Stelvio’s chassis setup comes through in test drives.
“This tasty Italian treat fully embraces the ‘sport’ proposition of sport utility,” says Motor Trend. “It is thrillingly quick, nimble around corners, and surprisingly supple over road crud.”
Other notable features include a beautifully designed interior (save for some low-rent-feeling plastic pieces) and an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters that allow you to hold the engine in gear to redline. There’s also a “D-N-A” vehicle mode selector. “Dynamic delivers sharper throttle, brake and steering-wheel response for sporty on-road driving and a throatier exhaust note,” says Alfa. “Natural is a comfort setting for a perfect balance in daily driving. Advanced Efficiency enables the cylinder deactivation to maximize energy savings and dynamic efficiency.”
Could Stelvio Be a Contender
Alfa Romeo is a brand that has never sold in large quantities in the United States. But it may, at last, have a machine that gives it a fighting chance against strong-selling European marques like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi. In the end, the Italian carmaker will need to continue to improve its product to stay punching in the same class as the Germans. So far, however, it appears the Stelvio is giving Alfa a fighting chance. “The engine is powerful, and the Alfa’s carlike handling is excellent for tackling winding roads,” says U.S. News & World Report. “It is one of the most fun-to-drive SUVs in a class that features entries from Jaguar, Porsche, and BMW – no mean feat.”