2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Review

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio - Sporty does not begin to describe Alfa's compact crossover.

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Not as popular as some luxury crossovers, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio hit dealer lots back in 2017 as a 2018 model. It's a 5-passenger compact crossover that shares its platform and engines with the Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan. The Stelvio is Alfa's bestselling models in the US market and is named after Italy's highest mountain pass. Competitors include the BMW X3, Lexus NX, Maserati Levante, Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Porsche Macan and Volvo XC40.

Stelvio is offered in three trim levels, Base, Ti and Quadrifoglio. Base and Ti are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 280 horsepower and 306 lb-ft of torque. The Quadrifoglio get a 2.9-liter twinturbo V6 that makes 505 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. Both engines mate to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The base Stelvio is offered with rear- or all-wheel drive, while the Ti and Quadrifoglio are offered only with all-wheel drive. Towing capacity maxes out at 3,000 pounds.

The base Stelvio lists for $40,545 and comes standard with leather seats, 18-inch wheels, power liftgate, LED interior and exterior lighting, rain-sensing wipers and 6.5-inch infotainment screen with support for Android Auto and Apple Car Play. The $44,745 Ti adds 19-inch wheels, 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment display and heated front seats and steering wheel. The line-topping Quadrifoglio has an MSRP of $80,245 and adds 20-inch wheels, sport leather and Alcantara suede seats and leather-wrapped dash, Harman Kardon audio system, upgraded brakes, driver-selectable all-wheel drive system, adaptive suspension with torque-vectoring.

Technically, the Alfa is one bad-ass crossover. It was designed from the ground up to be a performance vehicle and has the DNA to prove it. Starting with a 50/50 weight distribution, Alfa engineers added a carbon fiber driveshaft, aluminum body panels, double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension and, on the Quadrifoglio, a Ferrari-tuned engine. Alfa has even dubbed the Stelvio the "Worlds Fastest Production SUV" and backs that up with a N├╝rburgring lap time of 7 minutes, 51.7 seconds (which up until a few months ago was the fastest time ever for an SUV).

The proof is in the puddin' as they say and the Stelvio delivers an exhilarating driving experience across the model lineup. The base 2.0-liter turbo four provides ample thrust with plenty of get-up-and-go off the line and solid passing punch. Most peg the 0 to 60 MPH time under 6 seconds. Step up to the Quadrifoglio and things get really interesting. The 0 to 60 time drops to less than 4 seconds and the sounds are amazing. If you really want to impress your know-it-all friends, take them for a ride in the Quadrifoglio, dial in Sport+ mode and let it all hang out.

Both engines mate well to the slick-shifting automatic transmission and the all-wheel-drive system does a good job of sending power to the wheels with the most traction. As is the case with most luxury crossovers, the Stelvio does not offer low-range gearing for extreme off-road use and its all-wheel-drive system is intended to provide a bit more security on slippery or snow-covered roads.

The 4-cylinder Stelvio is rated at 22 MPG city and 29 MPG highway (28 w/AWD). Quadrifoglio nets 17/23 MPG ratings. Both engines require premium-grade gasoline. In comparison, the 4-cylinder gets better than average fuel economy for the class while the twinturbo V6 is about average when compared to other offerings with similar power output. In routine suburban commuting, it is possible to average about 22 MPG overall with the big motor -- but who would want to? Straight highway driving yields about 25 MPG overall.

All of Stelvio's light-weighting tricks add up to a crossover that not only holds the road well, but is also a delight to drive on twisty roads. On most models, the suspension provides enough impact absorption to prevent the ride from growing harsh over badly broken roads and enough composure to keep occupants from bouncing when going over curbs or around corners. Quadrifoglio adds quite a bit of firmness, but thanks to driver-adjustable suspension settings you can dial things back quite a bit when tooling around town.

The steering is delightfully quick, but never darty. It's precise and has a good heft that makes you feel like you are driving a sports car. The powerful brakes can seem grabby, especially in Quadrifoglio trim. But after some time for acclimatization, drivers can pull off smooth stops. Interior noise levels are surprisingly low, with just a hint of engine growl and exhaust note around town. Crack the whip though, and the Stelvio lets you know its performance-car upbringing.

Stelvio boasts and interior that's a cut above the mainstream, but not quite premium. (And that's where Alfa is positioned in Italy.) Materials are price appropriate and get nicer as you go up in trim. The design and layout are very functional and makes for a driver-orientated experience that's easy to pick up and operate.

Traditional analog gauges flank a programmable center information display. The steering wheel has refreshingly few buttons and knobs, but an interesting START ENGINE button that's very race-car like. Upscale models get a much nicer central infotainment screen, but honestly the base screen is acceptable for most. Both are operated by a jog dial. The climate controls are super simple and nicely arranged in an easy-to-reach location on the center stack. Ancillary controls are conveniently placed and easy to operate.

The front seats are heavily bolstered, more so in the Quadrifoglio. Some might find them too firm, especially if you are outside the typical body shape. Head and leg room are quite good given the Stelvio's sporting intentions. The rear seats can be adult friendly if the front seats are moved forward a bit, but don't offer much knee or foot space and head room is at a premium for taller folk. Two adults can fit, but Stelvio does not lead the class in rear-seat room.

Outward visibility is excellent to the front and sides and somewhat pinched to the rear thanks to the smallish rear window and thick rear pillars. Even though this is crossover, getting in and out can be tough because the door openings are not all that wide and the roofline is fairly low.

Though Alfa offers all of the safety features found in competitive vehicles, they are optional in many cases and that just shouldn't be the case. Buyers should not have to choose between safety or a sunroof, safety should come first. To be fair, many luxury vehicles offer safety features like blind spot warning and forward collision mitigation as options.

The infotainment system does support Android Auto and Apple Car Play and that's a plus. However, it lags behind more sophisticated systems in some competitors. This makes it very easy operate, but means that more complex commands like entering in destinations take longer. Note that the Stelvio gets an upgraded system for the 2020 model year. There's also a simple dial on the center console that used to select different driving modes.

With just 18.5 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats, Stelvio isn't the most utilitarian crossover in its class. Thankfully the opening is wide and the load floor low. Fold the rear seats down and cargo space grows to 56.5, which is average for the class. Interior storage is modest with just one open bin in the console and a shallow glove box.

Bottom Line --
Alfa may be a new brand to American buyers, but it is certainly one that's worth consideration. Simply put, Alfa makes vehicles for enthusiasts. The Stelvio is a perfect example, it's a joy to drive, even more so when you pick up the pace. Other attributes include reasonable passenger space and affordable pricing for the segment. True, cargo and rear-seat space are modest and the infotainment system is a bit behind the times. All in all, one drive is all it should take to convince most shoppers to become buyers -- especially if they are looking at the Quadrifoglio.



Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.