Gi­u­lia-grade han­dling of­fered up to the SUV set

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - TONY O’KANE

SEXY looks count for noth­ing if the sheet­metal is writ­ing cheques the chas­sis can’t cash. But with Gi­u­lia-shared Gior­gio un­der­pin­nings we were ex­pect­ing plenty from Alfa Romeo’s first SUV.

Swing­ing for the likes of the BMW X3, Mercedes GLC, Audi Q5 and Jaguar F-pace, the Stelvio has ar­rived in Oz in 148kw petrol and 154kw diesel guises, and will be bol­stered later this year with the 206kw petrol Stelvio Ti, then the twin-turbo V6 Stelvio Quadri­foglio. And ini­tial im­pres­sions sug­gest it’s much more than a shal­low Ital­ian su­per­model.

Our first taste of the Stelvio in North­ern Ire­land (Wheels, Dec ’17) left plenty of pos­i­tives, but also ques­tion marks over the rear-end’s abil­ity to con­tain big hits.

Three damper set-ups are of­fered for Oz – Koni dampers on the rear only, Ko­nis at each cor­ner, and elec­tron­i­cally ad­justable adap­tive dampers. We tested Stelvio petrol and diesel in lim­ited First Edi­tion spec – an ex­tra $6K – which adds heated sports leather seats, a heated steer­ing wheel, a panoramic glass sunroof ... and four Koni dampers.

In this spec, driven hard on Vic­to­ria’s Reefton Spur, the Stelvio im­pressed. A de­cid­edly sporty SUV, its crisp steer­ing is the high­light, with the quick­est rack in the class. The Stelvio is highly re­sis­tant to roll and un­der­steer, the lat­ter helped by 50:50 weight dis­tri­bu­tion.

A light­weight in the do­main of mid-size SUVS (at 1619kg as a turbo petrol), the Stelvio does plenty with the four’s some­what mod­est 148kw and 330Nm, to de­liver a claimed 7.2-sec­ond 0-100km/h. The 154kw/470nm 2.2-litre Stelvio diesel is (al­most) equally trim, at 1620kg, and does 0-100km/h in a claimed 6.6sec.

Some of the straight-line ef­fec­tive­ness can be at­trib­uted to the all-wheel-drive sys­tem and de­ci­sive eight-speed au­to­matic. The lat­ter is quick to snick ra­tios when you pluck a pad­dle; it’s a shame the brake-by-wire sys­tem is equally snatchy.

Up front, the seats are nicely con­toured, and mounted low for a sportscar-like feel. The rear of­fers plenty of legroom and a back­rest canted for bet­ter long-dis­tance pos­ture, with a firm cush­ion. Just as in the Gi­u­lia, there are some qual­ity short­falls in the cabin. Bet­ter qual­ity plas­tic fin­ishes would cer­tainly lift the am­bi­ence.

There are more util­i­tar­ian SUVS around, but does that di­min­ish the Stelvio’s ap­peal? Not when few SUVS in this price spec­trum feel so bril­liantly alive. In the forth­com­ing Stelvio Quadri­foglio, the dy­namic abil­ity is even quan­ti­fied with a ‘quick­est SUV’ Nur­bur­gring record. The Stelvio also looks pretty damn hot and, for a great many, that still counts for a lot.

Model Alfa Romeo Stelvio First Edi­tion En­gine 1995cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo Max power 148kw @ 4500rpm Max torque 330Nm @ 1750rpm Trans­mis­sion 8-speed au­to­matic Weight 1619kg 0-100km/h 7.2sec (claimed) Econ­omy 7.0L/100km Price $71,900 On sale Now

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