ALL-FOUR ROMEO

Alfa’s long-awaited SUV looks set to stir up the life­style seg­ment

Car (South Africa) - - DRIVE - ALFA ROMEO STELVIO 2,0 TURBO Q4 PRICE: ETA:

AF­TER a cou­ple of less-than-ster­ling decades, Alfa Romeo – the dar­ling brand of petrol­heads the world over – ap­pears to be on the up and up. While the re­nais­sance be­gan with the vis­ceral 4C sportscar, and more re­cently the Gi­u­lia sedan has been im­pres­sive, there’s nev­er­the­less been a glar­ing hole in Alfa’s oth­er­wise rich ta­pes­try … the lack of an SUV model.

Now Alfa has fi­nally heeded the mo­tor­ing pub­lic’s re­lent­less clam­our­ing for stylish life­style SUVS with the launch of the Stelvio. As the firm’s first at­tempt at an SUV, there is plenty rid­ing on the shoul­ders of the Stelvio, and we had the chance to sam­ple the model on Ital­ian soil to see if the long wait has been worth it.

The Stelvio is named af­ter the high­est moun­tain pass in Italy which links with Switzer­land and, as is of­ten the case with Alfa mod­els, the ve­hi­cle cuts a hand­some fig­ure from al­most ev­ery an­gle. Most SUVS come across as blocky and an­gu­lar in ap­pear­ance, but the Stelvio is cur­va­ceous in all the right places. To my eyes, it looks like a ju­nior ver­sion of the shapely Maserati Le­vante and is ar­guably one of the best-look­ing mod­ern SUVS. Even when driven in its no­to­ri­ously style-con­scious home mar­ket, the Stelvio man­aged to gar­ner ap­pre­cia­tive nods and glances from on­look­ers, not least of all in the tiny town of Maranello, the home of cer­tain red sportscars with a Pranc­ing Horse badge on their snouts.

As the cus­to­dian of a Gi­u­lia long-ter­mer, I found the Stelvio’s in­te­rior a fa­mil­iar en­vi­ron­ment. Much of the sedan’s cabin treat­ments have been car­ried over to the SUV, in­clud­ing the steer­ing wheel with starter but­ton, as well as the switchgear for the cli­mate con­trol, elec­tric win­dows and in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem.

The new model is based on the same plat­form as its Gi­u­lia sib­ling, in­ter­nally dubbed Gior­gio, and AWD is the driv­e­train of choice. Power is pro­vided by the same 2,0-litre tur­bopetrol as the Gi­u­lia that I pi­lot on a daily

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