The Stelvio is Alfa Romeo’s first foray into the SUV market. Jon Reay found out more
This is Alfa Romeo’s first SUV – no pressure – so the Italians certainly aren’t messing around when it comes to showcasing Alfa’s interpretation of an off-roader. Rather than borrowing some bits from sister company Jeep, Alfa has started afresh with the Stelvio – basing it on the platform of the recently launched Giulia saloon instead. From the front there’s no mistaking which stable the Stelvio belongs to: Alfa’s trademark shield-shaped grille sits proudly in the centre, flanked by headlights that anyone familiar with the Giulia will be quick to recognise. In profile, the Stelvio is definitely more of a svelte crossover than a stout-looking SUV, and we reckon that’s no bad thing. In fact, it belies its size far more successfully than the BMW X4 or Mercedes GLC does. Inside, things are pretty impressive too. Materials can’t really be faulted, the dash is attractive and logically designed, and the driving position is spot-on. While the infotainment system is miles better than that on Alfas of old, it’s not quite up there with the BMW iDrives of this world. Given its shapely body, the Stelvio isn’t quite as practical as some of its more traditionallooking SUV rivals – think more BMW X4 than X3 – but there’s easily still room for four adults and their luggage. Rear legroom is decent, the boot space is par for the course at 525 litres, and it’d be relatively easy to get child seats in and out. Alfa has filled the Stelvio to the brim with safety kit too, so there’s technology aplenty to help prevent a crash. Alfa Romeo is very keen to stress that this isn’t just another SUV with some sporty bits tacked on – designing the Stelvio with driving dynamics in mind from the very beginning. That philosophy seems to have paid off. From behind the modern, flatbottomed steering wheel you’ll find a car-like driving position and a cabin that’s more driverfocused and enveloping than in a typical SUV. Where the Stelvio really shines is in the way it drives, though. The steering is direct, accurate and – although a little bereft of feedback – delicate without feeling over-assisted. As this is Alfa Romeo’s first SUV and, along with the Giulia, one of its first familysized cars in half a decade, the Stelvio’s customers are likely to be new to the brand – snaring some ex-Audi and BMW owners. Alfa would like to think its customers are just a tad more discerning than the usual SUV rabble. To an extent, they’ve nailed that brief – the Stelvio is probably the sweetest-handling SUV this side of a Porsche Macan, and in the looks department alone it’s effortlessly sophisticated compared with its slab-sided German rivals.