Alfa de­liv­ers

The Stelvio is Alfa Romeo’s first foray into the SUV mar­ket. Jon Reay found out more

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Kentmotors -

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.

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