Cheap parts, plus a high price tag? No thanks.

The Washington Post Sunday - - CARS - War­ren.brown@wash­

It is a head-turner, one of the most dis­tinc­tively de­signed SUVs en­ter­ing the 2018 au­to­mo­tive mar­ket, largely be­cause of its prom­i­nent tri­an­gu­lar grille.

But the com­pe­ti­tion is bet­ter in ways that count, and the com­peti­tors are many and con­stantly im­prov­ing.

In ad­di­tion to the crowded mar­ket, prices are high for high-class SUVs, run­ning $40,000 and much more. That means the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Lusso, driven for this week’s col­umn, might find it dif­fi­cult to com­pete.

That is too bad, be­cause there are many lik­able things about the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. But there also are many self-in­flicted wounds, eer­ily rem­i­nis­cent of a for­mer com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor of a cer­tain pres­i­den­tial ad­min­is­tra­tion. The Stelvio’s prob­lems:

It has good ex­te­rior looks but traf­fics in cheap parts — plas­tic roof han­dles with sharp edges that can cut un­wary hands; cen­ter con­sole pieces with beau­ti­ful ex­te­ri­ors on one side and un­fin­ished, sharp plas­tic edges on the other; poorly fit­ting sun vi­sors that let in as many so­lar rays as they keep out.

Like cheap lan­guage, cheap parts have a way of ru­in­ing things. In fair­ness to Alfa Romeo, a di­vi­sion of Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles, I sus­pect the parts prob­lem was be­cause the com­pany rushed the Stelvio model sent to me — a pre­pro­duc­tion hap­pen­stance. Here’s hop­ing these silly er­rors will be ab­sent from full-pro­duc­tion mod­els, a few of which are on sale in the Wash­ing­ton area.

Stelvio pric­ing is a tad off the mark for high-end SUVs. Equipped with ad­vanced elec­tronic safety fea­tures, a pre­mium sound sys­tem and a panoramic glass roof, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio (with Ti Lusso trim) had a fi­nal price of $54,490. It will have a rough time go­ing against mod­els such as the well-equipped BMW X3 ($42,050), Jaguar F-Pace ($44,775), Audi Q5 ($41,500) and an ar­ray of other com­peti­tors from the United States, Ja­pan and South Korea.

Op­tions, of course, can lessen the price com­pet­i­tive­ness of the other high­end mod­els — but so what?

The South Kore­ans, es­pe­cially, are us­ing tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances to in­crease their equip­ment of­fer­ings and re­duce the prices of their ve­hi­cles. They are ren­der­ing the no­tion of “pres­tige” ir­rel­e­vant, which is not a good thing for any of the pur­vey­ors of high-end mod­els.

Still, if you en­joy be­ing the cen­ter of at­ten­tion, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is the way to go. Cur­rently, two Stelvio trim lev­els are for sale — the base Stelvio and the very well-equipped Ti Lusso. The ve­hi­cle is named af­ter the twisty Stelvio moun­tain pass in north­ern Italy. Out­fit­ted in Ti Lusso trim, which in­cludes all-wheel drive and Brembo brakes, I have no doubt it eas­ily and safely could make that trip.

The en­gine is enough — a tur­bocharged 2.0-liter, di­rect-in­jec­tion four-cylin­der model (280 horse­power, 306 pound-feet of torque). Han­dling is ex­cel­lent. But Alfa Romeo might have en­tered the mar­ket a bit too late and un­fin­ished with this one. We’ll see.

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio’s com­pe­ti­tion is bet­ter in ways that count.


War­ren Brown ON WHEELS

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