Montreal Gazette


This Italian performanc­e vehicle doesn't get the blood pumping the way it should


I really wanted to love this vehicle. The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale EAWD boasts a storied Italian bloodline — the company was founded in 1910 as Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (ALFA); is a brand with a Formula One racing team and on a personal note, produced some very desirable cars in my youth, among them the V8 Montreal and the 75 Turbo Evoluzione. And is there a more beautiful Le Mans racer than the 1968 Alfa Romeo T33/2 Daytona?

Don't get me wrong. The Tonale plug-in hybrid — that's what the EAWD stands for in Alfa nomenclatu­re — is a competent sport crossover with, in my opinion, the best exterior styling in its segment. It counts the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Lexus NX, Mercedes-benz GLB, and Volvo XC40 as competitio­n, but none of those offer plug-in hybrid powertrain­s apart from the Lexus.

But after spending a week with the Tonale PHEV, there was something missing. It just didn't project the élan, or la dolce vita, that I was expecting from a fine Italian automobile. Granted, my time behind the wheel of Alfas, particular­ly newer models, is limited, so perhaps I had set the bar too high in terms of my hopes for the Tonale plug-in hybrid.

Before expanding on that, let's take a look at some facts and figures for the 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV. The Tonale — pronounced “Toe-nal-ee” — debuted last year in Canada with two powertrain options: a turbocharg­ed 2.0-litre gasoline engine and a 1.3-litre gas plug-in hybrid. The latter's engine is a Multiair turbocharg­ed four-cylinder that drives the front wheels, working with a 90-kilowatt electric motor fed by a 15.5-kwh lithium-ion battery powering the rear wheels — a bit of a unique set-up.

Alfa Romeo reports an all-electric range of about 48 kilometres. Total power output is a best-inclass 285 horsepower (180 from the gas engine, 105 from the electric motor) and an impressive 347 lb-ft of torque (184 of that from the electric motor).

That power is transferre­d to the wheels through an automatic six-speed Aisin transmissi­on, and braking comes in the form of a class-exclusive integrated brake system with fixed Brembo calipers and self-ventilated discs at the front and full discs at the rear. As to suspension, the Tonale features a fully independen­t Macpherson set-up with frequency selective damping shock absorbers.

The Veloce trim I tested is the top-of-the-line model — the base is the Sprint — and comes with several performanc­e-related modes, including dual-stage-valve active suspension that features two pre-set damping curves. By pressing a shock absorber icon in the middle of the DNA dial — more on that in a minute — you can select either Comfort or Sport settings. The former softens up the ride for rougher road travel and the latter stiffens things up for more aggressive cornering and less body roll.

Standard on both trims is that DNA dial, located on the lower dash, which provides three modes for delivering electric power to the rear wheels.

D stands for Dual Power/ Dynamic, the performanc­e setting that maximizes output from the electric motor and the gasoline engine; N is Natural/neutral, an everyday driving mode, with management between electric and piston power; and A is for Advanced Efficiency, which puts the vehicle into pure electric mode running off the lithium-ion battery.

Also standard is the button-activated E-save mode, which keeps the battery charge at a specified level or recharges it to a predetermi­ned threshold. One clever mechanical system is a high-voltage belt starter-generator mounted to the engine, which serves a dual purpose: it delivers torque to the crankshaft to smooth out shifts and offer startstop capability and during highway travel, it charges the battery while the engine turns the front wheels at cruising speed.


Let's move on from objective to subjective impression­s. As mentioned earlier, I love the exterior of the Tonale. The front headlight design, dubbed 3+3, gives the Alfa a unique nose in a segment dominated by crossovers that all sort of blend together. The silhouette of the Tonale is sleek and sexy and delivers on the promise of so many luxury CUVS that claim to be sports cars in an SUV body but fall well short. That said, the 20-inch wheels look a little small in the large wheel openings. But I do like those diamond-cut fivehole rims.

The cabin is where I felt the Tonale fell short, at least in terms of living up to its Italian heritage. The front seats, while nice in appearance, didn't fit me well, and I found the bolsters, leg and body, to be too far away to hold me in place. The dashboard is fine, but uninspired; that DNA dial is located in an awkward place by the driver's right knee; and the shifter looks like it is out of a 20-year-old parts bin.

Not all is lost, however, as the sport steering wheel is what you, or at least I, would expect in a vehicle wearing an Alfa badge, as is the driver's gauge array. I did find the paddle shifters to be far too big, though, at times impeding access to the turn indicator and wiper controls. Rear-seat room is tight for an adult, even with the front seats accommodat­ing shorter people, and the rear cargo area is compromise­d a bit by the sloping rear roof line that, admittedly, gives the Tonale that svelte silhouette.


When driving a plug-in hybrid in the city, if there is juice in the battery, I always default to the all-electric mode — in the case of this Alfa, Advanced Efficiency on the DNA dial. I didn't like that when you punch it in this mode, a kickdown switch fires up the gas engine to add some oomph to the accelerati­on by engaging the front wheels. I much prefer full electric mode throughout the power band when in an all-electric mode.

Dynamic mode certainly brought the Tonale to life, and the exhaust note felt just right for an Alfa Romeo. One of the compromise­s of having the rear wheels powered by just the electric motor is peak performanc­e can be achieved only when the battery is charged above 80 per cent. This is when the E-save function comes in handy — you can keep a full charge stored up for when you want to wring the Tonale out — but I did notice a marked increase in fuel consumptio­n when in E-save mode. Another drawback in A mode is the front wheels are disconnect­ed from the powertrain, so you're essentiall­y driving a rear-wheeldrive vehicle at that point.

At lower speeds, the steering is light and very acceptable, and in D mode it tightens up with a slightly heavier feel that performs in a precise manner suited to higher-speed cornering. That beefy steering wheel feels good in these circumstan­ces. And while there are just two suspension settings, each has a wide range that translates to a solid sense of connection to the road whether puttering around in the city or stretching the Tonale's legs on the highway. That dualstage-valve active suspension is the kind of technology I expected on an Alfa, and it does not disappoint. I was surprised the transmissi­on has just six gears, as most vehicles, luxury or otherwise, are adding more gears in the name of fuel economy and smoother travel. However, shifts are smooth and seamless, so that belt starter-generator seems to do its job as advertised.


I charged up from a near-empty battery to full on a 240-volt Level 2 charger and it took a little less than three hours. In the week I had the Tonale, I charged up twice, and found the estimated 48-kilometre full-charge range to be fairly accurate, and in fact closer to the EPA'S range of 53 kilometres. With a full tank and a full battery, the range is pegged at 579 km.

I didn't do a whole lot of highway driving, so didn't get many opportunit­ies to use the belt starter-generator function to charge up the battery; however, I did recover some energy from the regenerati­ve braking system. In terms of fuel economy, over the course of about 300 kilometres of driving, I ended up with a combined 8.5 L/100 km rating, slightly higher than the EPA'S rating of 8.1. (Natural Resources Canada has yet to release fuel ratings for the Tonale EAWD.)

That's a decent number for a sport-luxury crossover, but I expected that 15.5-kwh battery to bring that number down a little.

Of course, it all depends on your user case. If your daily work commute is a 40-km round trip and you plug into a Level 2 charger overnight, that number will be far lower.


If assigning a grade to the 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale EAWD, I'd give it a B-minus. It's a great-looking vehicle, but the cabin is a little bland, and while the ergonomics for those up front are decent, those in the back will find things a little tighter.

Its driving characteri­stics are solid, particular­ly in Dynamic mode where some sophistica­ted performanc­e systems provide a glimpse into Alfa's motorsport prowess. But overall, it didn't get the blood pumping, which, last time I checked, is what Italian performanc­e vehicles are all about.

The base price of the 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale EAWD is $57,495. Our tester came in at $69,480, with the inclusion of a Misano Blue paint job ($900), a premium interior package ($2,995), active assist ($2,500), sunroof ($1,495), 20-inch wheels ($2,000), and a destinatio­n charge of $2,095. The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale is available at Canadian dealership­s now.

 ?? ANDREW MCCREDIE ?? The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale EAWD comes in at a base price of $57,495, and is now available at dealership­s. Its total output is a best-in-class 285 horsepower.
ANDREW MCCREDIE The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale EAWD comes in at a base price of $57,495, and is now available at dealership­s. Its total output is a best-in-class 285 horsepower.
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