New Alfa Stelvio is
Forget your preconceptions about SUVS and give the newbie on the block a fair chance
I’VE ADMITTED it before and am not embarrassed to say it again – I am an unadulterated Alfa Romeo enthusiast.
Before I discovered the delights of pushing a 4x4 to the extreme, I had almost every Alfa model before the marque returning to South Africa.
Juniors, 33s, Giuliettas, GTVS and so it went on, teaching me much about the workings of the internal combustion engine and throwing my hands up in despair at the electronics of 1980s Italian engineers. The engines would mostly purr along perfectly, but dials would swing wildly in every direction; in the evening, the petrol gauge would show half and in the morning full and during the day everything in-between. Fortunately that’s all changed and they now not only produce beautifully designed cars but, dare I say it, compete with some of their European neighbours.
And as SUVS remain an important and popular choice among motorists around the globe, it was only a matter of time before the Italian icon entered the fray, and it did so in spectacular fashion with the Stelvio.
Before you call me biased, the Stelvio has walked away with numerous awards including SUV of the year, best handling SUV, driver’s award, performance SUV of the year and the list goes on. Also, I haven’t yet come across a motoring journalist here or abroad who doesn’t sing its praises.
And yet, South Africans still weirdly have a fixation with SUVS from almost every stable except the Italian brand.
“What is this?” asked a friend who knows very little, and cares even less about cars, when I picked her up on the way to dinner. A short introduction later and all she could come up with was that it was beautiful, both to look at and to sit in.
And she’s not far off. Alfa kept their sporting heritage very much intact when they decided to enter the SUV market.
The interior is certainly comparable with some of the best German competitors with quality finishings and soft-touch surfaces throughout. The Alfa Romeo badge stitched in to the head rest of the leather seats adds to the feeling of exclusivity.
The traditional round dials, smaller multi-functional chunky steering wheel, 22cm touchscreen infotainment system and the rotary selector all speak to an interior that has been designed with the driver in mind.
Everything is easy to reach and, granted, the car still had less than 10 000km on the clock, but it’s got a ton of electricary in it. I’m glad the new engineers weren’t under the apprenticeship of those earlier ones.
Under the bonnet, you get Alfa’s responsive 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine pushing out 206kw and 400Nm of torque. That’s coupled to an eightspeed automatic transmission that powers all four wheels via what Alfa call its Q4 all-wheel drive. It’s a sweet gearbox, to be sure, and if you want there’s a paddle shift as well.
The trick to having as much fun as possible with this Stelvio is the DNA selector on the centre console, which gives you an option of Dynamic, Natural and Advanced Efficiency. Mostly you would use the Natural setting for everyday driving and the efficiency option on long trips, but it’s in Dynamic that everything Alfa comes