2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio First Edition — Road Test

Posted on Nov 11, 2017 by
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
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  • Rated 4.5 stars
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AEDAED199,000 (base), AED230,000 (as tested)
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  • Last modified: November 18, 2017

Review Summary:

It's quite possibly one of the most exciting and characterful SUVs on the market, but it's got its share of issues.

Pros

Zesty, lively and sounds great. Looks pretty darn good too.

Cons

Ergonomics issues and interior quality isn't on a par with a Macan.

Auto Middle East exclusively drives the Alfa Romeo Stelvio in the UAE ahead of its Middle Eastern debut at the 2017 Dubai International Motor Show. Here’s what we make of it. Words and images: Amit Benjamin

Alfa Romeo Stelvio UAE

Isn’t this the fastest SUV around the Nürburgring, or something? 

Yes indeed, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio holds the lap record for SUVs at the ’Ring at 7 minutes and 51.7 seconds; it shattered the previous record holder, the equally mental Porsche Cayenne Turbo, by eight full seconds. However, that record was smashed by the monstrous 503-horsepower QV version and that comes out in 2018. What we have here is the one that you and I more are likely to buy, the relatively benign, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, Q4 variant. Although, I should add that this is the First Edition model, so it’s got loads of extra kit.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio UAE

Ooh, sounds fancy! What’s it like, then?

Dial down the sarcasm, because this is quite an SUV. It may only have a four-pot 2.0-litre engine, but since it’s based on the same platform as the Giulia sedan, it’s a proper belter. The engineering goal for the Giulia was to have as much mechanical grip as possible, rather than depend on electronics to do that (looking at you BMW M4), so it’s fantastic to drive. You’re only perched 190mm higher than the sedan, so the seating position is commanding but never Afro-threatening. The prominent haunches on the either extremities of the front make it easy to place the nose where you want, while the steering wheel is nice and compact and not artificially fattened to suggest sportiness. Actually, it feels very much like a Ferrari’s tiller; it’s nice and slender. Even the Start button is exactly in the same spot as you would find in a Fezza. 

Alfa Romeo Stelvio UAE

On the move it is quite possibly one of the most zesty and playful SUVs you can buy today; think of it as a Porsche Macan, but with a sense of humour. It feels distinctly Italian. The engine yowls and burbles like a sports car, but without sounding tinny and tortured like a Jaguar four-cylinder.  Although the steering feels light, it is direct and precise. Once you drive the Stelvio with intent, it is abundantly clear how impressive the chassis is considering what it could really do once bestowed with 500 horsepower. 

Alfa Romeo Stelvio UAE

Seems quite a car. How have they managed this, over, say… the F-Pace or the Macan? 

It is. One of the biggest reasons is the weight, or lack of it. The Stelvio is based on the same platform as the Giulia sedan and it weighs just 1,660kg. And that’s with all the fluids in. For context, a four-cylinder Porsche Macan weighs 1,770kg. An equivalent F-Pace, 2.0-litre and AWD, comes closest tipping the scales at 1,710kg.  

The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot makes 280 horsepower at 5,250rpm and 400Nm of torque. As a result, it hits the benchmark 0-100km/h run in 5.7 seconds. 

Alfa Romeo Stelvio UAE

The brakes are equally impressive. It employs the Integrated Brake System (IBS) that also does duty in the Giulia. It differs from a conventional braking set-up in its use of an electric motor to build pressure to assist braking rather than a vacuum brake booster. Consequently, it can alter braking assistance depending on the situation, effectively quelling pedal fade.

The all-wheel drive system is rear-biased and can send 50 percent of the power to the front should it detect slippage. And the systems do allow a level of tail-out hoonery before intervening. 

The eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, too, will allow you to bounce off the rev limiter in manual mode, but it is not too quick to react to manual upshifts. It needs the same sort of throttle-off-while-changing-up approach as the first gen Audi R8. Get it right though and the shifts are rather satisfying, with a sports car-like thunk in the back on upshifts. You could obviously leave it in full auto and that’s fine, too.

The ride is reasonable and there is a decent amount of space in the back — it doesn’t feel any more or less spacious than its rivals.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio UAE

OK, so I gather it’s nice to drive. What about the interior? 

The interior of our First Edition tester gets a few extras. The Pieno Fiore black leather seats as well as real-wood inserts (they look rather nice) are exclusive to this model. As are 20-inch alloys, bi-xenon lights and coloured brake callipers, by the way. 

There is a high resolution 8.8-inch central display screen and goodies like adaptive cruise control, blind spot indicators, automatic braking, collision detection warning etc. It is fairly well kitted out, but it doesn’t feel as premium as a Macan in here. It has the F-Pace upstaged though. We reckon you could spend extended periods of time in here without questioning your life choices. 

Alfa Romeo Stelvio UAE

On to the big one: Does it suffer from Alfa-itis? Odd ergonomics, stuff falling off and the like? 

Ah! You had to bring it up, didn’t you? There are issues. The rear-view mirror for instance doesn’t move about enough, so if you’re vertically challenged like me and have to sit close to the steering wheel, you may only be able to enjoy 80 percent of rear visibility on offer. The auto stop-start system is jerky and there seems to be no apparent way of turning it off. Why make it simple when it can be complicated, right? 

On the upside though, it is economical. Throughout the test period it delivered a reasonable 11 litres per 100km — pretty good for an SUV, especially considering that throughout the test drive I drove it solely in Dynamic mode. 

Alfa Romeo Stelvio UAE

Hit me with the price. 

It’s not that bad, given what the Stelvio can do. The base model starts at AED199,000 and our fancy first edition costs AED230,000. For context, the 252 horsepower, four-cylinder Macan starts at AED187,100. It is a full second slower to 100km/h and, yep, the base model really is devoid of much kit. The equivalent Jaguar F-Pace, on the other hand, makes 250 horsepower, accelerates to 100km/h a tenth slower than the Macan and costs the same. The standard Stelvio suddenly looks like a bargain in comparison. 

It’s Alfa’s first SUV, and it delivers on every Alfa promise. It looks good, sounds great, drives really, really well and suffers from sporadic Alfa-itis. What’s not to love?

Alfa Romeo Stelvio UAE

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