Alfa Romeo Stelvio VS Audi Q5
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
- Sexy design
- Sporty handling
- Great chassis
- Reliability fears of it being Italian
- Some cheap feeling touches
- Doesn't sound like an Alfa
- Good looks
- Great performance from the SQ5
- Advanced safety equipment
- Price hikes over previous models
- Four cylinder petrol could be more powerful
- Xenon headlights in Design grade
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Just how important are looks, really? Sure, if you’re a model, or you’re asking Rihanna or Brad Pitt for a date, or you’re a sports car, or a super yacht, being attractive is helpful. But if you’re an SUV, like Alfa Romeo’s new, brand-reshaping Stelvio, does it really matter?
There are some people who believe all SUVs are ugly because they are simply too big to look good, in the same way that all 12-foot tall people, no matter how good-looking, would be undeniably off-putting.
Yet there are undeniably a lot of people who find SUVs, particularly expensive European ones, very much attractive, as well as practical, because how else could you explain the fact that cars like this Stelvio - mid-sized SUVs - are now the biggest-selling premium segment in Australia?
We’re set to snap up more than 30,000 of them this year, and Alfa wants to take as much of that tasty sales pie chart as it can.
If success could be put down to looks alone, you’d have to back the Stelvio to succeed fabulously, because it truly is that rarest of things, an SUV that’s actually attractive, even sexy. But does it have what it takes in other areas to tempt buyers into choosing an Italian option over the trusted Germans?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
About two months ago we met up with the new Audi Q5, but only for a brief drive around our nation’s capital. Audi told us we’d get to know the mid-sized SUV better at the official Australian launch in July. When they said better, we didn’t realise they meant Melbourne-to-Adelaide-on-a-900km-road-trip better.
That’s exactly what happened. But did we learn anything new apart from the fact The Big Lobster has been refurbished, that wild emus are the stuff of nightmares, that it’s still dark at 7:00am at this time of year in Victoria, or that Adelaide’s residential property market offers outstanding value?
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Alfa Romeo Stelvio8/10
Properly beautiful in a way only Italian cars can ever be, the new Alfa Romeo Stelvio really is what the marketeers promise - a more emotional, more fun and better-looking option to the German offerings we’ve been served up for so long. Yes, it’s an Italian car, so it might not turn out to be quite as well built as an Audi, Benz or BMW, but it will definitely make you smile more often. Particularly when you look at it.
Are the Alfa's looks enough to tempt you away from the Germans? Tell us in the comments below.
The new-generation Audi Q5 is difficult to fault as a premium SUV. All grades feel well-crafted, plush and high-tech. They’re comfortable to sit in (for hours) and deliver impressive performance. If you take money out of the equation, the SQ5 is the pick, but the sensible sweet spot in the range is the 2.0 TDI Sport with its great torque and standard features.
Is the new generation Q5 enough to talk you out of a Benz GLC or BMW X3? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Check out Peter Anderson's video of the Q5 off-road driving experience in Germany here.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio9/10
It might be unfair to suggest Italians are more interested in design than anything else, but it would only be honest to suggest that it often feels that way. And when that obsession with making things look good results in a car as curvaceous, sensuous and sporty as this, who could argue that it’s a bad thing?
I once asked a senior Ferrari designer why Italian cars, and super cars in particular, look so much better than German ones, and his answer was simple: “when you grow up surrounded by so much beauty, it’s natural to make beautiful things”.
For Alfa to produce a car, like the Giulia, that reflects its brand’s design aesthetic and proud sporting heritage - it is the brand that gave birth to Ferrari, as its spin doctors like to remind us - is almost expected, or predictable.
But to perform the same feat on this scale, on a big, bulky SUV with all of its proportional challenges, is a real achievement. I’d have to say there’s not a single angle from which I don’t like the look of it.
The interior is almost as good, but does fall down in a few areas. If you buy the 'First Edition Pack', a $6000 cost and one that’s only available to the first 300 people to rush in, or the 'Veloce Pack' they’ll also offer ($5000), you get really nice sporty seats and shiny pedals, and the panoramic roof, which manages to let light in without cutting your headroom off.
Buy an actual base model, however, for a notional $65,900, and you’ll get a lot less class. The steering wheel won’t feel as sporty, either, but no matter which variant you buy you’re stuck with a slightly cheap and plastic-feeling gear shifter (which is also a bit counterintuitive to use), which is a shame, because it’s a touch point you’ll use every day. The 8.8-inch screen is also not quite of German standard, and the sat nav can be temperamental.
The cool-steel gear-shift paddles, on the other hand, are absolutely gorgeous, and would feel at home on a Ferrari.
You can’t see it but this second-generation Q5 sits on a new platform – the same one underpinning the A4, the A5, and the big daddy of Audi’s SUV range, the Q7. As well as changing the Q5's on-road behaviour the new platform is partly responsible for the SUV’s new exterior dimensions.
The Q5 is a mid-sized SUV with a 2819mm wheelbase (+12mm). While end-to-end length has grown to 4663mm (+34mm), and height to 1659mm (+4mm), width is unchanged at 1893mm.
BMW’s X3 is 21mm longer, 16mm taller and 12mm narrower.
You can pick the new Q5 from the previous one courtesy of a distinctive shoulder line, running the length of the body, and twisting over the wheel arches; making it more athletic, and to these eyes, more attractive than the last edition.
No macho wheel arch extensions, side steps or bull bar here. This is a citified SUV, rather than an outback 4x4 blazer.
The grille has been restyled to create more depth around its frame, and according to Audi, if you look (and imagine) hard enough you should be able to see the a letter Q in the redesigned headlights.
All grades have the roof-top rear spoiler which is almost madatory on SUVs these days. The rear diffuser houses what appear to be chrome exhaust tips, but they're just cosmetic – the actual exuast pipe hides under the car. Trust me, I got under there and checked.
Now with bigger interior dimensions, too, the Q5’s cabin is completely new, from the display that sits high on a low dashboard, to the centre console redesigned around a new shifter and touch-pad for the media system, steering wheel and instrument cluster.
Take a look at the interior photos, the Q5's cabin is not as blingy as the Benz, but more luxurious than the Beemer. The Q5’s interior is plush without being over-the-top, but with a high quality well-crafted feel from the soft-touch plastic door sills to the wood and aluminium trim on the centre console.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio8/10
We were lucky enough to drive this car early, on a recent family holiday in Italy, and can tell you that the boot (525 litres) can swallow an astonishing amount of poorly packed crap, or a metric tonne of Italian wine and food, if it happens to be shopping day.
The load space is practical and easy to use, and the rear seats are also capacious We may or may not have tried to pack three adults and two kids in there at one stage (not on a public road, obviously, just for fun) and it was still comfortable, while I can easily sit behind my own 178cm driving position without my knees coming close to brushing the seat back. Hip and shoulder room are also good.
There are map pockets in the seatbacks, plenty of bottle storage in the door bins and two American-sized cupholders, and a big storage bin, between the front seats.
You’re not buying an SUV to lord it over people in the traffic, right? If you are, it shouldn’t be the only reason, because the Q5 is as practical as a pair of cargo pants, and nowhere near as embarrassing to be seen in.
The Q5’s boot is 10 litres bigger than the previous model's boot dimensions at 550 litres, matching the luggage capacity of the Benz GLC and BMW X3.
If you’ve optioned the sliding second row, the boot space can be increased to 610 litres up to the cargo cover and if you’ve ticked the option box marked air suspension, like an elephant kneeling down, the Q5 will lower itself to make loading easier.
The Q5 is a five seater (there's no third row), if you’re looking for seven seats then head on over to our Q7 review here.
Cabin space has been increased, and without resorting to a predictable Dr Who reference: when you’re in the driver’s seat the cockpit does feel larger than you’d expect from the outside. I can also sit behind my driving position with about 40mm to spare. Good considering I’m 191cm tall. Headroom is also excellent back there.
The middle rear position is the Q5’s short-straw seat, as it means sliding over to straddle the driveshaft hump and perching on a harder surface.
In the back row you’ll find two cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest and two more up front, while all doors have bottle holders.
Storage space elsewhere isn't great: the centre console bin isn’t the biggest or deepest and there were times where I wished for a large, open storage dish under the dash to throw my wallet, keys and phone into rather than stuffing them in the cup holders and door pockets.
Price and features
Alfa Romeo Stelvio8/10
If you’re buying the absolute base model Stelvio at $65,990, which we’d suggest you shouldn’t because it is a far, far better car with the adaptive dampers fitted, you get all those good looks thrown in for free, plus 19-inch, 10-spoke alloys, a 7.0-inch driver instrument cluster and the 8.8-inch colour multimedia display with 3D satnav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an eight-speaker stereo, the 'Alfa DNA Drive Mode System' (which mainly seems to light up some graphics but supposedly allows you to choose between Dynamic, Normal and an eco-friendly option you’ll never use.
But wait, there’s more, including cruise control, dual-zone climate control, an electric tailgate, front and rear parking sensors, rear camera, hill-descent control, electrically adjusted front seats, leather seats (not the sporty ones, though) and a tyre-pressure-monitoring system.
It’s quite a lot of gear for the cash, but as we say, most people will want to step up to the extras you get - and most tellingly the adaptive dampers - with either the First Edition ($6000) or Veloce ($5000) packs.
Alfa Romeo is keen to point out how keen its pricing is, particularly against German offerings like Porsche’s Macan, and it does seem like good value, even at just north of $70k.
How much is an Audi Q5? Well, it depends on which one you mean, there are several trim levels. The range kicks off with the Design grade, which is diesel-only and the most affordable in the line-up at $65,900. That's a $2000 increase over the out-going Q5 entry price. Above this is the Sport grade which you can have with a diesel engine for $70,700, or petrol for $73,211 (RRP). At the top of the range is the SQ5 which (for now) only comes with a petrol engine for $99,611 - about $7000 more than the previous version.
At the launch Audi announced the S Line Black special edition would be available with just 70 going on sale in Australia. The diesel version of the S Line black pack is $82,900, while the petrol is $86,611.
Here’s a value curve ball for you. So, the entry-grade Porsche Macan SUV has the same drivetrain as the petrol Q5, with the same output, and lists for $80,410. I’m just going to leave that there, okay?
For a bit of a model comparison Mercedes-Benz’s GLC is within the same price range starting at $65,990 for the entry grade diesel and tops out at $89,900. A Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 is a rival to the SQ5 and costs about the same, at $101,400.
The Design grade’s standard features include a 7.0-inch screen (it's a multi-function display, but not a touch screen) with sat nav and a reversing camera, DAB+ digital radio, CD player, Bluetooth connectivity, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry (also called a smart key), push button start (some call it keyless go or start, stop), three-zone climate control air conditioning, xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, power tailgate, leather seats, power front seats, aluminium roof racks, ambient interior lighting, rain sensing wipers and 18-inch alloy wheels. There’s also some impressive advanced safety equipment, from AEB to blind spot warning (read more about the safety features below).
Stepping up to the Sport grade brings all of the Design’s standard features and adds 20-inch alloys, adaptive LED headlights (not the adaptive headlights), sports seats up front, a larger 8.3-inch screen (for multimedia including a DVD player) plus the amazing 12.3-inch ‘virtual cockpit’ instrument cluster, a DVD player, 10-speaker sound system inclusing a subwoofer and a panoramic sunroof. There’s also more safety equipment such as adaptive cruise control.
The SQ5 is a high-performance member of the Q5 family (an even more hardcore RSQ5 is also tipped to come) and picks up the Sport's standard features, and adds 21-inch alloy wheels with red brake calipers, adaptive dampers, tinted windows (rear), more premium leather upholstery, heated front seats and a sliding rear row. There’s also not-necessary-but-nice things such as the colourful ambient lighting, aww… pretty. There’s more safety equipment, too, such as auto parking.
The optional 'Comfort' package ($2200 on the Design and $1900 on the Sport) brings things such as a sliding rear seat and electric steering column adjustment.
The $3300 'S Line' package is only available on the Sport and adds a tough body kit and 20-inch alloy rims.
Then there’s the 'Technik' package (only available on the Sport and SQ5). This technology pack adds some cool gadgets such as a head-up display, Bang & Olufsen 19-speaker stereo and matrix LED headlights.
There's also a 'Parking Assistance Package', using four wide-angle cameras to cover the entire area immediately around the vehicle, also incorporating 'Park assist' self parking to help steer you into parallel or perpendicular parking spaces.
'Adaptive damper control', and 'Adaptive air suspension' are optionally available on the quattro S tronic sport models.
There's no 'Premium Package' but then again the Q5 is already a prestige vehicle.
There are ten paint colours to choose from with Brilliant Black and Ibis White being no cost options, but you'll have to pay for such metallic hues as 'Azores Green', 'Manhattan Grey', 'Floret Silver', 'Matador Red', 'Java Brown', and 'Navarra Blue'.
Apple CarPlay for your iPhone and Android Auto for Samsungs and the rest aren't offered on the Q5, which is a shame because these apps are excellent for maps and messaging.
Out of phone reception and GPS range we noticed the navigation system was patchy and when we really needed it in the dark, in the bush.
Engine & trans
Alfa Romeo Stelvio7/10
Because I am older than the internet, I’m still mildly baffled every time I see that a car company is attempting to fit a four-cylinder engine into a largish SUV like the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, so I’m always politely surprised the first time such a small-engined big car manages go up a hill without exploding.
While bigger, faster Stelvios will arrive later in the year, with the all-conquering QV set to land in the fourth quarter, the versions you can buy now must make do with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine making 148kW/330Nm, or the 2.2T diesel with 154kW/470Nm (a 2.0 Ti will also arrive later, with a more fabulous 206kW/400Nm).
It should come as no surprise from those numbers that the diesel is actually the better option to drive, with not only more usable, down-low torque (the max arrives at 1750rpm) but more kilowatts as well. The 2.2T thus gets from 0-100km/h in 6.6 seconds, quicker than the petrol (at 7.2 seconds) and also quicker than competitors like the Audi Q5 (8.4 in diesel or 6.9 petrol), BMW X3 (8.0 and 8.2) and Mercedes GLC (8.3 as a diesel or 7.3 in petrol).
Even more surprisingly, the diesel sounds slightly better, more growly, when you attempt to drive it hard, than the slightly wheezy petrol. On the down side, the 2.2T does sound tractor like at idle in multistorey car parks, and neither engine sounds even vaguely like you would want an Alfa Romeo to.
The diesel is the pick at this level - doing an impressive job despite being asked to do the equivalent of piggybacking Clive Palmer up a hill - but the 2.0 Ti (which will hit 100km/h in a more impressive 5.7 seconds) would be worth waiting for.
There are three engine specifications currently in the Q5 line-up. Here are the stats for you. The regular Q5's have a 140kW/400Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel and a 185kW/370Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol. The SQ5 is a different beast with a 3.0-litre turbo-petrol V6 making 260kW (349 horsepower) /500Nm. Those are pretty impressive torque and power specs. (a turbo-diesel V6 version is expected to arrive soon).
The four cylinders have a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, while the V6 has an eight-speed dual-clutch. Yes, no manual gearbox.
The four-cylinder Q5s come with a new form of Audi’s all-wheel drive (AWD) system called 'Quattro Ultra' which switches between front- and AWD on demand. The SQ5 sticks with full-time AWD.
Have it fitted with a towbar and the Q5 has a braked towing capacity of 2000kg and a 200kg towball download. If you're serious about hauling a van or trailer perhaps you should read this towing review.
For the 0-100km/h sprint Audi says the 2.0TDI takes 7.9 seconds, the 2.0TFSI can better it with 6.3 seconds, while the SQ5 is almost a second ahead on speed with 5.4 seconds. Not bad accleration for SUVs with a weight of about 1.8 tonnes.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio8/10
Alfa is also keen to point out that its new Stelvio is class leading when it comes to fuel economy, with claimed figures of 4.8 litres per 100km for the diesel (no one else gets under 5.0L/100km, they say) and 7.0L/100km for the petrol.
In the real world, driven enthusiastically, we saw 10.5L/100km for the petrol and closer to 7.0 for the diesel. The simple fact is you will need, and want, to drive them harder than those claimed figures suggest will be possible.
The official combined fuel consumption figure for the diesel 2.0 TDI Design is 5.3L/100km, which jumps to 5.5L/100km in the Sport grade. Similar mileage for both then, regardless of what flavour fuel you use.
We drove the 2.0 TDI Sport grade 261.3km and the trip computer reckoned we were using an average of 6.5L/200km, which is pretty handy diesel fuel consumption. Fuel tank capacity is 65 litres.
The petrol 2.0 TFSI is claimed to consume 7.3L/100km. After about 200km in the S-line Black, with that engine under the bonnet, our trip computer was reporting 11.1L/100km, but there had been some hard acceleration in 'Sport' mode, and the odd spot of dirt road fun which activated the AWD. Still, not bad fuel economy.
The SQ5 officially consumes a combined 8.7L/100km, and after 189.8km our trip computer told us it was using 9.9L/100km. Not too shabby.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio8/10
Much like sitting down to watch the Socceroos lose again, I’ve learned not to expect too much from the driving experience offered by SUVs, because the way they drive clearly has little relevance to the way they sell.
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio comes as a genuine surprise then, because it drives, not just like a sports car on slightly rubbery stilts, but like an impressive but high-riding sedan.
Reports about how good the QV version is have been flooding in for some time now, and I've been taking them with large spoonfuls of salt, but it’s clear to see how that car can be so sharp and exciting to drive, because the chassis of this car, as well as the suspension set-up (at least with the adaptive dampers) and the steering, are built to cope with far more power and vigour than is on offer in this base model.
That’s not to say this version feels horribly underpowered - there are a few times when we were overtaking up a hill that more power would have been welcome, but it was never slow enough to be worrying - just that it’s clearly built for more.
In almost all situations, the diesel, in particular, provides enough grunt to make this mid-size SUV genuinely fun. I actually smiled while driving it, several times, which is unusual.
Most of that is down to the way it corners, rather than the way it goes, because this thing really is a light, nimble and enjoyable car on a twisty bit of road.
It feels genuinely involving through the steering wheel and genuinely capable in the way it holds on to the road. The brakes are genuinely good, too, with plenty of feel and force (apparently Ferrari had some involvement here, and it shows).
Having driven a far more basic model, without the adaptive dampers, and being less than impressed overall, I was surprised at how good the First Edition Pack cars we drove on some properly challenging roads were.
This really is a premium mid-size SUV I could almost, just about live with. And, if it’s the right sized car for your lifestyle, I’d absolutely understand you wanting to buy one.
The Aussie launch saw us climb into an SQ5 in Melbourne and step out 900km away in Adelaide, with a few hundred kays in between in the 2.0 TFSI S Line Black and a 2.0 TDI Sport. Yes, mum, we stopped to sleep somewhere overnight.
That amount of time sitting in anything should make you fairly familiar with it, but the lack of twisty roads meant there was little opportunity to really put the handling to the test. But fear not, we’ll road test the Q5 soon.
Despite the absence of corners, much was still learnt about this second-generation Q5.
First up, despite the next destination being entered into the SQ5’s sat nav, I was lost within moments of leaving Melbourne airport. The combination of a messy sat nav display and my bad sense of direction was going to be an issue over the next billion kilometres.
Back on track, and now in the civilised wilds outside Daylesford, only 100-odd kays north-west of Melbourne, we lost our GPS signal, phone reception, and therefore, sat nav.
We drove into the tiny, far western Victorian town of Dunkeld in a 2.0 TDI Sport, the xenon headlights of which hadn’t been cutting though the total darkness of the Aussie bush roads as well as the LEDs in the SQ5, although the ambient interior lighting package of 30 selectable colours was fabulous.
The next day we left Dunkeld for Kingston (home of the giant Lobster) in South Australia, in the limited launch edition S Line Black - the petrol version. Riding shot gun was the head of Audi’s Quattro AWD department, Dieter Weidemann, who kept pointing at emus and calling them wombats.
While he may not know much about Australian fauna, mechanical engineering is an entirely different story.
He told us he'd created a new 'Quattro Ultra' version of Audi’s AWD system that switched from front-wheel drive to AWD when you needed it. Then he encouraged me to try and trick it into losing traction on a dirt road. So I did, and what should have been a great power slide was an uneventful, perfect corner with no loss of traction. Although the Q5 has a good ground clearance of 200mm it's not designed for rough terrain. If you're looking for something with excellent off road capabiity then take a look at our off road reviews here.
Leaving the Lobster we bolted north road on the Princes Highway which has a surface resembling a cheese grater, but even at 110km/h there was hardly any road noise or wind noise intruding into the cabin – and that was the case on all variants.
Back in the SQ5, the optional rear air suspension made the course chip bitumen and regular undulations feel like carpet, but the trade-off was a bit of body roll.
That turbo V6 in the SQ5 is more beautiful than brutal – those performance figures we covered don't lie. Gurgling deeply at idle and barking through the gears, the V6 sounds wonderful, but there is some synthetic aural enhancement happening.
Stepping out of the SQ5 and back into a 2.0 TDI Design felt like a demotion, but 400Nm is hefty hitting power, and I enjoyed the torque on tap from 1750rpm. That diesel engine is remarkably quiet, too – enough to fool me into thinking we were in a petrol car until I saw the tacho and its 4500 rpm redline.
The 2.0 TFSI S Line Black is no SQ5, but its 185kW/370Nm are the type of figures V8 diehards used to boast about around barbecues back in 1997.
The Design and Sport grades didn’t have air-suspension which meant a firmer, but still comfortable ride.
Steering in all variants is spot-on. The SQ5’s especially felt well-weighted with great feedback from the wheels and road below.
Visibility all-around is excellent, helped even more by a new positioning for the wing mirrors which also reduces wind noise.
We arrived in Adelaide just in time to enjoy the city’s mid-week peak-hour traffic, our SQ5 covered in dirt, looked tough. Bumper to bumper this was the slowest part of the 900km, we were tired and the adaptive cruise control was a massive help as we trundled our way to the airport for the trip home.
What really impressed me was that after nearly 1000km, and a day where we spent nearly eight hours in either the driver’s or co-pilot’s seat, I was never sore, or even uncomfortable.
That’s saying a lot. I’ve been sitting here in an expensive, hi-tech chair typing for only two hours and my back is killing me.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio8/10
There’s much talk from Alfa about how its offering wins on emotion and passion and design, and not being bland and off-white/silver German, but they’re also keen on saying that it’s a rational, practical and safe alternative, as well.
Alfa claims, yet again, a class-leading safety score for the Stelvio, with a 97 per cent adult occupancy score in Euro NCAP testing (aka a maximum five stars).
All Q5s (including the SQ5) come standard with city AEB which can recognise pedestrians and detect a potential collision at up to 85km/h, and reduce speed by 40km/h in an emergency. All models also feature ABS, ASR (also known as ESP), EDL and Brake Assist, as well as rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitor and warning and an alert which will sound if you’re about to open your door on a cyclist or car.
Another cool standard safety feature is a rear collision detection system which will flash the hazard lights to alert surrounding traffic to a potential impact.
All Q5 have eight airbags, and there are two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether points across the rear row for child and baby seats.
The Audi Q5 is built in Mexico.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio8/10
Yes, buying an Alfa Romeo means buying an Italian car, and we’ve all heard the jokes about reliability, and heard companies from that country claiming those problems are behind them.
The Stelvio comes with a three-year/150,000km warranty, to make you feel safe, but that’s still not quite as good as the Giulia, which is being offered with a five-year one. We’d be pounding the desk and demanding they match that offer.
Servicing costs are another point of difference, the company claims, being cheaper than the Germans at $485 a year, or $1455 over three years, with those services coming every 12 months or 15,000km.
Audi covers the Q5 with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Maintenance is scheduled every 12 months/15,000km. There is no capped price service cost scheme available.
Under the boot floor you’ll find a space saver spare. Better than a tyre repair kit, but still not good enough in Australia if you’re covering long distances in remote areas.