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Alfa Romeo Stelvio


Jeep Grand Cherokee

Summary

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?

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7L/100km
Seating5 seats

Jeep Grand Cherokee

What a time to be alive people. There have never been more SUVs to take your pick from. But while many are excellent, there sure are a lot out there that are a bit... samey, and conservative, a little domesticated.

And even though they might have several different flavours in their model line-up they don't really differ much from each other. Well, Jeep's Grand Cherokee is a bit different.

First it's made in the United States of America, in Detroit, and that's becoming a rarity these days. Next, the line-up is like a kooky gang of super heroes all with different powers.

There's the monster high-performance V8 one which can out accelerate and out handle many sports cars; the tough off-road one that can lift itself higher than its rivals with its air suspension; there's posh one, the popular one nearly everybody buys and the rear wheel drive one hardly anybody does.

We recently went to the Australian launch of the updated Jeep Grand Cherokee where we drove the SRT hi-po beast and the latest member of the super hero family – the tough Trailhawk off-roader.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency7.5L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

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.


Jeep Grand Cherokee7.9/10

Not many SUV brands out there have ranges offering a variety of vehicles as wide as the Grand Cherokee line-up. These are comfortable, good looking, and in nearly all cases, capable off-roaders – particularly the Trailhawk.

The sweet spot of the range is the Limited. It's excellent value, and there's no wonder it's so popular. The SRT is also hard to go past if you're after more of a sledgehammer – at almost $10,000 under 100K it's bang-for-your-buck that can't be beaten.

Is the Jeep Grand Cherokee the best large SUV under $100k? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Design

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.


Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10

New one look like the old one? Yup, the styling changes are almost unnoticeable, but the trademark seven-slot grille is slimmer, the front bumper has a new design and the fog lights use LEDs.

The Grand Cherokee's look is distinctive with its big toothy grille, high waistline and pumped up guards. It's an American muscle SUV – especially the SRT with its nostrilled bonnet, enormous air intakes, blacked-out face and red Brembo brake calipers.

The new Trailhawk rivals the SRT for attention-seeking-but-still-functional bling with its red tow hooks and badging. Look closely and you'll see small profiles of a WW2 Willys MB Jeep on the wheels, which is a cool touch.

The Grand Cherokee's cabin is comfortable but more functional than stylish, higher grades feel plush with their leather seats and wood trim finishes.

The Grand Cherokee's dimensions reveal all variants apart from the SRT to be 4828mm long and 1943mm wide. The SRT is longer at 4846mm and wider at 1954mm across the hips.

The heights vary depending on the variant with the Laredo and Limited standing 1802mm tall, while the Trailhawk and Overland are 1792mm. The SRT is hunkered down lower at 1749mm.

The Trailhawk and Overland have an approach angle of 36 degrees, a departure angle of 27 degrees and a breakover angle of 22 degrees. Those trump the angles for the Laredo and Limited which are 26 degrees for approach, 24 for departure and 19 for the breakover.

The SRT will still be competent off-road but its approach angle of 18 degrees, a departure angle of 22, and a breakover angle of 18 means it's more suited to less challenging dirt and gravel roads.

Practicality

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.


Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10

All Grand Cherokees are five seaters. Legroom in the back is just enough… for me. I'm 191cm tall and the only reason I can sit behind my driving position is because of the concave design of the front seatbacks – and that gives me a gap of about 20mm. Headroom is great back there.

Up front there's stacks of head and shoulder room, although the driver's footwell feels a little cramped with the transmission tunnel above the bellhousing seeming to eat into the space.

There's a decent boot with a capacity of 782 litres and under the floor is a full-sized spare with storage space around it - you'll also find a rechargeable torch in the cargo area which 'clicks' into the boot wall.

Storage throughout the rest of the cabin is good with two cupholders in the fold down centre armrest in the back and another two up front. There's a deep centre console bin and bottle holders in all doors.

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.


Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10

The Grand Cherokee line-up kicks off with the only two-wheel drive in the range – the $47,500 Laredo and above that everything else is four-wheel drive (4WD).

There's the $52,500 petrol Laredo 4x4 (the diesel version is $5500 more); then the popular Limited which lists at $62,500 ($5500 more for the diesel); the diesel-only Trailhawk at $74,000 is a new off-road hero variant; then there's the plusher $80,000 Overland with the same engine, and finally the high performance, petrol-only SRT for $91,000.

All V6 petrol engine variants have increased by $500 over the outgoing model, while the diesels stay the same – apart from the Overland which has risen by $1000. The SRT has also gone up by $1000.

Jeep Australia has confirmed that the range will be joined by the Trackhawk super SUV in late 2017 which will tower over the rest of the line-up in price and performance.

At the most affordable end of the range the Laredo grade comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8.4-inch touchscreen (5.0-inch in the 4x2), 7.0-inch instrument cluster display, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, power adjustable and heated front seats, proximity unlocking and start button, auto headlights and wipers, and dual-zone climate control.

The Limited grade picks up the Laredo's features and adds 20-inch alloy wheels, a power tailgate, leather seats, a nine-speaker Alpine stereo, sat nav, dark-tinted rear glass, heated steering wheel and dual exhaust.

The Trailhawk gets all of the above but swaps the wheels for 18-inch alloys with Kevlar-reinforced tyres, and adds under-body skid plates.

The Overland gets the Limited's features and adds a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, auto parking, ventilated front seats, plus a wood and leather steering wheel.

The SRT gains the Overland's features and adds a flat-bottomed steering wheel, leather and suede seats, launch control, active noise cancellation and adaptive damping.

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.


Jeep Grand Cherokee9/10

The engine line-up for the Grand Cherokee is straightforward. The petrol engines for all but the SRT are an upgraded version of the previous model's 3.6-litre V6 with 3kW more power for a total of 213kW. Torque stays put at 347Nm.

All diesel engines are a 184kW/570Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6, which is carried over from the previous model.

The SRT is special – under that nostrilled bonnet there's 6.4 glorious litres of naturally aspirated V8 Hemi making 344kW/624Nm. Jeep has left this one untouched from the previous model, too.

Shifting the gears in all grades is the super-smooth eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.

The Trailhawk and Overland have Jeep's 'Quadra-Drive II' 4WD system which makes them more capable off-road then the Laredo and Limited with their 'Quadra-Trac II' permanent 4WD.

The major difference between the 4WD systems being that Quadra-Drive II has an electronic slip differential while the other uses traction control and braking to counter slippage. The SRT has the 'Quadra-Trac Active On-Demand' 4WD system.

Fuel consumption

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.


Jeep Grand Cherokee7/10

The most fuel-efficient petrol Grand Cherokee is the rear-wheel drive Laredo which according to Jeep returns a combined consumption number of 9.9L/100km.

But wait – the 4WD petrol Laredo's official figure is 10.0L/100km, same with the petrol Limited. New to the V6 petrol is a stop-start system which would be super-helpful in achieving that figure.

The diesel Laredo, which is 4WD, has a claimed combined fuel consumption number of 7.5L/100km. Ditto for the diesel Limited, Trailhawk and Overland.

After an hour of driving in the Trailhawk on highways and country roads our trip computer was reporting 11.7L/100km.

The SRT likes a drink. The V8 petrol engine has a claimed combined figure of 14.0L/100km and that's why the SRT didn't make it into the top five most fuel efficient SUVs list.

Driving

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.


Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10

The Trailhawk and the SRT were the only variants available to test drive at the launch of the updated model.

The program was pretty intensive with an off-road leg, a stint at a racetrack and plenty of road driving in between.

The hilly off-road course we took the Trailhawks through wasn't the most challenging, but the rain changed that a bit making the grassy slopes and clay ruts as slippery as ice.

With the Trailhawk in low range and on its highest air suspension setting giving us 260mm of ground clearance we wriggled our way through the off-road course fairly easily. There were some steeper sections which required a bit of brute force and momentum to combat slippery clay and gravity but the Jeeps soldiered through without any dramas, and plenty of hilarious fun.

The Trailhawk's Kevlar-reinforced tyres weren't needed on this soft stuff, but there are thousands of kays of tyre-killing tracks with rocks like spear heads lying in wait all over Australia where they'd be handy.

Grand Cherokees all have a unibody construction, so if you're looking for more of a hardcore off roader in the Jeep range then the body-on-frame Wrangler may be a better bet.

The Trailhawk comes with Jeep's 'Off-Road Pages' app which allows you to monitor suspension, traction and Hill Ascent Control speed.

The unibody construction gives the Grand Cherokee a more car-like ride and on the road the Trailhawk was comfortable and composed, although that air suspension is a little floaty.

At 100km/h the Trailhawk lowers itself for better aerodynamics, but there was a decent amount of body roll when pushing hard through corners… unlike the SRT.

The SRT's suspension is set up for higher performance with Bilstein adaptive dampers and hollow stabiliser bars front and rear. Sport and Track modes firm the suspension for better handling along with making the throttle more responsive.

I've driven the SRT on racetracks and the road before, but some quick laps around New Zealand's Pukekohe Park circuit brought back the grin that only 2.4 tonnes of metal seeming to defy all the laws of physics can induce.

That naturally aspirated V8 Hemi is a lazy beast that seems to take it's time to wind up rather than deliver the same brutal kick of the twin-turbo V8 in a Mercedes-AMG GLE63, still 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.9sec is quick. What it lacks in spontaneity it makes up for in theatrics – the gurgle at idle is delicious and it gets angrier the more you kick it in the guts.

The launch control function in the SRT is foolproof, too. Just press the button which looks like a dragstrip 'Christmas tree' on the centre console, place your left foot on the brake and plant your right foot on accelerator – release the brake and enjoy the jump to hyperspace… well, almost.

Safety

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).

Standard equipment includes six airbags, AEB with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross path detection and lane-departure warning.


Jeep Grand Cherokee7/10

The Jeep Grand Cherokee has been awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. All Grand Cherokees have seven airbags, a reversing camera, trailer sway control, but only the Overland and SRT grades come standard with advanced safety equipment such as AEB and lane departure warning. The equipment can be optioned on all grades from the Limited up.

You'll find three top tether points and two ISOFIX points in the second row.

There's also a full-sized spare wheel under the boot floor.

The update has brought two more advanced safety items – blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert but these are only standard on the Overland.

Ownership

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.


Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10

The Grand Cherokee is covered by Jeep's five-year/100,000km warranty – an offer which was announced earlier this year.

There's also life-time roadside assistance if the vehicle's serviced at a Jeep service centre.

Servicing is recommended annually or every 12,000km for the 3.6-litre engine variants and is capped at $425 for the first, then $625 for the next, $425, then $725 for the fifth year.

For the 3.0-litre diesel servicing is recommended annually or every 20,000km and capped at $665 for the first, $1095 for the second, then $665, then $1195 and at five years it'll be $665.