Jaguar F-Pace 2018 review: S 35t
Jaguar’s sexy F-Pace SUV is easy on the eye (just look at it), but with a supercharged V6 lurking under that shapely bonnet, this S 35t version is not short on performance either.
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We first meet Alfa Romeo's Stelvio Q parked half way up the United Arab Emirates' highest peak, its engine sending out these ominous ticks and tocks after being punished by an earlier driver, a river of smooth and twisting tarmac flowing in each direction like the entire mountain had been tightly wrapped in bitumen licorice ropes.
It's honestly like every corner in the world has been crammed into the Jebel Jais Pass's 1934 metres, from the tightest switchbacks to the fastest of sweepers, and so it's the kind of road that would normally strike debilitating fear into the metallic hearts of big and lumbering SUVs.
And yet, Alfa Romeo's support staff seem grossly over-confident, happily encouraging us to switch off the traction control and generally jostling about the place with excitement.
Clearly they knew something we didn't. And it was time for us to find out for ourselves.
|Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2018: (base)|
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
There was a time when, in the absence of quality engineering, Alfa Romeos relied on design flair alone to shift units. And so it would have been the cruellest of fates for them to have lost their skills with the crayons just as their cars had become world class.
Fortunately, then, the Stelvio looks fast and fantastic from just about every angle. Somehow managing to look tough and pretty at the same time, the Stelvio is a near-perfect blend of seductive lines, angry bonnet vents and flared guards.
Inside, the cabin is performance-focused, with its figure-hugging seats and carbon highlights, but it's also polished and comfortable enough for longer and less-exciting drives. The quality of the materials used in places lags behind the Germans premiums, and the technology already feels a little clunky and outdated, but it's a fine cabin nonetheless.
Up front, there's plenty of room, and the controls are easy to reach and understand. There are two cupholders that divide the front seats, and three USB charging points (one mounted below the touchscreen, and two more in the central storage bin) to handle all your phone mirroring needs, as well as a 12-volt power source.
Step into the back seat and leg and headroom are both good behind my (178cm) driving position, thought class best, and there's enough width on offer to squeeze (but it would be exactly that; a squeeze) three adults in the back seat. There are rear vents but no temperature controls, and two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.
The Stelvio Q will serve up a maximum 1600 litres of storage space with the rear seat folded flat, and its 64-litre fuel tank will accept 91RON fuel.
Alfa Romeo is yet to reveal pricing for the meanest Stelvio, but the sleuths among you can sift for clues in the Giulia line-up.
With that car, Alfa Romeo never tried to undercut the competition. Instead, the QV model (that one still wears the Verde part of the name, for some reason, while the fastest Stelvio is known simply as the Quadrifoglio) sits between BMW's M3 ($139,900) and Merc's C63 AMG ($155,615) at $143,900.
So, if that trend continues, expect to see the Stelvio Q touch down somewhere north of $150k, but below the Mercedes GLC63 AMG, which lists for $171,900.
That money will buy you 20-inch alloys, big Brembo brakes, bi-xenon headlights, LED tail-lights and keyless entry. Inside, you'll find a leather-and-Alcantara steering wheel, leather-trimmed seats, aluminium shift paddles, dual-zone climate control and a powered tailgate.
Technology is handled by an 8.8-inch touchscreen that's Apple CarPlay and Android Auto equipped, that (in our test car, at least) paired with a 14-speaker harman/kardon stereo. Nav is standard, too, and there's a 7.0-inch TFT screen in the driver's binnacle that handles all the driving data.
What a peach this engine is; a thumping 2.9-litre bi-turbo V6 borrowed (then altered a little) from the Giulia QV. It churns out 375kW/600Nm - enough to rocket the Stelvio Q from 0-100km/h in 3.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 284km/h.
Its power is channeled through an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission to a clever 'Q4' all-wheel drive system, which essentially operates as a rear-drive system, only engaging the front axle when required.
Alfa's active torque vectoring (via dual clutch packs at the rear differential), adaptive dampers and five-mode drive program system all appear as standard here, too. It's also light, at 1830kg, which hurts performance not at all.
That big V6 has a cylinder deactivation function, shutting down three cylinders when it can to save fuel. That helps bring the claimed fuel consumption down to 9.0L/100km on the combined cycle, with emissions pegged at 201g/km of CO2.
That Alfa Romeo has finally succumbed and built its first-ever SUV isn't the truly surprising part. That particular bell tolls for all manufacturers eventually (Bentley, Aston Martin, and even Lamborghini, now offer SUVs, for example), and so that Alfa followed suit is no real shock.
What is shocking, though, is how it has perfectly nailed the go-fast SUV formula first time out.
For a start, it's fast. Truly and astonishingly fast. But that particular party trick can be pulled off by anyone willing to strap a huge engine to something (those people are mostly American). The real delight here is how nimble, how light on its feet, the Q feels when barreling along a challenging mountain road.
It all starts with that glorious engine, of course, pumping this thick, meaty flow of power to the tyres should you so much as look at the accelerator. The gearbox is perfectly in sync with proceedings, too, snapping through each shift crisply, and with a delightful pop or crackle accompanying every change.
But the real highlight is the steering, which is so direct - so incredibly accurate - that you feel acutely in touch with the road below, and confident the car will go to exactly where you want it. Honestly, it feels so precise you could thinly slice truffles with it.
There's more feedback than bad AM radio, too, and the second the rear tyres relinquish their grip (in 'Race Mode', all traction aids are switched off, the suspension is at its hardest and the gear shifts at their quickest) you can either quickly pull it back into line, or, if you're considerably braver than me, unleash smoky hell upon a mountain with no run-off and drops so sharp you'd die of fear long before you hit the bottom.
Jabal Jais is the Middle East's answer to the Stelvio Pass (see what Alfa did there?), and the tarmac is so silky smooth you feel like you could ice skate on it in winter. So we'll wait until we get the Q to Australia to pass judgement on the ride quality on our road surfaces, and on how it handles the day-to-day rigours of traffic and shopping centres.
But if this is a taste test, it points to good things ahead.
3 years / 150,000 km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
While detailed specification is still being determined for Australia, expect the Stelvio Q to lob with a reversing camera, AEB, forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring and six airbags (dual front, front-sides and curtain), along with the usual suite of traction and braking aids.
The Stelvio was awarded the maximum five-star rating when crash-tested by EuroNCAP (ANCAP's European affiliate) earlier this year.
There's been no movement on the premium warranty front from any of the key players, so you can forget a four- or five-year warranty. Like Mercedes, Audi and BMW, three years (or 150,000kms) is standard for the Stelvio. Expect service intervals to be 12 months/15,000km.
Sure, the Stelvio Q won't be for everyone (surely the list of people buying a mid-size SUV in which to punish some mountain pass isn't infinite), but the fact that something this big and practical can lay waste to a road as challenging as the Jabal Jais is an insane feat of engineering.
Perhaps more importantly, it proves the Giulia QV was no fluke. And so Alfa Romeo's Italian renaissance roles on.
|(base)||2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$46,600 – 58,960||2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2018 (base) Pricing and Specs|
|First Edition||2.1L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO||$42,100 – 53,900||2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2018 First Edition Pricing and Specs|
|Quadrifoglio||2.9L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$102,100 – 129,140||2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2018 Quadrifoglio Pricing and Specs|
|TI||2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$57,900 – 73,150||2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2018 TI Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||9|