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The newly added Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti could be the sensible choice for buyers who want their luxury mid-sized SUV to offer graceful levels of grunt. It’s more plush and better equipped than the regular Stelvio, albeit not quite as sharply determined as the flagship V6 twin-turbo Quadrifoglio.
Sipping premium benzina, the Ti is a petrol-powered performance-fettled offering that doesn’t quite ask for as much comfort compromise as the range-topping version - but, as with all things bearing the Alfa Romeo badge, it’s designed to be a compelling drive.
So does a sporty SUV make sense, considering the long list of alternatives, such as the BMW X3, Volvo XC60, Audi Q5, Porsche Macan, Lexus NX, Range Rover Evoque and Jaguar F-Pace? And does the sole Italian-branded offering in the segment deserve your consideration? Let’s find out.
|Alfa Romeo STELVIO 2019: TI|
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
It is undeniably an Alfa Romeo, with the brand’s family face including the now iconic inverted triangle grille finish and slimline headlights plus a strong but curvaceous body blending to help this SUV stand out from the crowd.
At the rear there is a simple yet stylish tailgate area, and below that sits a sporty looking garnish with integrated chrome exhaust tip surrounds. Under the rounded wheel-arches are 20-inch rims with Michelin Latitude Sport 3 tyres. There are slimline details, including very compact arch extensions and almost imperceptible roof rails (for attaching roof racks, if you so choose).
I don’t think I really need to say much more. It’s a bit of a looker - and there are plenty of colours to choose from, including the amazing(ly expensive) Competizione Red seen here, as well as another red, 2x white, 2x blue, 3x grey, black, green, brown and titanium (greenish brown).
With dimensions of 4687mm long (on a 2818mm wheelbase), 1903mm wide and 1648mm tall, the Stelvio is shorter and squatter than a BMW X3, and it has about the same ground clearance - 207mm, which is easily enough to hop a kerb, but probably not quite enough for you to consider taking it too far into bush-bashing territory - not that you’d want to.
There are a few finish options to choose from inside the cabin, too: black on black is standard, but you can get red leather or chocolate leather. Ours was basic inside - see the interior images and make up your own mind.
But it isn’t too bad, overall. There are decent-sized pockets in all four doors, a couple of large cupholders in front of the gearshifter, a flip-down centre armrest with cupholders in the second row, plus mesh map pockets on the seat backs. The centre console up front is big, too - but so is its cover, so it can be a bit unwieldy to access that area if you’re trying to drive.
The boot space isn’t as good as you’ll find elsewhere in the class, either: there is a 525-litre cargo capacity, about five per cent less than most in the class. Under the boot floor you will either get a space-saver spare wheel (if you option one) or an additional storage spot with a tyre-repair kit. There are rails and a couple of small shopping bag hooks, and you can easily fit a trio of suitcases or a pram in the back.
The rear seats fold down by way of a pair of levers in the boot area, but you still need to lean into the boot and give the rear seat backs a bit of a shove to get them to drop. The rear seat setup allows you to drop the seats in a 40:20:40 split if you need, but the split is 60:40 when you use the rear levers.
The Stelvio nails the brief when it comes to USB charge ports. There are two in the centre console, two in the rear below the air-vents, and an additional one at the bottom of the centre stack. It’s just a shame that last one looks so out of place, in the middle of a large blank plate. Thankfully there’s a handy smartphone slot when you can place your device upside down between the cups.
It's a shame the media system - which consists of an 8.8-inch screen that is seamlessly integrated into the fascia of the dashboard - isn’t touch-capacitive. That means the application of Apple CarPlay / Android Auto is frustrating, because while both are geared towards voice control, a touchscreen makes it a lot easier than attempting to skip between menus using the rotary-dial controller.
If you’re not using one of the smartphone-mirroring apps, the menus are pretty easy to scroll through.
My biggest disappointment with the Stelvio’s interior, though, was the quality of workmanship. There were a couple of poorly finished sections, including one gap in the trim under the media screen that was almost big enough to fit a fingertip into.
Oh, and the sun visors? Not usually something CarsGuide picks on, but in the Stelvio there is a huge gap (about an inch wide) that means you will occasionally be blinded by direct sunlight, despite your best efforts.
With a list price of $78,900 plus on-road costs, the RRP of the Stelvio is attractive, straight off the bat. It’s a damn sight cheaper than most F-Pace all-wheel drive petrol models, and is priced close to the German petrol SUV trio, too.
It comes reasonably well kitted for the cash, too.
Standard equipment for this Ti grade includes 20-inch wheels, heated sports front seats, a heated steering wheel, rear privacy glass, adaptive cruise control, aluminium pedals, and a 10-speaker stereo system.
And the Ti isn’t just sportier looking - sure, the red brake calipers help it stand out, but it also gets important additions like adaptive Koni dampers and a rear limited slip differential.
All of that is on top of what you get in the more affordable Stelvio, such as a 7.0-inch colour instrument cluster, an 8.8-inch media screen with sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and push-button start, leather trim and a leather steering wheel, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, bi-xenon headlights, tyre-pressure monitoring, a power tailgate, electric front seat adjustment, and Alfa’s DNA drive-mode-selection system.
Our test vehicle had a few options ticked, including the Tri-Coat Competizione Red paint ($4550 - ouch!), a panoramic sunroof ($3120), a 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system ($1950 - believe me, it’s not worth the money), an anti-theft alarm system ($975) and a space-saver spare tyre ($390) as there is no spare as standard.
The safety story is pretty strong, too. See the safety section below for a full rundown.
Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder engine producing 206kW of power and 400Nm of torque. Those engine specs position the Ti at a 58kW/70Nm advantage over the base petrol Stelvio - but if you want the utmost grunt, the Quadrifoglio, with its 2.9-litre bi-turbo V6 producing 375kW and 600Nm (ahem, and a $150k price tag), is the go for you.
The Ti, however, is no slouch, with a 0-100 acceleration time of 5.7 seconds, and a top speed of 230km/h.
It is equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle-shifters, and has all-wheel drive that operates in an on-demand fashion.
And because it’s an SUV and should be able to do all the SUV things, towing capacity is rated at 750kg (unbraked) and 2000kg (braked). Kerb weight is 1619kg - identical to the lower-spec petrol, and a kilo less than the diesel - and that makes it one of the lightest mid-size luxury SUVs out there, with measures such as extensive use of aluminium for body panels, and even a carbon-fibre tail shaft to save weight.
The claimed fuel consumption of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti model is 7.0 litres per 100 kilometres, which you might achieve if you drive downhill, gently, for a long time. Maybe.
We saw 10.5L/100km over a mix of ‘regular’ driving and a short spirited stint over a road that tries its best to mimic this SUV’s namesake, but falls well short.
Hey, if fuel economy is that important to you, consider doing the petrol vs diesel calculations: the diesel uses a claimed 4.8L/100km - impressive.
Fuel-tank capacity across all models is 64L. You’ll need to fill the petrol models with 95RON premium unleaded, too.
I had read a bit about the Stelvio before I drove it, and there was quite a lot of praise for this SUV’s handling prowess and performance in reviews from abroad.
And for me, it lived up to the hype for the most part, but I don’t think it’s worthy of being labelled a reset point for the benchmark, as some reviews have suggested.
The 2.0-litre turbo engine does a decent job, and is particularly impressive in its delivery of power when you thump the throttle suddenly. It surges forward in-gear really well, but there is some stop/start sluggishness to contend with, particularly if you have the wrong drive mode chosen - there are three: Dynamic, Natural, and All-Weather.
The eight-speed auto is snappy with its shifts in Dynamic, and can be downright aggressive under full throttle - and while the red line is set at just 5500rpm, it will find its way there and snap to the next ratio. It’s smoother in the other modes, but doughier too.
Also the Q4 all-wheel drive system is adaptable to different situations - it aims to stay in rear-wheel drive most of the time to enhance the sportiness of the drive experience, but it can apportion 50 per cent of the torque to the front if slippage is detected.
I felt this system working as I drove the Stelvio harder than most people will pilot a mid-sized luxury SUV through a series of hairpin bends, and aside from the electronic stability control eating at throttle response at times, it was good fun.
The steering is darty and very direct in Dynamic mode, though it doesn’t have the truest level of feel to it, and at low speeds it can be a little too direct, making you think the turning circle is tighter than it is (11.7m) - it’s actually a bit of a tussle in tight city streets.
Alfa Romeo claims the Stelvio has the ideal 50:50 weight distribution, which is supposed to help it feel better in the bends - and it really does have a great balance between corner carving and comfort. The adaptive Koni suspension allows you to drive in Dynamic mode with soft dampers, or with the damper tune at a more aggressive (firmer, less rolly) rate.
In day-to-day driving, the suspension mostly copes well with bumps. Just like the engine, transmission and steering, it gets better the faster you go, because below 20km/h it can fumble its way over bumps and lumps, while at B-road or highway pace, the chassis helps cosset those in the cabin from the surface below pretty convincingly.
So, it goes pretty well. But stopping? That’s another matter entirely.
Not only is the brake pedal positioned a bit too high compared with the accelerator, the pedal response of our test car was worse than poor, it was downright bad. Like, “oh-shit-I-think-I’m-going-to-hit-that” bad.
There’s a lack of linearity to the pedal progression, a bit like a car that hasn’t had its brakes bled properly - there’s about an inch or more of travel to the pedal before the brakes start to bite, and even then the ‘bite’ is more like a denture-free gum clench.
3 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP crash test rating in 2017, with that score applicable for models sold from March 2018 onwards.
Standard across the range is a comprehensive kit of safety equipment, including auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection that works between 7km/h and 200km/h, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
There’s no active lane-keep assist, and no automated-parking system, either. But on the topic of parking, all models have a reversing camera with dynamic guidelines, plus front and rear parking sensors.
Stelvio models have dual ISOFIX child-seat anchor points in the outboard rear seats, and three top-tether points, too - so if you have a baby seat, you’re sorted.
And there are six airbags fitted, too (dual front, front side, and full-length curtain).
Where is the Alfa Romeo Stelvio made? It wouldn’t dare wear that badge if it wasn’t built in Italy - and it is, at the Cassino plant.
It’s short and long at the same time: I’m talking about the Alfa Romeo warranty program, which runs three years (short)/150,000km (long). Owners get roadside assist included for the warranty period.
Alfa Romeo offers a five-year capped-price-servicing plan for its models, with maintenance due every 12 months/15,000km, whichever occurs first.
The service cost sequence for the petrol Ti and the regular Stelvio are the same: $345, $645, $465, $1065, $345. That works out to an average annual ownership fee of $573 if you don’t exceed 15,000km… which is expensive.
|(base)||2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$65,900||2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2019 (base) Pricing and Specs|
|QUADRIFOGLIO||2.9L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$149,900||2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2019 QUADRIFOGLIO Pricing and Specs|
|TI||2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$78,900||2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2019 TI Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||8|
“It looks great, and that could be enough to get you across the line for the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti. Or the badge could do it for you, the romantic lure of having an Italian car in the driveway - I get that. ”
Would you buy an Alfa Romeo Stelvio? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.