Jaguar F-Pace VS Alfa Romeo Stelvio
- Supermodel looks
- Even more super engine
- More practical than you might think
- Suspension can feel harsh
- Lacks rich exhaust note
- Options as far as the eye can see
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
New cars are all about sacrifice, right? If you want something sporty, then be prepared to suffer through storage space limited to your internal organs. If you want something practical, then you can kiss the idea of driving something stylish goodbye. And if you want something that can move lots of people, then you might as well head on down to your closest Crocs retailer now, as you clearly value practicality above all else.
But what if you want all three of those things, and all at once? Enter, then, the Jaguar F-Pace.
That Jaguar’s sexy SUV is easy on the eye is a given (I mean, just look at it), but with a supercharged V6 lurking under that shapely bonnet, this S 35t version is not short on performance either. And with oodles of room in both rows of seats, and a boot big enough to swallow an Ikea catalogue’s worth of flat-packed nonsense, it’s pretty damn practical, too.
So what’s the catch?
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
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|
Stylish, practical and a hoot to drive fast, the F-Pace S 35t fills so many briefs it could be an underwear model. It could be louder and more comfortable, though, and the options list can be terrifying.
Jaguar F-Pace or Range Rover Velar; what's your pick? Tell us in the comments below.
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.
No doubt about it, the F-Pace was the best-looking SUV on sale (in fact, our very own Richard Berry declared it as such). But that was until the arrival of its Range Rover sibling, the drop-dead gorgeous Velar.
But even now, it would have to be battling it out for second position. Viewed front on, its wide and 3D-effect grille is framed by J-shaped DRLs and this domed bonnet that hints at the F-Pace’s performance potential.
Side-on, massive 20-inch alloys are wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero rubber, while the view from the back captures the dual exhaust tips, roof-mounted spoiler and a sharply raked rear window.
In the cabin, the materials aren't quite up to the standards of newer JLR product (we’re looking at you, Velar), but it’s a very clean, very modern feeling space. The single screen in the centre of the cabin is big, bright and easy to use. Soft touch materials (though they feel a touch old-fashioned ) cover the dash, and the steering wheel is wrapped in lovely leather.
There’s some nice design flourishes, too, like the polished silver elements in the door panels, but it’s not as tech-laden as some of its competitors.
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.
Something this good looking shouldn't be this practical. It'd be like flipping Brad Pitt's head open to reveal two cupholders, or discovering Angelina Jolie comes with 745 litres of luggage space. The F-Pace might not be the most practical offering in the segment, but it can carry more stuff and people in more comfort than anything this pretty probably has any right to.
Up front, the cabin is airy and spacious. There are two cupholders hidden beneath a sliding cover, plus another secondary (though quite small) storage bin that separates the front seats, home to the F-Pace’s USB and HDMI inputs, as well as a 12-volt power source. There’s room in each of the front doors for bottles, and quite a large glove box, too.
Climb into the back seat, and there is plenty of room to stretch your legs. Sitting behind my own (178cm) driving position, there’s about 15cm of clear air between my knees and the seat in front. Likewise, there’s plenty of headroom, despite the (optional) sunroof eating into the space a bit.
There's plenty of room across the back of the car for three passengers, but legroom is going to be an issue for the middle rider, with a double whammy of a raised floor section combining with jutting out climate controls, both of which will impact legroom.
Backseat riders can make use of their own climate controls, as well as two 12-volt power sources. A pull-down divider separates the back seat, and is also home to two cupholders. There are two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.
The auto-opening boot reveals a 508-litre storage space (down from 650 litres in other markets, thanks to inclusion of a space saver spare here), but dropping the 40/20/40 split-fold back seat from the easy-reach controls in the boot will approximately triple that volume.
There’s a 12-volt power source in the boot, as well as luggage hooks. The speed-limited space-saver spare is hidden under a flat load shelf in the boot.
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.
Price and features
As always, the devil is in the detail here, with the F-Pace S 35t's $104,827 list price dwarfed by a monstrous options list that shot our test car's as-tested figure up by almost 50 per cent, to $149,717.
Resist the list, however, and you won't be going home empty handed. Outside, you'll find 20-inch alloys, a sport-flavoured bodykit, LED headlights with J-shaped DRLs, red brake calipers and a powered boot all as standard.
Inside, you'll find leather and suede seats, dual-zone climate and a soft-grain leather steering wheel. Tech is covered by an 8.0-inch, navigation-equipped touchscreen that pairs with an 11-speaker Meridian stereo - but there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. A second, 5.0-inch colour screen is housed in the driver's binnacle.
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.
Engine & trans
The headline act here is the thumping supercharged V6 that helps give this performance-focused F-Pace its smile-inducing personality.
The 3.0-litre engine produces 280kW at 6500rpm and 450Nm at 4500rpm, sending its power to all four wheels via a slick eight-speed auto transmission. Those numbers translate to a 0-100km/h sprint of 5.5secs (not bad for a 1.8-tonne SUV), and will push the F-Pace on to a 250km/h top speed.
That engine pairs with a torque vectoring system borrowed from the F-Type, which can apply gentle braking to the inside wheel when cornering, helping the F-Pace stay glued to the driving line. A 'Configurable Dynamics' system (which isn't the sexiest name) also allows you to cycle through driving modes, adding weight to the steering, sharpening throttle response and tuning the gearing to its sportiest setting.
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.
Well, there's always a flip-side to prodigious power, and that is inevitable pain at the bowser. That said, Jaguar claims this go-fast F-Pace will sip 8.9L/100km on the combined cycle, which isn't too bad (though if you drive it the way you will definitely drive it, you can expect that number to climb considerably).
Emissions are a claimed 209g/km of C02, and the F-Pace is home to a 63-litre tank.
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 mark of a genuinely sporty SUV is that you can forget you’re driving an SUV at all, and even the lightest touch of the F-Pace’s super-sensitive accelerator teleports you into a low-slung sports car.
The power on offer from that thumping V6 is so ample that, in day-to-day driving, you’re only feathering the throttle, with the the tiniest of inputs enough to get you up and moving, while a millimetre more unlocks enough punch to overtake with ease.
But flatten the pedal and the F-Pace lunges forward with startling pace, accompanied by this strange soundtrack (less a guttural grumble, more an orchestral hum) from under the bonnet, both of which serve to whisk you away from the boring world of practical SUVs, at least while you keep the pedal pinned.
The suspension isn’t perfect. In its harshest setting, you can really feel the bad bits of road enter the cabin, and even in its softest settings it can be caught out by badly broken surfaces. It is not as comfortable or as cosseting as some luxury SUVs can be, and the sporty, figure hugging seats are less comfortable on longer drives. But that’s a price I’m willing to pay.
The flip-side, though, is that the F-Pace feels always dynamic. There’s very little roll in the body, the steering is sharp and direct, and it feels far more low-slug than it actually is.
Sportiness is only part of the story, and at city speeds the F-Pace is an easy drive. The vision out of every window is fabulous, there’s ample room in the back seat, and it's really more fun - and more dynamic - than something this practical deserves to be.
One downside, though, is that it’s easy to catch the attention of the traction control. If you’re turning while going over a speed bump, for example, or accelerating too hard from a standing-start corner, the nanny will step in, sucking power away from your right foot for a couple of noticeable seconds before letting you get back on your way.
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 F-Pace S arrives with front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and six airbags (front, front-side and curtain) as standard, all of which joins more advanced safety equipment like AEB, 'Lane Departure Warning' and cruise control with a speed limiter.
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).
The F-Pace S is covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty, and will require a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 26,000km. Jaguar also allows you to prepay your service costs for up to five years or 130,000km, with a service plan currently priced at $1800.
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.