Volvo XC60 VS Alfa Romeo Stelvio
- Great looks
- Strong diesel
- Advanced safety technology
- Smallish boot
- Diesel doesn't suit sporty driving
- No full-sized spare
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
A Volvo XC60 R-Design D5, eh? Not only are you looking at a Volvo, but you’re looking at a diesel one, too.
So, you’re thinking out of the Benz and BMW box, but with a practical element as well, because as anybody who has ever towed a caravan or anything else knows, nothing quite beats diesel pulling power and the fuel saving advantages that go with it.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
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|
The Volvo XC60 R-Design D5 is an alternative take on the prestige mid-sized SUV. There’s the cabin that feels more like modern art, the pioneering safety technology, and it’s easy and enjoyable to drive. The diesel engine can be noisy, and you’ll be busy shifting gears to keep the grunt under your right foot, but in return you’re getting great pulling power.
Would you chose the XC60 R-Design D5 over a Mercedes-Benz or BMW rival? Tell us what you think in the comments.
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 XC60 is a beautiful beast – long bonnet, the raked windscreen and set back cabin make for a sleek profile. I’m a fan of those carved-out door panels and the wing style rocker panels, and those famous Volvo hallmarks are strong with this model – that stately grille with is giant badge and the vertical tail-lights.
The R-Design D5 looks almost identical to its petrol twin the R-Design T6 and top-of-the-range R-Design T8 hybrid with its 21-inch matte black and polished alloy wheels and the matte silver mirror caps.
The R-Design D5’s interior is modern and minimalist. The R-Design Sports seats look like those super expensive office chairs that are good for your posture, although I don’t find them overly comfortable (the office chairs and the D5’s seats).
The 9.3-inch vertical touchscreen isn’t quiet as impressive as the giant display in the XC90, but it’s still a unique looking set-up. With that screen taking care of air-con, vehicle settings and the media system the cabin has been de-cluttered, with minimal buttons on display. An aluminium mesh trim snakes its way along that cleanly designed dash, around that display, and the oversized air vents.
The XC60 is a mid-sized SUV with dimensions similar to its Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC and BMW X3 rivals. The XC60 is 4688mm long, 2117mm wide and 1685mm tall.
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.
The XC60’s cabin is spacious but not overly so, with plenty of head, leg and shoulder room, while in the back, even at 191cm, I can sit behind my driving position with about 30mm to spare. Headroom back there is excellent.
Storage inside is good, with two cupholders and large door pockets in the front, and two cupholders and smaller door pockets in the back. The centre console storage area under the centre armrest is also a decent size.
A boot capacity of 505 litres (with rear seats up) isn’t huge. Rivals such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC have 550 litres of cargo space.
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
The XC60 R-Design D5 lists for $73,990, which positions it high up in the range for this model. While the D4 and T5 engine variants are available in a couple of trims, the D5 only comes with the R-Design treatment, which includes the R-Design steering wheel, sports seats, pedals and carpet.
The standard features list is extensive. There’s the 9.0-inch vertical touchscreen and a 12.3-inch driver display, sat nav, 360 parking camera, auto parking system, head-up display, 10-speaker stereo system with digital radio, leather upholstery, four-zone climate control, power adjustable driver and passenger seat, proximity key, paddle shifters, roof rails, LED headlights, power tailgate and 21-inch alloy wheels.
All XC60s come with an armoury of advanced safety equipment – you can read about it in the safety section below.
At this price the D5-Design is good value, and you’re getting more features for your money than the T8, which I reviewed as well.
How does the XC60 compare to other SUVs? Well the Mercedes-Benz GLC 250d is a good match for size, features and price at $73,200. There’s also BMW's X3 xDrive 20d M-Sport for $73,450, and Audi’s Q5 2.0 TDI Quattro Sport for $70,700.
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 D5 has the most powerful and torquey diesel engine in the XC60 range – a 2.0-litre twin-turbo which makes 173kW/480Nm.
Using two turbos sequentially means turbo lag is reduced, with the first spooling up to 'pre-charge' before the second kicks in at higher revs.
I need to ask you a personal question: why are you thinking of buying the diesel? Please say it’s because you tow. If so, then it’d be a good choice because all of that 480Nm of torque comes in low at 1750rpm and that provides good pulling power.
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.
Volvo says the XC60 D5 should use 5.6L/100km of diesel over a combination of open and urban roads. The trip computer in my car said I averaged 9.4L/100km after a roughly 120km test drive through The Royal National Park (south of Sydney), highways and inner city. While I was using the stop-start system to save fuel, I wasn’t driving to conserve it either.
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 XC60 D5 feels special just to sit in with its well-crafted, stylish interior and the driving experience goes a long way to matching that high-quality impression, too.
Steering is effortlessly light but accurate, acceleration is swift, and those brakes are responsive, with great pedal feel.
It’s not all perfect, though. That turbo-diesel engine is noisy, but the cabin is so well insulated you’ll only notice it if you accelerate hard or you put the window down (like I did, to stop and talk to a mate who then told me the engine was loud).
But then the diesel in the X3 xDrive 20d I drove to work in today is also noisy. Even in 2017, that’s the nature of these engines.
The other issue you’ll find with diesel engines is the need to shift up through the gears low in the rev range to take best advantage of the torque on offer. That makes for a busy time on the shifting paddles if you want to have a blast through twisty roads.
The sequential turbo set-up reduces lag impressively – although response is not instantaneous.
The D5 comes with a 'sports-tuned' chassis, but it’s on the firmer side. If you’re planning to spend money on options, throw it all at the air suspension for $2490 - the T8 I tested had it, and the ride was cushioned and composed.
Those LED headlights are excellent and cut through the darkness ahead with impressive brilliance.
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.
Safety is Volvo’s ‘thing’ and the maximum five-star ANCAP score it was awarded this year doesn’t reveal just how impressive its safety performance is.
This new generation XC60 is fitted with AEB, which can detect and stop for animals, humans and other cars. Plus, there’s steering support, blind spot warning, front and rear cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
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 XC60 is covered by Volvo’s three-year/unlimited km warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or 12 months.
Volvo offers two service programs: the basic 'SmartCare' and the more comprehensive 'SmartCare Plus'.
The SmartCare three-year/45,000km plan is $2225 (SmartCare Plus costs $3050); a four-year/60,000km version is $3500 ($5200 with SmartCare Plus) and the five-year/75,000km agreement costs $4230 ($6400 with SmartCare Plus).
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.