Alfa Romeo's first ever SUV, the Stelvio, is almost read to go, with order books opening in September, and now Alfa has announced pricing and specification details for the car it hopes will become a true volume seller. The Stelvio will be available in four trim levels from launch, with four engine options - prepping the stage for the barnstorming Stelvio Quadrifoglio, which will arrive later packing a 503bhp 2.9-litre V6.
The range kicks off with a 2.2-litre, 178bhp diesel, paired with RWD as standard or optional Q4 AWD. The same diesel can also be specced in 207bhp form, which is AWD as standard. As with any SUV, we suspect these diesels will form the bulk of the sales figures, so buyers will appreciate that the latter can return up to 58.9mpg.
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But this is evo, so we're more interested in the petrol choices - both 2-litre, both AWD and boasting either 197bhp or 276bhp. They'll manage 0-62mph springs of 6.6 and 5.7 seconds respectively, before going on to top speeds of 134mph and 143mph. No slouches, then - even considering the ridiculous performance on offer from the Stelvio Quadrifoglio when it arrives. All Stelvios receive an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.
Trim levels are fairly straightforward, with four on offer from launch - Stelvio, Super, Speciale, and limited launch edition Milano Edizione. Plain Stelvio kicks off the range, available with the lower-powered petrol or diesel engines, and priced from £33,990. It still recieves most of the basics on the kit front, with 17-inch alloys, automatic headlights and wipers, and Alfa's DNA driving mode selector. You'll have to step up to Super for navigation, front parking sensors, or leather upholstery, though - it's available with both diesels and the lower-powered petrol, and costs from £36,190.
Speciale trim is available with 178bhp or 207bhp diesels, or the high-powered 276bhp petrol, and adds niceties like bi-xenon headlights, 19-inch alloys, heated full leather upholstery, and 19-inch alloys. It increases the price to £41,490. Meanwhile, top-of-the-range is the limited launch edition trim, Milano Edizione. A stereo upgrade, rear camera, privacy glass, sports seats and 20-inch alloys justify its £45,390 price tag - as do the higher-powered engines.
With America likely to be a key market for the Stelvio, it's probably the firm's most important car in decades. But it’s important for evo too. Manufacturers like Porsche and BMW have already demonstrated it’s possible to build an SUV that appeals to driving enthusiasts, but Alfa Romeo has much more work to do to convince us. In its last two launches - the 4C sports car and Giulia saloon - only the latter has hit the mark. Forget the heresy of Alfa Romeo building an SUV; we need more convincing it can build a competitive product. Our initial reviews so far have been promising, though.
The Stelvio uses double-wishbone suspension up front and Alfa’s own interpretation of a multi-link axle astern, described as a four-and-a-half link system. Damping is electronically controlled, while braking for the Quadrifoglio model uses carbon-ceramic discs.
Alfa’s DNA Pro system also makes a reappearance, altering the characteristics of the car’s dynamics and its powertrain. In Race mode (Dynamic, Natural and Advanced efficiency modes can also be selected) the ESC system is relaxed, gearchange times cut (to 150 milliseconds) and the steering, dampers and throttle response all adopt a more focused feel.
You’ll note we’ve not yet mentioned the Stelvio’s styling. It will undoubtedly take a little getting used-to, though it’s also a more successful attempt than Porsche’s first Cayenne. And like the Porsche, we’ll be prepared to overlook slightly awkward looks if the Stelvio ends up driving as well as the Giulia.
Alfa Romeo on target for eight-model range
evo spoke to global head of Alfa Romeo and Maserati, Reid Bigland, at the LA auto show. While Bigland won't commit to details of any models beyond the newly-launched Stelvio, he has an open mind on some tricky subjects facing manufacturers over the last few years - particularly those focused on driving pleasure, like Alfa Romeo.
One of those is autonomous technology. 'It's a matter of when, not if' says Bigland, but for Alfa that when will be considerably later than for most other manufacturers. Bigland sees Alfa as being somewhat insulated from the march towards autonomous cars, mainly because its customers tend to be driving enthusiasts. The same, incidentally, applies to Ferrari and Maserati. Any autonomous tech will likely be implemented at a fairly basic level, such as traffic jam assistance and lane-keeping.
Another matter of contention is the market for SUVs, like the Stelvio. If the market continues to show a trend towards such products, Bigland says, then Alfa Romeo will need to 'pay heed', and both smaller and larger SUVs are possible, either side of the "mid-size" Stelvio.
And Alfa's plan to launch eight new models by 2022? That's still 'roughly' on track, according to Bigland. The Giulia and Stelvio leave six left, which are expected to include a Giulietta replacement, a larger Mercedes E-class/BMW 5-series rival, and those smaller and larger SUVs, among others.